No ‘Synthesized’ Visayan History — Education Dean

No ‘Synthesized’ Visayan History — Education Dean

A known professor of history at Silliman University highlighted the presence of a large volume of historical data on Visayas but the absence of a synthesis that bounds them into a common material.

The comment of College of Education Dean Dr. Earl Jude Paul Cleope, who is co-president of the Philippine National Historical Society (PNHS), was made after he presented a paper on “The State of Historiography in the Visayas” at the 32nd PNHS National Conference on National and Local History held late last month in Pampanga.

“There’s voluminous historical writing about the Visayas but there is no synthesis that can explain from a common perspective how the  Visayas – its people, distinct culture and practices – came about,” he said.

Dr. Cleope said a “unified process” is needed in gathering historical information about the Visayas and translating them into a common material. “This will ultimately be used in the writing of the national history of the Philippines.”

In the paper that he presented, he shared results of the survey he made on the development of historical writing in the Visayas, including outputs of historians from all the regions, since the 1960s. His work involved an assessment of the frameworks and methodologies being used over the years in writing about the Visayas by different historians.  

“It’s true that ‘the sea unites where the land divides,’” Dr. Cleope said, referring to one of his findings during the course of his research.

He added: “The role of the sea was overlooked in the historical writings about the Visayas.” Himself an author of publications on segments of the island’s history, Dr. Cleope explained that the sea played a significant role in the shaping of the Visayas. This included the transition of and influences on several factors, among them, transmission of goods and services, modes of transportation, culture, and migration.

Dr. Cleope’s article, “Negros Island and the Wave Riders: A Maritime History”, which was part of the Journal of History January-December 2011 issue launched as part of the conference and in celebration of PNHS’ 70th founding anniversary, provides a glimpse of the role of the ocean in the history of the Visayas. The article particularly examines the maritime raiding phenomenon that occurred in the Visayan Seas in the context of the popular concept of slave-raiding perpetrated by what the Spanish colonizers labeled as “Moro raids.”

“The State of Historiography in the Visayas”, which he presented at the conference, was part of the keynote panel on “Philippine Historiography: Looking Back and Looking Forward”.

PNHS is the oldest historical society in the country. Its conferences and publications have presented researches on mainstream national history, on local/regional histories that have enriched understanding of the cultural diversity in Philippine society, and on studies in related social sciences and the humanities. This year’s conference took on the theme:  “Celebrating 70 Years of the PNHS: Looking Back and Looking Forward: Historical Antecedents and Future Prospects in National and Local History.”

At the same conference, Silliman University, through another historian, Dean of Students Prof. Carlos Magtolis, Jr., formally accepted the role as host of the 33rd PNHS national conference in 2012.