History lessons for Filipino expatriates

By Random Jottings
WITH Filipino overseas workers easily the nation’s biggest and best export brand, it is important to note that they also serve on the global frontline as the nation’s best ambassadors.

With this foremost in mind—and in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the National Historical Institute—Minor Prints, a subsidiary of Manila Prints Australia, has released a new book, Footnotes to Philippine History, aimed at reinforcing the knowledge of every Filipino who is bound overseas, to help them tackle questions about themselves and their country in their new surroundings.

The publishers point out that the book is a departure from the usual Philippine history textbooks regarded as largely distant and formidable, typical of books on history written by academics or as textbooks containing dogmas and definitive treatises by historians.

Many Filipino expatriates regard this kind of reference material as not only boring, but a waste of time in this age of globalization. Millions of Filipino expatriates have no time to sit down and read book-length historical writings aimed at readers who have the luxury of time on their hands.

Authored by Australia-based Filipino historian Renato Per-don, who pioneered the research and writing of Philippine-Australian histories, in this latest book, he examines Philippine history and identity and the Filipino diaspora in contributing to the vibrant emerging field of transnational history.

It is a non-academic book on Philippine history that anyone of the eight million Global Filipinos scattered throughout the world would easily use as a back-up reference to what they already know about the Philippines, not a history book with dogmatic and largely unimaginative academic approaches to Philippine history.

In answer to why he embarked on it, Perdon said: “During a promotion of a previous book, I learned from many Filipino expatriates in Australia and other countries that the type of books they want are something from which they can get ready information about Philippine history and culture to answer urgent questions that surfaced in their interaction with people in their new environment overseas. And time is of the essence to them.”

The book tries to capture the kind of information that Global Filipinos need in their current situation—a quick reference for the information they need mostly in their interaction with other people in foreign lands, whether Australia, Europe, the United States, the Middle East or Asia and the Pacific.

The essays have been grouped into three parts, with the first providing answers to the questions of Filipino identity and how that identity formed. What are the symbols of Filipino identity, national and political? The second part discusses why Filipinos became known as “the brown Americans of Asia,” explains how America’s Pacific adventure changed the lives of Filipinos and how the Americanization of the Filipino was easily realized.

The last part talks about Global Filipinos, the problems they encounter and how they survive outside the Philippines. How does Filipino migration help the Philippines survive? Discussion also follows about two current issues needing clarification—the Philippines’ territorial claims on Sabah and the Spratlys, and finally, revisiting the life of Imelda Marcos, the most maligned woman in Philippine history and how she is compared to controversial figure in another country’s history—Evita Peron, the former First Lady of Argentina.

An academic from the Australian National University, Dr. Paul Mathews, who is the secretary of the Philippine Studies Association of Australasia, describes this recent work of Perdon thus: “These stories and perceptions by a distinguished scholar provide insightful views of Filipino history and the Filo-Oz experience. The book is full of interesting ins and outs we have all wondered about but were never answered.”

Language consultant Aila Edgarda Lenard of Australia describes the book as “a new take on history, more focus on details and a lot of juicy bits. The author not only focuses on the relevant events in Philippine history, but also gives attention to details that are oftentimes just glossed over in most history books.”

Footnotes to Philippine History is available in the Philippines (P390.00) in Minor Prints, No. 13, 10th Street, Pacita Complex, San Pedro, Laguna, Philippines (Tel: 868-6513) and in Australia ($24.00) in The Manila Prints, P. O. Box 1267, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010 Australia, Phone/Fax: +6129-3138179.

rjottings@yahoo.com

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