Saturday, October 03, 2015

Spawns of Mabini’s legs

IT’S become a case of the accidental overshadowing the premeditated.

During the Sept. 29 ceremony for the Apolinario Mabini Awards at the Bulwagan ng mga Bayani at Malacañang Palace, the President voiced out his concern that today’s students may be inadequate in their grasp of our history.

He told the audience, which included awardees distinguished for their work with the disabled, that he shared the sentiments of many Netizens reacting to a question posed by three college students to actor Epy Quizon, who played Mabini, on why he never stood up during “Heneral Luna”.

Despite extreme poverty and the paralysis of his lower limbs, Mabini’s brilliance and patriotism stood him in good stead as the country’s first prime minister. My generation was one of those that memorized the “Sublime Paralytic” tribute made to Mabini, also recorded in textbooks as “the brains and conscience of the Revolution”.

In his Apolinario Mabini Awards speech, Aquino called on Education Secretary Armin Luistro to address possible deficiencies in the teaching of history. Luistro later assured the President in a text message that he will discuss this concern with curriculum supervisors.

The spiral of consequences triggered by the furor over Mabini’s legs reveals some of the power unleashed by “Heneral Luna”. Time and history will determine if the movie will join the ranks of classics, immortalized not only for exceeding the standards in filmic storytelling but also for moving us to examine ourselves and aspire for more beyond our usual preoccupations with showbiz and politics.

“Heneral Luna” made me realize how parched we are as a people and as a nation of filmgoers. After stepping out of the theater, I shepherded my sons to the mall’s bookstores to search for a reference.

The dramatization of the past in “Heneral Luna” raised more questions than answers. I wanted to winnow facts from artistic interpretation. I also doubted my memories of the Philippine revolution, memorized under duress of miserable mastery exams and the horrors of class recitations.

It took only a few minutes to confirm that our history is an endangered genre. I could not find the titles that stood out in more than two decades of study under the pre-K to 12 system. Zero copies of Teodoro A. Agoncillo’s “History of the Filipino People,” Renato Constantino’s “The Philippines: A Past Revisited,” and Renato and Letizia Constantino’s “The Philippines: The Continuing Past”.

Later, I found an entire shelf of Agoncillo’s book in a branch that seems to serve as a warehouse. Should the scarcity of scholarly and critical references on Philippine history mean bookstores can hardly replenish their stocks fast enough to catch up with demand?

Or in the face of apathy from readers and schools still adjusting to K to 12 upheavals, are books on Philippine history stockpiled in the warehouse to make more room in mall branches for adult coloring books and perfumed pens?

The most important question spawned by the furor over Mabini’s legs is: If artists, educators and other influencers will not bring the discourse on Philippine history to social media, micro media, and the rest of new media, which is the portal of choice of Millennials and other digital natives, are we doomed to forgetting and repeating history?

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s October 4, 2015 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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