WALKING HISTORY

Adoring the Manunggul Jar at the National Museum and learning about the common culture and belief of all Austronesians, the ancestors of Filipinos.

Hi this is Xiao Chua, a student of history.

…and it’s XIAOTIME!

This is my new blog which I created to anticipate the closure of my multiply blog, Ang Tarlakin (winner of the 2007 Wikipinoy of the Year for History) by December.  I would also like to have a more accessible and permanent home for my more serious thoughts.

Earlier today, I toured two sets of people in Luneta and Intramuros — about a hundred or so college students, and then, some kids.  In between being a student and teacher of history, I am a lakwatchero, who uses the spaces around us to teach history.

The past will always be a part of travelling.  Yup.  Everywhere we go, there are remnants and monuments of what used to be.  But to many, the past is irrelevant.  The dictionary definition of History is “the written record of past events,” and since we Filipinos did not keep records before the foreigners came, most of what we have read was their narratives on us in their perspective and language.  We became too harsh on ourselves in the process—thinking we are an inferior, bad people.  But try to view the past in the Filipino perspective, and we will be selling the idea that our best tourism asset is really our people.  I was taught by my mentor, historian Dr. Zeus Salazar, that the root word of our equivalent term for History, Kasaysayan, is “saysay.”  Saysay can mean “story” but it is also a word for “meaning.”  Seeing in the past what is meaningful and relevant to us, the people?  Hmmm, this sounds like a novel idea since we are coming from a perception that history classes are irrelevant and are the best sleeping pills.

Saysay of Lakwatcha

What does Lakwatcha really mean?  Lakwatcha editor Ai Macalintal once asked me this question.  Since I am not an expert on languages, I consulted mentors and friends.  Dr. Nilo Ocampo of the UP Department of Filipino referred me to the Vito Castillo Santos’s “Vicassan’s Pilipino-English Dictionary,” in which it says Lacuacha is a word from the Spanish that means “truancy.”  Truancy???  That explains why, when I asked Dr. Salazar and my friend Prof. Alvin Campomanes of the University of Asia and the Pacific what Lakwatcha meant for them, they both said it’s to loiter, roam around or promenade to shirk from duty.

Not a very positive word, it seems.  But we all know that culture and words are dynamic and the people can redefine them over time.  In this magazine, we can redefine lakwatcha to mean not just a vacation to get away from “the grey and frenzied hurly burly of the city life,” as Jose Mari Chan puts it.  It can also mean to travel and know ourselves as a people by discovering our different and shared histories and cultures.  Another mentor of mine Dr. Vic Villan of the UP Depatment of History, had another theory on how lakwatcha can mean to us.  It can come from the Cebuano “lakaw,” or the Hiligaynon “lakat” and the Tagalog “lakad,” all refers to the act of walking.

Saysay in Lakwatcha

Aside from being a teacher and historian, I am a historian-on-board buses for Linangan Education Trips (which specializes in historical educational tours) which I have been doing since 2006.  With this, I am able to lead students to remember the past in the spirit of the Katipunan’s “peregrinasyon.”  I learned from Dr. Jimmy Veneracion that during the years after the Philippine Revolution of 1896, the veterans of the Katipunan, returned to their battlefields, in groups remembering their fallen comrades, mga kapatid, which they called “peregrinasyon” or pilgrimages (as when we have spiritual journeys to the Holy Land).  When we travel to Fort Santiago, Banahaw, Biak-na-Bato, Mt. Nagpatong in Cavite, Luneta, Pinaglabanan, Corregidor, and many other places around the archipelago, we are honoring those who died before us so we can be free and have the opportunity to be good Filipinos.

Recently, I learned from the other tour company which hires my services, the Heroes Square Heritage Corporation (it owns the beautiful commercial building in front of Fort Santiago and it facilitates Intramuros tours with actors portraying historical personages for young kids) that in European museums, they call tour guides “docents.”  It’s the first time I heard it used in the Philippines.  For Heroes Square, the docent is not just a tour guide but is also a passionate teacher who teaches love of country.  In the next blogs, I hope that you join me as fellow travellers in a “pereginasyon” to know how great a people we are.  It’s time to recognize ourselves in the words of Tito Boy Abunda, “We are Filipinos, we are your best friends in Asia.”

I am proud to be a docent.  I give meaning to lakwatcha.  I am walking history…

This first post is dedicated to Dr. Ambeth R. Ocampo, whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow, for bringing me to the journey of history with his book Rizal Without The Overcoat when I was in grade 5.  Reading him and trying to catch his tone I first realized how I wanted to be a cool history teacher just like him.