Wenceslao: Call for reexamination

Bong O. Wenceslao

I FAILED to listen to my friend Jobers Bersales’s talk about the Sinulog at the Palm Grass Hotel (this heritage hotel has continued to own up to its tag as a heritage hotel) days ago. Since I retired in February and decided to set up a sari-sari store near our home, I have found it difficult to keep up with outside schedules. I am currently trying to find ways, though. But it’s good that Palm Grass sent me a summary of what transpired in that activity that included Jobers’s talk.

As expected, the undercurrent in the talks by the activity’s speakers was about the ambivalent attitude we have regarding Spanish colonization. Every talk that discusses deeply the pre-Spanish part of our history will always conjure those “what ifs.” That is why I have been pushing for years now for a celebration that would counter the misimpressions about our history that the feast of the Sto. Niño and the Sinulog festivities bring annually.

What struck me about Jobers’s talk was his claim that there was a certain level of unity of the peoples in our archipelago before the arrival of the Spaniards. Which raises the question, what if foreign powers never colonized us? Would our socio-economic and political setup have been better than they are now? Would Filipinos have been less fragmented as a people than they are now?

Answers to those questions would certainly lead to the reexamination of the importance we give to some events, including the Sinulog festivities and the feast of the Sto. Niño. Wouldn’t it be awkward to celebrate events that marked the beginning of our subjugation by Spain? And this rather brutal point: Would we have been better as a people without the Catholic religion that the Spaniards used to ensure our continued subjugation by the said foreign power of old?

Which reminds me of one of the points raised by one of the four University of the Philippines anthropologists that conducted a survey in Maktang in Poro town in the Camotes group of islands following claims that the actual site of the skirmish between the chieftain Lapulapu and the Spanish expeditioners led by Ferdinand Magellan was not in Mactan island in Cebu but in Maktang, Poro.

The anthropologist’s point: Are our attitudes, like refusing to follow traffic rules when authorities are not around, a product of the distortions brought about by years of colonization?

In the Palm Grass activity, it was obvious that the organizers made sure that no controversy would be invited by a deeper examination of our colonial and pre-colonial past. Which is not surprising because we are here to celebrate a feast and not to investigate the past.

But if we are to grow and fully develop as a nation, we need to fully confront the questions about the past that have remained unanswered through the years, even through centuries.

Our celebrations of past events need to be enlightened ones and not done blindly.