Who colonized the Philippines?
As a history instructor in one provincial state university, I find it challenging to create a syllabus that can address the needs of a class with different intellectual capacities. Thus, I made it a habit to give a diagnostic quiz every start of the semester to gauge the level of my freshman students in historical studies. One part of the quiz really bothered me. I asked them which three countries colonized the Philippines. I was almost sure everyone knows this like the back of his or her hands. However, some answers really made me question the integrity of our educational system.
Student 1: Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia
Student 2: China, Spain and United States of Emerates/Emirates
Students 3: Malaysia, Portugal and Indonesia
Some of you may think these are isolated cases. But, mind you, a quarter of some classes got this wrong. Upon looking at the next items, what I found bothered me more. Some students did not even get the spelling of the Philippines correctly.
What happened to our basic and secondary education curriculum?
I am sure that history is taught since elementary; hence, I am confused where the problem came from. What books do we allow our students to read? What aspect of history is taught if colonial Philippines is not included in the curriculum? With the complexity of social issues happening in the country, how can we expect the people to come up with a solid nationalist stance if they are not even aware of the sources of struggle the country faces?
I am definite that all history teachers would agree with me that understanding the past dictates the quality of understanding we have of the present. With this inadequacy of historical background, how will the youth understand more complex issues? What kind of future do we have if this trend continues?
Repercussions of colonial education
I would understand if students do not have a clear grasp of pre-colonial Philippines. As Dr. Eufracio Abaya of UP Diliman notes, we have a Eurocentric view of our pre-colonial past. William Henry Scott, on the other hand, made it clear that the Philippine school system uses Spanish references such as those of Loarca, Plasencia, Chirino and Morga. This, in effect, prohibits a solid Filipino perspective of looking on how we were before the hispanization process. However, it is different if we locate the problem from the lack of knowledge about our colonial past given the abundance of references available online and on libraries.
Then again, series of colonization and the inclination to colonial sources made it difficult for the country to create a solid identity. As a result, the motivation to unravel our identity as one cultural affinity becomes deficient. It is totally saddening to witness my students struggling to understand basic historical concepts such as the changes brought about by colonization.
Now, the greatest question I could think of: What is the hope of the country given this situation? So many events challenge both our state and nationhood. With the youth losing grip of our history, how ready are we in facing the future?
We are not even on the argument of the quality of mainstream knowledge on the conflict in Mindanao, the West Philippine Sea dispute, as well as the presence of the CPP – NPP – NDFP as a recognized alternative government. We are only talking about the very trivial question of which three countries colonized the country.
K to 12 and beyond
The quality of Philippine education was already questioned for the longest time. However, the response of the government to address the system is the implementation of K-12, which seeks to add two years of schooling so that students may be employable even without a college degree.
Where do these graduates go after senior high school? Is it enough that we produce vocational graduates? Are we not supposed to be challenging the system to come up with more competitive mechanisms so that our country becomes a pool of professionals ready to change deficient Philippine institutions?
Let’s ask again: Who colonizes the Philippines?
People without knowledge of history can never create a developed country because they would not even know what creates Philippine problems. If only the government empowers the students by giving high educational subsidy, then it would be easier to create nationalist individuals. Of course, let us go beyond the surface definition of nationalism that only translates to people being law-abiding citizens. It is so much more than that, especially in desperate times when the law favors only the upper echelon of society.
Educating the youth to become nationalist means we teach them how to protest against the oppressive system hindering genuine social change. Nationalism means finding out the sources of social problems and attacking the root causes of those problems.
Now, who colonizes the Philippines? It is the rotten system where the government allows opportunistic countries to penetrate and exploit the resources the Filipinos are supposedly enjoying. Instead of utilizing the national wealth to subsidize education and produce quality individuals, where is the fund going?
However, we can change this system. We just have to find ways to maneuvre the situation and create a culture of protest to demand what we rightfully deserve. We deserve quality education that will allow us to understand history so that no oppression would be allowed to enter the country without a nationalist outrage from the people.
If only the government loves the people, then we would not only produce students who could enumerate who colonized the Philippines. We could also produce students who can join the struggle against the ongoing neo-colonization that further deprives the people of the quality of life they truly deserve.