Teaching

Objectivity

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Photo by Ken Suarez (Moalboal) — Taken from the Unsplash website

 

Can a social scientist remain objective especially in our time today?

Two Saturdays ago, a professor of mine (in my Historical Methods class), gave us an article each to read and review.  I was amused to find that Leloy (Lissandro) Claudio’s article on “Postcolonial Fissures” was not given to me.  “Ahhh, oh I have that article.  Sayang, ma’am ___, siya jud diay to sa Manila Hotel.  I should have my pic taken with him.”  😀  She told me, “Mao na ang reason I did not give the article to you” with a smile.

Ah yes, objectivity can be a challenge when reading an article written by someone I look up to and admire.  That brings me to the thought:  “Can one truly be subjective?”  How we write, what we write about and how we hypothesize always manage to color our thinking and theorizing.

I remember that incident as I reread my review of Claudio’s Rappler article “The Moralist Thinker in Digong’s Time” and I finally understood what my professor meant. Hah! The review I submitted was very “emotionally close” and emotional.  It was half intellectual and half emotional. I saw how wise it was of her to give me the postmodern article written by Dr. Hornedo.

It’s something I am looking forward to reading since I still am kind of ambivalent towards postmodernism and history given my training and background from Diliman.  I was taught and trained by professors who were allergic to the postmodern framework.  But then studying in USC has opened my eyes to different theories and perspectives that I am not familiar with since the department in Diliman, during my time,  was not so open to postmodern theory.   I remember a professor of mine who would smirk every time Foucault’s name was mentioned.

As a History major, I was hesitant to dabble in and explore other theories like postmodernism and Historicism but today I learned that part of growing up as an academic is to look at the unknown, unlearned and the unexplored.

I see it as like a child who wants to explore what her parents warned her about but were not really sure it was scientifically grounded or had basis backed up by research.

I have that feeling today.  Poised at flight, wanting to plumb the depths and horizons I was told not to step foot on because it was against tradition.

Let’s see where I land after this.

 

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Teaching

Teaching in a digital age

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina  {https://unsplash.com/photos/pZA4eNKBz20}

Seventeen years ago when I first started teaching, I had to lug around heavy, hard-bound books filled with colored pictures of pre-Hispanic Philippine society just so my students in my Philippine history classes could imagine how our ancestors, our economy, and our everyday life looked like. It was cumbersome, inconvenient and quite heavy to be carrying books up and down the Talamban campus of USC.

This semester, I have the privilege to teach Philippine history and the Rizal course again and after two weeks have passed since the semester started I still cannot shake off that feeling of awe that I still get when I am faced with the vast number of resources in front of me.  At a click of the mouse, I can now download a PDF copy of the original Boxer Codex in script form and a translation from a digital book website which I often use for my Masters’ class reading requirements. 

Gone are the days when one would have to go to the library, spending hours in the archive culling for primary sources like news articles, diary entries and historical maps to show in class.  In a second, we can find them through OpenLibrary, JSTOR, Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg or even from the digital archive of The New York Times to name a few websites.

I still can’t get over it.  Sources — especially the eyewitness accounts aka primary — are among the important lifeblood resources of historians and history students like me.

In a span of eight months, I have downloaded over two to three hundred electronic books and journal articles from three websites that have been very helpful to my life as a graduate student and as a researcher.

If you need the addresses of these websites, shoot me an email at teacheryen.wp@gmail.com.

Given the number of websites available today, there is definitely no reason why a teacher in this time and age can’t come up with a visual presentation or lesson.

Everything is on the web.

What do we teach our students then when information is already at their fingertips?

And that is when the role of a teacher as a guide comes in.  In an age where information is a dime a dozen and easy to download, it is important that we teach students to sift and swim ably through the pieces of information floating around like chunks from an iceberg.

Teachers need to teach their classes how to verify facts, separate the grain from the chaff especially in an era where fake news abounds.

We must teach them to be critical and to know what information to look for, where to find them, how to distinguish truth from lies or half-truths and come up with a logical argument out from their research and analysis of facts and evidence.

That said, the ubiquity of the internet does not diminish the importance of teachers rather, it highlights the teacher’s role.

It is crucial today that we teach skills like critical thinking, making judgments and conclusions, verifying information and producing new knowledge.  Young people must be taught to analyze and synthesize knowledge instead of merely spewing and mouthing what they have read from a website.

One important thing that ties all these skills together is for us to teach students how to apply the facts and knowledge they get from the web, from the people around them and from school.

They must be taught how to use this information to continually develop society and create technology that improves other people’s lives without compromising truth and social justice.

That, my friends, is where our greater challenge as teachers lie.

Communication, Life, Technology

Things we leave behind

(This was originally written as a free writing exercise during the Write Shop organized by the Cebu Literary Festival which was held last Saturday at the Museo Sugbo)

 

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Image from Kim S. Ly (taken from the Unsplash.com website) — https://unsplash.com/photos/_yUBGie4RFI

 

I run out of the house and get into my Grab car.  The first thing I do after I close the door is to check my phone.  The battery is down to 50%.  Thank God the roads are not congested.  I check my watch from time to time.  Well, almost like every five minutes.  I’m running late for my class.

I’m halfway to school when I realize I left something important.  An everyday, ubiquitous object but something important to me.  I left my mobile phone charger.  I left it at home, in my haste, and now I feel helpless and incapacitated.

I left my mobile phone charger. 

In my haste, I had forgotten to put it inside my bag.  I feel helpless and incapacitated without it.

My mind goes into an overdrive mode thinking about all the crazy things that could happen without my charger.  Oh no, I have a dinner with good friends later.  That is bound to need a phone to document the evening.  How am I supposed to snap every moment, the food and the place, and oh yes, the company, if my phone dies out on me?

My professor is scheduled to send me his comments about my abstract through Messenger.  How am I supposed to check them if I have no battery, no charger?  I realize how many of my tasks are dependent on my phone.  My schedule and to-do list are in my phone.  I book a ride through my phone.  I communicate with my students through Messenger and Facebook Groups.

The Grab driver suddenly steps on the brake and I am jolted – physically and figuratively.  It’s not the end of the world.  My overthinking has led me to believe that leaving the house without a charger is a “catastrophe”.  A modern lie and phenomenon that reflects the age I belong to but a lie nonetheless.

My mind has led me to believe that my life and my day depend on my phone.  I get off from the car and turn the brightness down to several shades dimmer.

Evening came and photos were taken, life stories swapped and as nostalgia hit us, we snapped moments and froze moments digitally.  I look down and check my phone.  I’m down to 18%.  I prioritize taking pictures of me and my friends instead of snapping the mundane away.  No food and resto pics for me tonight.  And maybe a photo or two of me and my friends is indeed the more important thing than all the food photos combined.

I book an Uber this time to go home and wait for the driver.  He’s 6 minutes away.  I adjust the brightness a shade dimmer.  It’s very dim this time.  I get into the car, get home and thank God for extending my phone’s battery life.  It’s at 6% and I plug it into the charger.  I heave a sigh of relief.  Suddenly, everything feels better.

It’s a different type of survival — technological survival.

 

Teaching

200-item (test questions) Social Studies major

Hi!  For those who will be taking the LET this September 24, 2017, GOD BLESS YOU!

22 days more to go!  I am uploading a 200-item practice test* that you can take just to test what you know.  It’s for Social Studies majors and they are in Word and PDF versions.  I have yet to upload sample tests for Gen. Ed. Social Studies.

To everyone who’s prepping for it, God bless you with much grace, peace and wisdom!  🙂

*Important note:  These questions are not mine.  I compiled them from different reviewers (both published/printed and the ones from my review last year).

FINAL_MOCK EXAM_SOCIAL STUDIES MAJOR

FINAL_MOCK EXAM_SOCIAL STUDIES MAJOR

Teaching

Tapestry of stories

How does one weave a tapestry of colors to come up with a beautiful piece of art?  That question keeps running through my mind as I examine and analyze the data that I have on student activism in Cebu in the 1970s.  It is no longer as black and white as I assumed it would be when I first started doing my research.  Now I see the nuances and the gray areas as well.  It is like knowing a person better.  Once you get to listen to a person’s story, you get to understand him/her better as the whole picture becomes clearer.

I was never a student activist in my college years in spite of the fact that I studied at the supposedly “bastion of academic freedom” and activism.  I always found the explanations of the activists lacking and because of that I never joined their ranks.  Their all-out “no” to anything the government did or said turned me off.  I asked one of them, “why can’t you acknowledge the positive or good things the government has done instead of being focused on all the wrong things?”

I am not blind.  I know our government’s flaws.  I am well aware of our leaders’ flaws but I am also aware of their strengths and accomplishments.  That is why I admired what one of my interviewees told me this afternoon.  He was a student activist during the Marcos years.  He said, “I’ve never been for Duterte but I acknowledge that I liked what he said about the mining industry and I acknowledge the other accomplishments he has done in other sectors.  It is important to look at things objectively.”  I liked how he said that.

I think one can serve this nation without being allied to a student activist organization.  Activism is not one organization’s monopoly.  In the same way, one can also be a critical thinker without being critical of everything the government does.  I do not agree with protesting for protest’s sake.  I also subscribe to the idea that if we are quick to judge what is broken or negative then we must also be equally quick to acknowledge what is good and positive.

So going back to my question about all these stories…I told my interviewee that, at times, I am stumped about how to write their stories altogether as some of them want to keep their anonymity and “exploits” unwritten.  Well, there is always a way.  I just have to find it fast. 

Life, Teaching

Full circle

TC 1
This view always reminds me of Diliman. 🙂

During a “messy” time in my life and career, my former boss, sir Pascual, once told me, “Yen, take a break from teaching and History for a while.  Try other things and explore other places.  When you think History (and teaching) is really for you, go back to it.”

Fifteen years after he said those wise words — an advice that really helped me a lot — I’ve finally come full circle today, this semester, this school year.  I am no longer teaching in USC but I am back as a graduate student of History and finally with the wholehearted choice that History is for me after so many twists and turns, so many delays, lessons learned and mishaps.

I am back in one of sir P.’s classes again and the first day our class met, his lecture reminded me why I have always loved History.  I went home inspired after that first session.

In my mind, I was already expecting this weekend trip to Tangub to be “challenging” and “hard” given the fact that going to the place via Dipolog City was something I was not quite familiar with.  Somehow I  also knew (subconsciously), I would not be reporting but I had set my heart on coming here.  I wanted to see the place I once fell in love with the first time I set foot on it. A place that held so many precious memories for me. The thought of staying here even crossed my mind back then, well, only for a minute but the lack of coffee shops back then made me think twice. 😉 I chose to come in spite of the additional expense it would entail because I felt that it was something I had to see and feel:  coming full circle to a profession, a school and a department I left because of a broken heart.

When I had my first heartbreak fifteen years ago because of someone I met in the university where I first taught, I mistakenly “personalized” the experience and disassociated everything related to him as something to be shunned, forgotten and left off for good. I stayed away from USC for quite a number of years.  And in a sense, I threw away a lot of opportunities in my attempts to forget, move on and make peace with the past.  I heard that he is no longer with the university but even then if he still was it would still have been okay.  I guess forgiving one’s self and the other person makes it okay. 😉

TC 3This year, I knew it would be a different season.  The first time I entered USC TC to process my admission, I no longer felt the familiar twitch of pain that often accompanied every visit I had since 2002.  I walked up to the 4th floor of the AS building and snapped a photo of the cement road from the entrance gate to ISMED and breathed in the fresh air.  Sounds OA I know but I reveled in the fact that I could finally say I’ve moved on. 😊

I only remembered the happy memories I once had in Talamban.  Of times spent with students talking with them after classes, of friendships made with co-teachers at the faculty room and of walks I took in TC to the chapel to pray, walks with a “friend” after checking papers at the faculty room and just good old plain memories hanging out in the canteen overlooking the soccer field, of times spent in prayer sitting on the steps leading to the chapel.  That place was quiet and far away from the crowd back then.  It made for a perfect place to pray and read the Bible.

TC 2

It feels good to be back, feeling lighter, a lot happier and no longer haunted by past mistakes.

It feels good to make peace with the past — finally.

As I look to the future with expectation (especially this August), I understand how important it is to study History not to be held back by the trauma and mistakes of the unchangeable past but to be enlightened and strengthened by it.  I think that is how Philippine history should be taught to students.  Not just merely a string of events but a book of lessons and stories, both good and the bad, that makes one a better person, a better nation.  The bad should not be covered up or revised but examined with a different set of glasses and a heart ready to learn from one’s mistakes and stand up again after a fall.

Thanks to this rainy, circuitous trip to Tangub, I have finally come full circle and said goodbye to the ghosts of my past.  The future looks bright and happy. 🙂

Teaching

Elusive sleep

I’m on a boat bound for somewhere in Mindanao and sleep eludes me.  Now it is quiet.  The time on my phone tells me it is  5:00 in the morning.  I gave up trying to sleep twenty minutes ago.

Four hours earlier, different sounds surrounded me.  From phone rings to the usual snoring to babies crying when their sleep is interrupted.  I had covered my face with a handkerchief to shield it from the light above me.  It didn’t work (apparently) or i would have been asleep by now.  

As I lay on my bed, I turned from one side to the other every ten to fifteen minutes.  The heat was terrible and I was sweating profusely in the back.  I thought of my bed at home and the electric fan and the more I could not sleep.  I yearned for something that wasn’t there. 

And it made me think how our lives can be like that at times.

We seem to get into a quandary or get stuck in an unfavorable situation because we are looking for something elusive.  We want something and if that thing escapes us, we think life is uncomfortable, hard.  We base our comfort and maybe even happiness on that one little thing. 

If this post is rambling that’s because it is.  My mind is sleepy at this time but I can’t sleep. 

Cebu, Cebuano History, Heritage, History

The House of Ho Tong

In the late 1960s, a young man who was a student at the Ateneo stumbled on Fr. William Repetti’s Pictorial Records and Traces of the Society of Jesus in the Philippines and Guam Prior to 1768 in the university library. The young man was Jaime L. Sy, the son of Nicanor Sy (Sy Han Kiong) who was the then President of Cebu Ho Tong Hardware. As a boy, Jimmy (as Jaime was known to family and friends) was educated in the Jesuit-run Sacred Heart School for Boys. He went to the Ateneo de Manila University for his degree in Management.

Upon seeing the picture of the house, Jimmy exclaimed, “that’s our bodega!” Ho Tong hardware had used the Jesuit House as one of their warehouses for their business. He had the page photocopied and sent it to his father through JRS. When he came home during the break, he asked his father where the picture was but his father told him that he had misplaced it. His father had just taken the information as a matter of fact. To Nicanor the house was simply a bodega. He had bought it from the Alvarez family in the 1960s and intended to use it as a warehouse. Nicanor liked the property since it was already fenced and the house seemed sturdy and resistant to the occasional quakes that rocked the island province.

 

After his graduation in 1972, Jimmy, who was now working at the hardware, noticed that some Jesuit priests had started visiting the house. The house was just a bodega at that time instead of a museum. The house continued to exist as a warehouse for the hardware until Jimmy started to slowly convert it into a museum with the help of his cousin who was an architect, Tony Abelgas.

In 2008, the Museo Parian sa Sugbo 1730 Jesuit House was opened to the public. It has four galleries: the San Juan Bautista gallery, Parian gallery and the Jesuit gallery. Jaime also placed some memorabilia of his inside the house as well as his antique collection that he had accumulated through the years.

Cebu, Cebuano History, History, Philippines, Research

Research the Millennial Way

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Sticks and Stones column by Resil Mojares The Freeman, 1970 Source: USC Cebuano Studies Center

As a History major in the late 1990s (as an undergraduate), I had the chance to experience doing research the “old school” way.  By old school, I mean the kind of research where you had to go the University Main Library, go to the Serials, Archives and check out the books’ call numbers in the Card Catalog section of the Library.  I was trained to have two kinds of index cards:  the note cards (4×6 or 5×8) and the bibliographic cards (3×5) where you put rings through them to hold them together.  I still have some of those cards in the house.

We did not have Evernote or OneNote at that time.  We did not even have Zotero at that time.  I still remember my student years taping index cards on the wall of my dorm room in Sampaguita in Diliman to arrange my notes chronologically before I wrote my research papers in college.  I arranged them by index cards and 3M Post-it notes.  The process was tedious and laborious but I loved it.  Going to the UP Main Library almost every day was often accompanied by a happy feeling.  Maybe it is the bookworm in me and the history geek as well.

I loved the feeling of finding a primary source and seeing the exact data you have been looking for.  Up until now I can still remember my excitement and glee at seeing all those American period Reports of the Philippine Commission and copies of the Census of the Philippine Islands stacked out there on the shelves at the College of Public Administration (now UP NCPAG) library.

Much of that has changed today.  I still bring index cards to the USC library (the Cebuano Studies Center) when I do my research but, these days, I take photos of the important sections and pages of primary sources that I am working on.  I have two kinds of Notetaking apps (Evernote and OneNote – they’re very helpful!) and one FREE downloadable research app called Zotero which sorts notes by book, journal article and even has a feature where you can choose the citation format.  Type in the information of a book and it gives you the correct format based on the style you are using like Chicago Manual of Style for example.  It also generates a timeline of the notes you have encoded in the program.

Aside from all these, you can now access the Web OPAC off-campus which helps one “strategize” and come up with a list of sources to look up when you get to the library thereby saving your time.  This surely helped me a LOT so I’d know what book to prioritize first and what campus libraries these books are located.  One very helpful resource is the USC library’s electronic resource database which is actually a “Journal Article and Ebooks heaven” for a student.

Aside from the convenience of taking notes digitally, a lot of primary sources especially from the American colonial period in the Philippines have been digitized by several websites and digital repositories and have proved to be very helpful to my research.

These are the sites I go to to search for digital copies of primary sources on Philippine History:

  1. Hathitrust

2. National Library of the Philippines Techno-Aklatan

3. Archive.org

4. Philippine Diary Project

5. Philippines Free Press Online

6. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica

7. Project Gutenberg

8.  Southeast Asia Digital Library

9.  JSTOR 

*Now one very helpful website that I use and one which my brother suggested is Sci-Hub*.   It describes itself as “the first website in the world to provide mass & public access to research papers”. I think it is one of the best things next to Spotify. 😀  You can paste the DOI or URL of a journal article and voila! It gives you the PDF copy of the said article.

I will update this post as soon as I have the address of the other websites I visited especially those that contain a lot of old photos of Cebu (my hometown) and the Philippines from the Spanish and American colonial periods.

Websites like these have certainly changed the way history majors are doing research and have made our work easier and more convenient. 🙂  Do I wish we had all these apps back then?  No, I think that background in “old school research” helped us back then.  I would not have it any other way.  I am just glad I have the privilege of seeing the traditional merge or converge into the new ways of doing research.

*December 09 update — Sci-Hub’s original .cc site is down due to copyright infringement issues.  It’s a pity since the site has been very helpful to researchers and graduate students like me.  

I later found a mirror site on Twitter.  I hope this works for a long time.  The link above has been updated too.

Cebu, Cebuano History, History, Social History

Piecing the puzzle

A lot of historians from the provinces {like mine for example} say that Philippine national history has – unintentionally – left some (if not most) of provincial histories in the wayside and continues to be Manila-centric. This was a bone of contention almost 40 to 50 years ago. Today, several initiatives by provincial, regional and local historians have filled in some gaps in history and have allowed students of history to see the different historical processes and experiences in each region.

This blog post is an excerpt of a research proposal I submitted in graduate school: A Social History of Hunger in Cebu from 1899 to 1930.

Cebu in the nineteenth century was a rising commercial entrepot. Its geographical location and its natural harbor (See Canute Vandermeer’s work on Cebuano population) were advantages to a growing trade not only with its Southeast Asian neighbors but with the entire world as well. In 1860, Cebu was opened to world trade thereby increasing the volume of goods coming in and out of the province bringing in not only material stuff but a steady influx of new ideas, lifestyles and yes, even diseases.

As Cebu enjoyed its opening to world commerce, cultivation of sugar in some areas in the northern part of Cebu like Bogo increased. A preoccupation with land ownership began to emerge and land banking began at this time resulted in the displacement of a good number of tenants as land began to be a basis of wealth and influence in this time.

As more historical works of Cebu and its socio-economic development will be written by students of history, the puzzle pieces of national history will become clearer, more complete and more representative of the whole archipelago’s history. Cebu’s historical experience in its changes in landowning patterns, port-and-hinterland interactions and cultural developments show some similarities and contrasting patterns with other areas opened to world trade in the 19th century (Alfred McCoy & Edilberto de Jesus). Ports opened to the world economy did not necessarily have the same historical development and experience as that of Manila.

Recommended reading: Bruce Fenner’s Cebu: A Social-Economic History. It is a classic work in Cebuano History and a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the Cebuano economy and development of Cebuano society especially the Cebuano elite. Several prominent families like the Osmenas, Velosos, Chiong-Velosos, and some mestizo Chinese families are featured in the book.

There’s also an interesting work/graduate thesis on the Cebuano port economy by a former co-teacher of mine from the University of San Carlos (Roquezon Rubia).