Who (the hell) is General Tomas Diaz?

Over the weekend, I have been both writhing in agony and ecstatic with laughter going through the comments on the PCIJ video and the answers to @jaredramos’ question on the 1986 People Power Revolution. And the most common immediate reaction I read and had from both old friends on Facebook and followers on Tumbr was : “Who (the hell) is General Tomas Diaz?”

I must say, despite having been a teacher of Philippine history to high school students and having had several classes on the subject in my academic years, I do not know who he is. Perhaps the most common succeeding reaction of viewers of that video was to Google “General Tomas Diaz.” And I think most of them encountered nothing but random names of individuals who live in Spanish-speaking countries or former dependencies of the old empire.

Googling the name after viewing the PCIJ video and holding some reaction of surprise and disgust are mere indicators, not of shock but of an attempt at disassociation from those who gave both bewildering and outrageous answers to a very simple question. As far as I can recall, only one guy in the video gave correct and sensible answers. Most were merely trying to protect what was left of their “image” while the others were very forthcoming and even proud of their ignorance which resulted out of their indolence.

There were some among those who answered @jaredramos’ question who justified the answers of the interview by saying that the blame should be placed on the teachers of those students. That the students were unable to answer the question because their teachers failed to teach them about it. To some extent this view is justified. But only to some extent.

Perhaps the students may not notice it but if one takes a hard look at how Philippine history is being taught in this country, one can see that it is taught in a linear fashion which extends from the discovery of the Tabon Man to the conditions in Pre-Spanish Philippines; to the arrival of Magellan and the Propaganda Movement, the Katipunan, the war for Independence; and the Philippine-American War. Before the teachers and students notice it, the 10 months of the academic year is done.

And so ends the Philippine history lessons for the average freshman in high school. It ends without the student learning about the impact of American colonialism; the Second World War in the Philippines; the post-war reconstruction and independence; corruption during the Quirino administration; the counter-insurgency campaigns during the Magsaysay administration; the price hikes during the Macapagal administration; and the early years of the Marcos adminsitration and its later descent to the darkness of the Martial Law period; the miracle of 1986 People Power; and the struggle for progress in the age of globalization.

A couple of years ago, I wrote something about Ninoy and the Blindspots of History and how the pedagogy employed in the country for teaching Philippine history has hindered the students’ appreciation of their heritage. Back then I supposed that the introduction of better text books and the effort of teachers to incite interest in Philippine history in their students may remedy the blind spots. But looking back, I think that sustaining the current methods of teaching the subject will never yield good results unless a student had more than a year of Philippine history.

While Philippine history is taught in bits and pieces as early as the fourth grade, the bulk and organized teaching of it though only comes in the first year of high school. And it is again taught as one subject for a semester in college (that’s five months long in most, three months in some). And in these various occassions, the methods employed by the teachers may vary in terms of presentation, but the same linear pedagogy is adopted. In the end, the student maybe bombarded with facts about the days of Majapahit and Sri-Vijaya empires, but he or she knows so little about the Martial Law years or the coup attempts during the earlier Aquino administration.

Perhaps, it is time that the academics and scholars in Philippine history consider teaching the subject the other linear way around. Teaching the subject from the contemporary times, coupled with regular discussions of current affairs, and moving back to the older past may incite more interest in the subject, and make more progress than starting subject with discussion of remote facts about the days of the early humans in the caves of Palawan.

Teaching Philippine history from the present to the past instead of the past to the present would allow the students to understand better certain public institutions and social phenomenon. They would understand how the MILF came out of the MNLF and how different these two are from the Abu Sayyaf. They would understand better why the burial of President Marcos is being debated. They would understand better why the 1986 People Power Revolution is being celebrated and why they don’t have classes on that day in February.

Then again, I am just spitballing and my thoughts have yet to be tested to see if they will work or not. But I think that there’s no harm in exploring other ways by which the heritage of the people and the struggles encountered can best be passed on to the younger generation. If the current pedagogy in teaching has produced kids like those in the PCIJ video, then maybe it is time that new ways of teaching be explored.

Beyond the classroom though and being that the Information Age makes almost anything from fashion trends to the latest buzz on celebrities accessible to the youth these days, ignorance on the 1986 People Power Revolution to some extent is inexcusable. If the youth these days can spend time reading on why Justin Beiber had his bangs cut or why The King’s Speech won the Oscars, then what is a few seconds checking on the reason behind a national holiday?

Or maybe Googling and taking note of Charice Pempengco’s episodes in Glee is more important for the younger generation than remembering those who died so that we may post whatever post we want on our blogs today?

You the youth of today, especially the Christians, are being wisely educated to despise your past, your race, your beliefs, and traditions, so that seeing yourselves constantly being humbled and keeping before your eyes your own inferiority, you will obediently place your neck under the yoke and become slaves.

-Kamandagan in Jose Rizal’s Sinagtala and Maria Maligaya



  • Tyson F. Gautreaux ,

    Apple now has Rhapsody as an app, which is a great start, but it is currently hampered by the inability to store locally on your iPod, and has a dismal 64kbps bit rate. If this changes, then it will somewhat negate this advantage for the Zune, but the 10 songs per month will still be a big plus in Zune Pass’ favor.

    • KG ,

      general tomas diaz?
      nasagot na din sawakas kasali pala sya sa rolex 12.

      • Kim Quilinguing ,

        Yep, sya daw ang 2nd in command ni then PC Chief Fidel Ramos – something which is not in the history books in use in our schools.

      • KG ,

        During my elementary(78-83) days the araling panlipunan was a little bit of everything from current events ,history,culture and the works.

        I ma not familiar with the present curriculum for elementary is araling panlipunan called makabayan now?

        Starting them(students) young with the format suggested (present to past) may help in reinforcement to the additional years given them.

        alam ko puro memorization pag elementary maybe its time for more essay type tests.

        • Kim Quilinguing ,

          And as you rightly point it out sir, it is mostly memorization. I also had the same experience. And I also heard the same complaints from my students when I later taught Philippine history.

          Hindi na rin po ako sigurado kung ano na ang curriculum ngayon for elementary classes in Philippine history. Sa high school parang ganun pa rin, sa freshmen year and I think the use of whether Filipino or English depends on the school.

          I agree, it is time that students be made to think and express their thoughts about events and personalities in the past. Memorization can only do so much. Pag tapos na ang exam, wala na.

          • GabbyD ,

            for me, oks lang ang memorization sa elementary.

            knowing facts is the first step to learning. sa HS, dapat mga essays na. 🙂

            • Kim Quilinguing ,

              Yep, maybe that would be it. At least by high school, students start thinking and understanding the things they were made to memorize in their elementary years.

          • Bert ,

            My sympathy is with you Kim and to all those that belong to your tribe, but viewing the video of those youth’s ramblings above I can’t help thinking of the sad reality that history now belongs to the archives.

            Sad, sad indeed.

            • Kim ,

              Yes sir! Viewing it made me sad. And yes it is sad. Very sad indeed.

              • UP nn grad ,

                Persidente NoyNoy has leDAC’ed adding two more years before a Pinoy-in-Pinas gets to say is a high school graduate. This Malacanang initiative will be a great help, right???

                • UP nn grad ,

                  the additional teaching days may result in Pinoys-in-Pinas also commemorate other events like the Gomburza execution, fall of Corregidor, the battle of Manila, SuperFerry14 as Pinoys memorialize EDSA1

                  • Kim Quilinguing ,

                    Maybe it’ll help, maybe it won’t. I think what would make a difference is how the subject is being taught.

                    Back then I used to think that having more time with the subject would make the students absorb it.

                    But seeing that the average student has at least 15 months of Philippine history in his or her whole academic life, and yet not much is absorbed, perhaps something revolutionary has to adopted.

                    Maybe teaching history from present to past instead of past to present, will make the student appreciate Philippine history more and absorb much from it. Then again, this is just a thought.

            • Lawrence Villamar ,

              Did you know that kids today are actually smarter than kids in the 1950s? I’m sorry, but the thing is: if you really want to get kids to listen/read you, you got to be answer the question: If EDSA held so much promise, why are we like this today? Not that I’m saying EDSA is not significant, but the generations of the past just want the kids to glorify them, without even answering the tough questions that kids post on the narratives of EDSA.

              • Kim ,

                I must agree though on the glorification part. There are certain sectors who crave and work for that part.

                But I think being smart or intelligence for that matter is relative. If 50’s kids back then have limited knowledge and range of subjects, they knew subjects which kids today don’t. They read Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. They worshiped Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Twain. I would not judge today’s kids but I doubt if many among them read the works of those guys above.

                Yes, EDSA held a promise but the promise was broken in the months afterwards. Instead of the Aquino government becoming an amalgam of the various groups, ideologies and sectors which made the revolution possible, it broke into factions. And these factions started fighting among themselves. EDSA taught us that change does not come with the installation of a new leader rather it is a concerted effort of the whole nation renewing itself.

                While it may be easy to dismiss EDSA for its failure to fulfill its promises, the more prudent thing to do would be to study it and see where we failed. We must try to understand it and identify the concerns and problems which are still left unsolved up to now e.g. human rights violations, nepotism, corruption, land reform, etc. By looking at EDSA squarely in the eye and accepting its failures, we are actually, to use your words “answering the tough questions that kids post on the narratives of EDSA.”

              • GabbyD ,

                hi kim,

                is the way history is taught prescribed by deped? teachers are not allowed 2 deviate?

                • Kim Quilinguing ,

                  I must admit that I do not know if it is prescribed by DepEd. But in my experience teaching high school kids, there was a time table which we had to observe in our teaching of Philippine history. And all our lesson plans and activities must have the prior approval of the department chair. While creativity is encouraged, what often happens however is that we are asked to use prior teaching methods as “guides” in the formulation of our lesson plans.

                  • GabbyD ,

                    thanks! whats your HS, if i may ask? whats your textbook?

                    i think your ideas are interesting ones, and people (read:historians, HS history teachers) should draft a new timetable with a focus on more recent history.

                    i think it can be done. a few years ago i was thinking of writing a textbook for economics in HS. dapat, integrated ang History and economics at the HS level. that would really help.

                    • Kim Quilinguing ,

                      Thank you! I guess it is time that a new teaching pedagogy for Philippine history should be explored. It is time to make the past relevant to the present, and essential to the future.

                      I graduated from Xavier University High in Cagayan de Oro. We used Zaide back then, well of course, that was the early 90s.

                      When I came back to the high school to teach a few years back, they were already using a different textbook, the name of which I can no longer recall. But it had a lot of inconsistencies.

                      Towards the end of the year, we chose the Ibon Foundation’s Philippine history book. Despite the objections of some co-teachers to the political slant, the majority thought that the content was factual, concise, and very current.

                      I also taught high school economics in the same school. Yep, I think it would help if the economics classes in high school would be coupled with some history lessons. Being that the students are those eager to see concrete examples, coupling concepts like inflation, depreciation, globalization, etc., with actual events in history will probably make the students understand and appreciate economics more.

                • Bert ,

                  I disagree.

                  This is a new age, the age of science and technology. The youth of today, whether here in the Philippines, the USA, or anywhere else in the modern world, are focused on what’s happening today, what’s going to happen in the future, and what’s in store for them in the future.

                  And rightly so, technology is happening in a flash, it’s so very hard to catch up with it there is no more time to ponder what’s yesterday.

                  The past is getting irrelevant to them.

                  • Kim Quilinguing ,

                    While I may agree with you that technology nowadays is on an exhilarating speed, I disagree with the thought that the youth of today should only focus on the here and now. The study of the past is relevant to the understanding of the present and the planning for the future. We will not know where we have been, where we are, and where we will be without any concept of historical progression.

                    It is true that the youth of today focus on the here and now. And I am saddened that they are because as George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”