The Question of Location - PN Abinales
Let's see if we can start some debate in the pages of this community magazine. Who can write about the Philippines? If you are to believe those prepubescent members of the academic community sniping at the rear while Benedict Anderson was giving his spiel on Rizal, the French literati, and the European anarchists last February, then no one can write about the Philippines except those who are Filipinos and who are in the Philippines. Those who write from afar are tainted and suspect, capable only of writing incomplete or even false works because they are simply "not here."This argument (more often, insinuation) has become an enduring mantra in many a UP circle since it scores good propaganda points for the nationalist cause. But it also paints a distorted picture of academic reality, not to mention creates the impression that the university is littered with putative ethnocentrics and petty racists. Worse, it is a smear of the academic mission.
But if we assume some merit to this position, then the next step is to survey the "local scene" and determine whether the argument is indeed valid.
The picture is not that good. For the fact is those in the Philippines have been far less productive and less innovative than their colleagues abroad.
Let me focus on the social sciences since this is where I am more comfortable.There is no active UP social scientist today whose works can measure up to an older generation of scholars
like Cesar Majul, Teodoro Agoncillo, Renato Constantino, and Onofre D. Corpuz who were notable for the breadth of their intellectual curiosity. Majul's spanned Mabini and the Malolos Republic to the Muslims in the Philippines, while Corpuz's reached from the civil service under American colonial rule, to the Spanish colonial economy, to a new revisionist interpretation of Philippine history. Both Constantino and Agoncillo were historians and political essayists, with Agoncillo even intruding into the humanities with his poetry.The scholars who came nearest to these intellectual giants were Virgilio Enriquez (deceased) and Zeus Salazar (retired) whose Sikolohiyang Pilipino and Pantayong Pananaw (PP) brought fresh insights into a nationalist perspective that was losing its luster after Marcos bought out many of its leading lights, and the CPP-NPA made its preference for the simplistic and the dogmatic increasingly felt.
The qualification "nearest" is necessary, however: Enriquez and Salazar never went beyond laying out the need to create an alternative pro-Filipino framework to understand our psyche and our history.
The empirical necessity to sustain their theories remains undeveloped, if not bare.For Enriquez's and Salazar's students failed to take up from where their gurus left off.
Some completed their dissertations here (and abroad!), but have yet to make their mark in academe (alas, two of these professors' more brilliant students — Rogelia Pe-Pua and Portia Reyes — prefer to live abroad). The most informative essay on Salazar and Pantayong Pananaw is not from a fellow historian but by someone from the Filipino Department (See Ramon Guillermo' s "Exposition, Critique and New Directions for Pantayong Pananaw," in Issue No. 3, Nations and Other Stories, of the Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, http://kyotoreview.cseas.kyoto-u.ac.jp
True, there is now a critical mass of "local history" studies, many written by Agoncillo' s students. But this accumulation is a mere amplification of the nationalist orthodoxy, not its transcendence. One floor up, no one in anthropology has reached the stature of Arsenio Manuel or F. Landa Jocano, and one doubts whether Prof. Jerome Bailen — the popular anthropologist — can ever develop a theory of medical anthropology. Forensics and pathology, alas, continue to be the domain of the medical profession.
The heydays of theorizing within schools of thought and debates between perspectives in political science are over, and the only approach that appears prevalent and dominant these days is the survey studies, refined to near-perfection by the likes of Prof. Felipe Miranda. The other perspectives however have faltered;
even post modernism has not rejuvenated political analyses in my favorite department.
Radical criticism has since moved to the Sociology department with the anti-globalization writings of Prof. Walden Bello. In the other areas of sociological research, however (social organization, social change, family, culture and the hardships of everyday life) there is hardly any movement in theory-building. And through the backdoor of history, once-criticized concepts—like patron-client, smooth-interpersonal-relationship, and hiya—have returned with a vengeance.
Philippine sociology in an odd way has not yet transcended the early 1960s, when the concepts and ideas promoted by Ateneo's Institute of Philippine Culture were paramount.In short, the production of social, historical, and political knowledge within the Philippines has been uneven and unbalanced.
Which makes answering the question raised by the hectoring peanut gallery at the Anderson lecture problematic. For how can those in the country have the sole proprietary right to say anything about our society in the face of this intellectual debility?
(to be continued).
The challenge now is to prove Sikolohiyang Pilipino's relevance in the ordinary Filipino's life. Accdg to Abinales, developments have been bare. The problem, I think, is that developments have been confined to the academe. SP researches are funded by academic institutions, and are read and critiqued by colleagues and peers. As much as they try to reach the masa, the mere academic feel may alienate the Filipino.
Proponents of SP must then try to create a balance between the academic foundation of SP and it's relevance outside the academe. SP is after all, a discipline and a protest.
It must also find a way to create real changes in the Filipino's life. Theory must translate into practice, and this principle should guide the bukids always. Scholarship demands true activists.