We need more ‘local history’

Published March 19, 2021, 3:46 PM

by Rom Mallick

500 years into having a ‘written’ history, there are still gaps to fill in our society’s collective memory

The year 2021 is a peculiar one, and it’s not solely because of the still ongoing pandemic. As far as Philippine history is concerned, it is a milestone. The country is celebrating 500 years since the arrival of Christianity, arguably one of the most influential cultural forces in Philippine society. This also means that it has been 500 years since the Spaniards first arrived in one of our islands. It has been half a millennia since most of our history has been written. 

Without getting into the nitty-gritty of when really did an actual Philippine history start, let’s consider what perhaps is a more apt idea for discussion. We need to have more local history—and by this I mean histories of cities, histories of provinces, histories of indigenous communities.

Big picture history is easy. Well, relatively. We already have a lot of it. Most Filipinos have a general idea of Philippine history, albeit some details have often been misinterpreted. But in between the high points, the action-packed events, the cedula-tearing moments, there isn’t much that we know of Filipino society. Put that into a more local perspective and you’ll realize that not a lot of people know about their own province’s history and even much less about their own cities. 

Aren’t you curious about your town’s story? Don’t you want to know more about the place where you grew up? 

Every province, every town and city has its own story (Pro tip: Some of the most curious and interesting ones come from Bacolod). Some of these have been handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. Isn’t it about time that local governments formalize preserving their own histories? Sure, some provinces and cities already have local historians and even archives, others have even opened museums. But not all of these are being given the attention they deserve. There is, for example, no space in the history curriculum in primary and secondary levels dedicated to regional or local history. Why not? It could be included as an add-on, much like how a “mother tongue” subject, which is not limited to Filipino and is region-dependent, is now being offered in schools. 

Instead of just teaching the usual historical narrative—Spanish colonization, US domination, Japanese occupation, Martial Law imposition, present situation—why not offer a more local story? With more than 500 years of history under our belt, it’s about time.