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.

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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).