Aiming for the Stars...

by Jean Quintero Hall

        Contents
"THE FIRST PHILIPPINE HISTORY BOOK"

[March 1999 Issue]

If the book (Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas) succeeds to awaken your conciousness of our past, already effaced from your memory, and to rectify what has been falsified and slandered, then I have not worked in vain, and with this as a basis, however small it may be, we shall be able to study the future.
-- Dr. Jose Rizal
Europe, 1889

When Rizal published his annotation of Antonio de Morga's Sucesos in 1890, he had already travelled in parts of Spain, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, China, Hong Kong, Japan, the United States and England. He could converse in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese and English. He was only 29-years-old!

In his travels he familiarized himself with each country's history, customs, ways of life and language. He held the common sense belief that learning a people's language "will open ... the treasures of a country, that is, the knowledge, the learning" and "its own way of thinking." Although he was interested in the social and scientific progress he witnessed abroad and understood the factors that lead to such advancement, he was even more fascinated by the collage of cultural symbols that become embraced by a people as their own national identity. A consummate student of ancient and modern history, Rizal was convinced that the enduring and unifying strength of all great societies lies in their collective sense of tradition -- a tradition that is carried forth and becomes that people's cultural history.

By publishing his annotated version of de Morga's Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (Events of the Philippine Islands, originally published in 1609), Rizal's intent was not only to provide the Filipino people their early history, a pre-Spanish history, but to present to them their own authentic culture and identity. Aware of most of the books written about the Philippines, he selected the Sucesos because he "considered it necessary to invoke the testimony of an illustrous Spaniard who governed the destinies of the Philippines in the beginning of her new era and witnessed the last moments of our ancient nationality." His annotations included clarifications and amplifications of details, refutations of statements where necessary, and confirmations when checked against other sources.

Rizal offered the annotated Sucesos to the Filipinos with the wise counsel that "to foretell the destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the books that tell of her past."

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created: September 1, 1999
updated: September 3, 1999
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger