August 19, 2007

Juan L. Mercado

Altering what God can not

“God can not alter the past, although historians can”, ” Samuel Butler once wrote. And our grandchildren will benefit from the heated exchange if Grade 5 public school textbooks alter the sordid record of Marcos dictatorship.

Marian School academic supervisor Antonio Calipjo-Go has a solid track record for blasting science and grammar textbooks flaws. But falsification of history can distort a country’s vision and future. “(They) are far more lethal,” he writes in the Inquirer commentary: “The True Colors of the Chameleon.”

Thus, he skewered the Education Department’s textbook: “Marangal na Pilipino”. This 220-page book parcels out a niggardly 11 lines to Jose Rizal. The account of five presidents, from Manuel Roxas to Diosdado Macapagal, were crammed into 8 pages. But it splurged almost a fourth (48 pages) of the entire book on Ferdinand Marcos. While Rizal’s name appears six times, that of Marcos’ name did 136 times.

“In the subliminal message that has been sent, who will students think did more for our country?” he asked. Where the book records the dictatorship’s excesses, they’re justified by Marcos’ intentions. These colored judgments made “martial law appear benign and benevolent.”

Not so, protested University of the Philippines authors namely: Grace Estela C. Mateo, Lydia Agno; Celinia Balanso; Rosita Tadena and Mary dl Jose. They furiously denied they were so in awe of Marcos, they whitewashed the dictatorship.

The five point out they, too, criticized the Marcos period: from human right abuses to loss of liberties and summary executions. The book also asserts the “New Society” failed to implement reforms as hunger, poverty and unrest increased.

Go ignored the book printed photos of protest rallies, demonstrators being arrested, Plaza Miranda survivors, even Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. ‘How can we be accused of being “true blue, dyed-in-the-wool apologists” for Marcos’ with the following passages?”

This debate has just started. And we’ll not have an answer on whether “Marangal na Pilipino” peddles counterfeit history, for some time yet. For now, it’s enough to welcome this debate as vital.

A people of notoriously short memories, we must keep this debate in context, namely: that there has been a calibrated and bankrolled-attempt to rehabilitate, by installment, the dictatorship. That effort ranges from the futile bid, despite Joseph Estrada’s help, to bury the dictator’s corpse in Libingan ng mga Bayani, setting up special Marcos holidays to mass-producing textbooks that alters what God can not. “

The Five Percent Revolution” denigrates the People Power Uprising. That revolt sent the Marcoses scrambling on escape helicopters for Hawaiian exile. “This is Ninoy” regurgitates smears on Senator Benigno Aquino playing footsie with the communists. And ‘Hubris’ encapsulates Imelda Marcos claim that martial law was ‘the most democratic period in our history.’

The critical issue is what historian Ambeth Ocampo calls the massive “miseducation” of students on martial law. ”History is a dangerous, often subversive subject. It opens minds,” Ocampo wrote. “But myths and distortions warp the present crop of history textbook and presentation of martial law”. This padlocks minds.

Ocampo confirms an analysis of martial law textbooks, written by Joel Sarmenta and Malvin Yabut from the University of Asia and the Pacific. The two researchers presented their study before the Ateneo and Madison Universities Conference on Marcos Legacies.

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