February 19, 2010

By Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil

First published in her column, Consensus of One, in The Sunday Times Magazine,  March 8, 1970, p. 23

President Marcos’ use of the word insurrection in his TV talk after the riot of 30 January has set me building up parallels. It is a word that was probably last used — by the government that suppressed them—on the Sakdalistas of the Thirties, the peasants and farmers who decided to use bullets to give impact to their social accusations (sakdal). Before that it was used to designate the Philippine-American War of 1898 by those who won it and to this day, Filipino scholars still call the records of that war, the Insurrecto Papers, although they are careful to make the quotation marks audible in their voices.

Insurrection is a tricky word, to say the least. While editing historical calendars, articles and monographs, I wear out lots of blue pencil and elbow grease crossing it out and replacing it with revolutionaries or the Filipino forces.

Much of Philippine history was written during the American regime, or rather while we were still under the influence of that pupilage and the cliches of thought and word continue with an inertia of their own to inflict themselves on us today. The most pedestrian historical researcher or writer should know that, perhaps to be polite, we put up with that word insurrecto, but now that the Americans are gone (theoretically?) we should do it our way and call every Filipino revolutionary or soldier by his right name. One of the results of political change is, inevitably the rewriting of history or, at least, the adoption of a new vocabulary.

The point I am trying to make is: when the history of the youth movement of 1970 is written, what will it be called? What we call it now — the demonstrations? Or Marcos’ Insurrection? Or perhaps, the Democratic Revolution? Even more important — for history is written by the victors or by those who endure and overcome— who will be writing that history?

Already a friend has asked me, “Do you think this is the second Philippine Revolution? If so, which one is Bonifacio?”

“Dante or Amado Guerrero?” I said, playing the game. “I don’t know. Perhaps General Yan or General Garcia? Or some obscure boy in the slums who reads Lenin by lamplight and whose name we don’t even know?”

But it is not just a wry historical game. The parallels between that time and this include many items that are in dead earnest: the confrontation with social reality, for instance, the fine rage against injustice and the hidden personal struggles. Even from this vantage point Bonifacio and Commander Dante or General Yan do share a certain vulnerability and a suspicion of corruption that has been brought about by an initial success.

Then who is the modern Rizal—the pride of his people, the innocent, moral man whose vision fails in the end? Magsaysay? Recto? Or Manglapus? It depends what the outcome will be, as I said, and who will be writing history.

Is Emilio Jacinto to be Chito Sta. Romana of De La Salle, the Manila mestizo all over again, brilliant, articulate and far out? Or Edgar Jopson the Ateneo moderate, the logical and calculating organization man?

Is Apolinario Mabini, Pastelero or Barican of the University of the Philippines with their sedition charges and their carefully reasoned political-sciences stance?

Is today’s del Pilar the boy who rammed the fire truck into the Malacañang gate? Or some Metrocom hero? Are the young men who died at Mendiola going to be called Ang Anim na Martir and will future generations lay wreaths on the spot where they fell? Or will they be exorcised and forgotten as completely as the Sakdalistas?

One thing is certain, the modern “propaganda movement” will be represented by Jose Lansang, J. V. Cruz, Renato Constantino and other writers of the Left— or —Messrs. Mata, Jurado, Querol, Lachica and Melchor Aquino. But which side is still an open question.

And who will be Aguinaldo? And —how could one forget to ask — what is the role reserved for Marcos?

But enough is enough. Playing to history is like playing to the grandstands or picking the winning horse. An easy and vulgar triumph if we guess the outcome and choose the winning side. A pox on those historians who, in any case, are good only till they are superseded by the next batch.

The wisdom of historians cannot be our own since we do not have their advantages. We can have only the courage to continue to propel ourselves towards the unknown.#


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