History has always fascinated me. There is something so interesting about knowing a time different from ours; a time where society looked different, clothes looked different, people thought different. But above that aspect of fascination, perhaps what really always intrigued me about history is the way it changes depending on whose perspective you hear it from.
During my time as a campus journalist, I wrote an article about historical revisionism. That was the first time I learned about the topic. I was intrigued because it never occurred to me that one should question history. I do not think any of us were taught to do so.
In high school, teachers taught us to memorize dates and names which solely determined our understanding of history.
It was not until I became a journalist did I understand how naively our education system taught us. Knowing dates and names made us memorize what was significant without understanding why it was in the first place.
We learned about Jose Rizal, but knowing his full name and the names of his family members was far more important than understanding what he was fighting for that lead him to be a hero.
We learned about Andres Bonifacio and the events that led him to him to his death without understanding the significance of his revolution.
We learned about Ferdinand Marcos, the number of years he spent as president, the things he did to and for the country, without understanding how it affected Filipinos in a general economic and societal scale.
As I later on learned, historical revisionism comes in two forms. First is the utter changing of the protagonist and antagonist of a story. Take for example the events of
the Japanese invasion in the Philippines.
In my first job as an English teacher, one of my students was an old Japanese man.
The student was a social worker and I was a journalist, so he often asked me questions relating to my opinion about society.
We eventually got to the topic of the Japanese invasion in the Philippines. I was surprised with his perspective on the issue. He was completely oblivious to the topic of comfort womenthat had been so prevalent not just in Philippine history, but also to other countries the Japanese invaded. To him, the women were paid, not forced — a completely different narrative from what I knew and to the accounts of actual comfort women I met during my early years as a journalist.
That part of history was seen in two completely different light. To a Japanese, it was not anything out of the ordinary but to a Filipino, it was a gruesome page in our history textbooks. It was the first time I saw how historical revisionism affected people.
Meanwhile, the second form of historical revisionism stems from purposely ignoring a certain part of history, most likely for propaganda or any sort of personal gain.
A great example of this is the Marcos regime. A lot of people still strongly consider him as a hero despite his ways because of all the infrastructure he was able to build.
However, history books and accounts contradict that. History and accounts in fact reveal a much sinister side. They say that infrastructures built and all sorts of reforms were anchored on an enormous debt and corruption that continue to enslave our country to this day.
And yet in high school, we were simply taught about the infrastructure that were built during the Marcos regime without the deeper and more essential understanding of what it meant.
The Anti-Terrorism Bill meanwhile, has been the crux of the matter on all our social media feeds. It has become tremendously controversial because of its vagueness that is said to be prone to abuse, prone to silencing the masses, prone to unlawful arrests, and prone to complete control — a very familiar issue in our country’s history.
Because of the bill, we are all now quite wary of stating our opinions because of the fear that soon enough, opinions might not be welcomed, let alone sanctioned with a mere slap on the wrist.
If in the case we would live again in a time where our opinions would not be allowed, as a journalist and a mere concerned citizen, I can only hope that our generation will write this time properly and make it known to future generations without either form of revisionism.
If in the case our voices would actually be silenced completely, then let us remember this time and narrate it in its rawest and truest form until we regain our right to speak once again — because speaking the bad side of history paves way to accountability, justice, and better choices.