Here are my answers to an email interview by Rachel C. Barawid, Reporter, Manila Bulletin Students and Campuses Section. July 10, 2011. Her questions are italicized here. Read her article “Teaching Bonifacio” by clicking on this link: http://mb.com.ph/articles/327687/teaching-bonifacio. Many thanks!
On the Andres Bonifacio Act of 2011 or House Bill 4353 filed by Kabataan Partylist Cong. Raymond Palatino
by Mykel Andrada
1. First of all, are you in favor of this bill? Why or why not?
Yes. I am very much in favor of the bill being proposed by Cong. Palatino of Kabataan Partylist. It is about time to include in our educational system a more comprehensive teaching of the life, works, theories and praxis of Andres Bonifacio, as the foremost plebeian and nationalist (read: anti-colonial and anti-imperialist) who shaped and continue to hone the consciousness of so many Filipinos from the Spanish times up to the present. Bonifacio’s personal and political life experiences are representative of the experiences of the majority of the population of the country, then and now. Needless to say, Bonifacio is very much relevant today as he was centuries ago.
2. How effective is the Rizal course that is being taught in UP through the P.I. 100? Do you think the Bonifacio subject, if approved, would be as effective as the Rizal course?
Teaching any course or subject cannot just be simply summarized in one syllabus or in one teaching semester. Aside from the syllabus that provides an outline of ideas and concepts to be discussed in class, other factors that need to be included in assessing the effectiveness of the teaching of Rizal course are (a) the mindset of the teacher, (b) the pedagogical methods or teaching strategies, (3) the availability of textbooks and other materials, and (d) the will and openness to learn the course. PI 100 or Philippine Institutions 100: The Life and Works of Jose Rizal, a 3-unit course required for all UP undergraduate students, is only as good or effective as the factors I have stated above. It means that the teaching of the said Rizal course varies depending mostly on the instructor handling it. There are PI 100 classes that dwell on the most basic life and work details of Rizal such as his childhood, his socio-political and cultural background, and his life and works produced as an expatriate scholar, but do not necessarily connect these ideas to the present condition of the Philippines in order to further the formation of a more transgressive Filipino nationalist ideology. There are classes that only dwell on idolizing Rizal, without critically discussing the political implications of his life and works. There are instructors, however, who really historically define Rizal as a propagandist, a revolutionary, and go as far as unfurling how Rizal is being used by recent governments to defend the status quo and by businesses to sell their products. This means that to effectively and comprehensively teach a Rizal or Bonifacio course, or any course for that matter, it entails a continuing education even on the part of the instructors handling the course, to not just simply consider Rizal or Bonifacio or any other hero as a historical artifact but to transgressively showcase how their lives and works are necessary for raising the social consciousness of our youth and our people so that they may engage themselves in collectively and genuinely serving our nation.
3. Cong. Palatino told me that in the 1950s when the Rizal bill was initiated, the life of other heroes were also supposed to be included in the subject but the teaching eventually stopped at Rizal. Are you aware of this Prof? If yes, can you please shed light on the matter?
In UP, for example, the reason why the Rizal course is named Philippine Institutions 100 is because it means that Rizal is considered as one of the Philippine Institutions among the many Philippine Institutions that we have such as Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Emilio Jacinto, Gabriela Silang, and others. This means that there should be a PI 101, PI 102, etc. The government then should support the Bonifacio Bill by Palatino because it addresses the need to teach Bonifacio as one of the leading Philippine Institutions. In teaching PI 100 in UP, me and some of my colleagues do not only dwell on Rizal’s life and works. We critically and creatively connect Rizal with the lives and works of other Philippine Institutions such as Bonifacio, Mabini, Jacinto, and the like, in order to compare how they addressed the same issues that Rizal encountered.
4. Cong. Palatino said in his bill that the Rizal and Bonifacio lessons can be taught separately for half a semester or a separate course altogether can be created on the life and teachings of Bonifacio. Do you think this is feasible? How do you think the Bonifacio subject should be taught?
It is in my opinion that there should be a separate Bonifacio course, in order to break the very archaic notion of pitting Rizal and Bonifacio with each other. They are products of their times and social classes, so we must study them according to the said parameters. But of course, if this is not feasible, it wouldn’t hurt to teach Rizal and Bonifacio in one subject. The main argument would to draw from their life and works their specific contributions in the understanding of the various brands of nationalism before, during and after the Spanish colonial occupation.
5. What do you suggest should be the content of the course, and lesson plan? and 6. Are there enough materials on Bonifacio? Are they accessible like those of Rizal?
There are so many materials on Bonifacio — his essays, literary works, monuments, places named after him, interviews with his descendants, etc. Moreover, Bonifacio is interpreted and represented in various forms in the age of electronic and digital technology. Also, Bonifacio’s life and works are found in the oral tradition. Fragments of his works could be found in present-day children’s games and songs, in regional magazines, in school oratorical competitions, etc. Bonifacio is everywhere!
7. How important is this bill? and 8. According to Palatino, his bill aims to revive the spirit of nationalism among the youth, in particular the two brands of nationalism, peaceful revolt espoused by Rizal and militant nationalism by Bonifacio. Do you agree? Why or why not? and 9. What’s the best lesson that we can learn from the life and works of Andres Bonifacio? How can he be relevant to the youth?
This bill is very important in reinvigorating a more genuine and mass-based nationalism among our students and people. There are many things that we can learn from Bonifacio. That it is not a disservice to the nation if you become an activist, a radical intellectual, a unionist, and a revolutionary. That genuine peace does not reside in individual persons alone, but in the collective struggle of the people. Bonifacio was a common tao, yet he participated in a revolution that decisively overthrew a very despotic and authoritarian colonial regime. What this country needs is a retooling of our sense of nationalism, specially that in these times, our sense of nationalism has been a perverse spectacle of Filipinos winning boxing, singing and beauty titles. Filipinos, specially the youth of our times, have been misled to believe that one’s self is more important than his people. We have grown to be individualistic, our sense of collective life denigrated to mainstream functions such as parties. We have been brought up to believe that the revolution need not be waged, unlike in other countries where their people take pride in their revolution. The revolution is not alien to them, and they are not alienated. In the Philippines, we are made to believe that if we are to wage a revolution, we must do it by buying clothes with Rizal or Bonifacio’s face, or staging a Facebook / online / virtual rally, Bonifacio will humble our youth and people with his exploits and examples. We will be humbled by how Bonifacio and the Katipunan revolution struggled to free us from colonial domination.
10. Cong. Palatino said that in UP, students can graduate without taking history subject. Hence, this further increases the growing disinterest in history among the youth who have very little knowledge about it. Is this true?
Yes. Since UP overhauled its general education curriculum via the Revitalized General Education Program (RGEP), an undergraduate student can choose what general education subjects to take. History subjects, therefore, become only options. And this negatively impacts on the students’ perceptions and ideals. I have students in PI 100, who did not choose to take general education History subjects, who still think that the Americans saved and liberated us. When asked with the question “When did the Philippine Revolution happen?”, there are still senior UP students who think that the Revolution took place in 1986, along EDSA.
11. If yes, what do you think needs to be done to make history appealing so more young people will be interested to study it? How should history be taught?
History is not about memorizing facts and figures, though these are of course necessary and important. The best way to teach any subject is to connect the past to the present in order to be able to decisively predict a future for our students. History, is in fact, not a boring discipline. It is the method of teaching history and the regurgitating notion that history is all about the past are the reasons why history seems to less appealing to students. History doesn’t only mean past. History is also the present and the future. I teach history by using popular cultural materials (such as commercial songs, youtube files, and internet materials referring to history) and connecting these to historical documents and materials. This way, students are not alienated by the seeming backtracking of history, but are rather motivated to connect these historical documents and materials to their present lives.