Recently, a certain Mr. Antonio Calipjo Go associated with Marian School in Quezon City, has been hailed by the Media as a crusader against laughable errors in textbooks approved by the Dept of Education for distribution to some 20 million public and private school students, which he has exposed in a series of newspaper ads and television appearances.
Most of the errors Mr. Go points to are only accidentally funny typographical errors ("...cows are inseminated by seamen..."), and some of his alleged errors are not errors at all, but funny nonetheless to the equally uninformed. (See my earlier post on magnifying telescopes. where the observation is made that the Mass Media themselves (newspapers, broadcast) make numerous and similarly ludicrous errors of fact, grammar and spelling.
But Mr. Go he has also found many instances of erroneous historical or scientific information being presented in some textbooks, thereby miseducating perhaps millions of students. These are simply inexcusable and would not exist in a world, where more money could be spent on the authoring, editing, publishing and purchasing of better textbooks.
Recently however, I was really flummoxed to discover several of these kinds of ludicrous and disdainable errors not in lowly textbooks or the tabloidish broadsheets, but in no less than the written Opinions of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Reynato Puno!
In the Separate Opinion rendered by now Chief Justice Reynato Puno in the December, 2000 landmark case of Cruz and Europa vs. DENR and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples one finds some distinctively Callipjegoesque passages such as:
The ancient Filipinos settled beside bodies of water.This is what I call the "Garden of Eden" or "Paradise View" of ancient Philippines, although I was surprised to find it in an historic Supreme Court ponencia.
Hunting and food gathering became supplementary activities as reliance on them was reduced by fishing and the cultivation of the soil.
From the hinterland, coastal, and riverine communities, our ancestors evolved an essentially homogeneous culture, a basically common way of life where nature was a primary factor.
Community life throughout the archipelago was influenced by, and responded to, common ecology. The generally benign tropical climate and the largely uniform flora and fauna favored similarities, not differences. Life was essentially subsistence but not harsh.
In this quaint conception of the way it was long ago in the Archipelago, the "indigenous peoples" have a common way of life in harmony with nature. Whether they lived in the mountainous aeries of the hinterlands (the Igorots) , or in the riverine gorges and valleys descending to the sea (the Tag-ilogs), or indeed the coastal and island peoples of Visayas and Mindanao, Chief Justice Puno paints an idyllic picture of a homogeneous human culture with a common response to the common ecology. Even the flora and fauna are uniform and therefore encourage similarities among the ancient Filipinos rather than differences!
Yet, just last year, the Philippine Archipelago was named the Center of the Center of Marine and Ecological Biodiversity in the world. Moreover, just a few paragraphs before, the Chief Justice had listed 110 rather heterogeneous "indigenous cultural communities" all over the archipelago. Their heterogeneity could be explained by the the fact that upland, riverine and coastal ecologies represent radically different physical, geological and meteorological biospheres, in stark contrast to Mr. Justice Puno's description of a warm, generally benign and tropical environment in which the ancient Filipinos live in harmony with nature and each other. Yet I seriously doubt that the weather and other natural conditions were any different then than now, unless Mr. Justice Puno wants to blame for example the average twenty typhoons that visit annually on those bad, bad Western colonialists. The arrivals of Spain and America are treated by Puno later in the ponencia as a kind of Fall from the Grace of Indigenous gods followed by the expulsion of the Indigenous Peoples from the Garden of Eden. I am getting ahead of the analysis though.
But it gets worse. Much worse. In the very next section, Chief Justice Puno addresses the legal systems allegedly common among the "ancient Filipinos":
The unit of government was the "barangay," a term that derived its meaning from the Malay word "balangay," meaning, a boat, which transported them to these shores. The barangay was basically a family-based community and consisted of thirty to one hundred families. Each barangay was different and ruled by a chieftain called a "dato." It was the chieftain's duty to rule and govern his subjects and promote their welfare and interests. A chieftain had wide powers for he exercised all the functions of government. He was the executive, legislator and judge and was the supreme commander in time of war.Well at this point I just tossed my cookies out the window! The Code of Maragtas by Datu Sumakwel?! But I thought that in the 1960s William Henry Scott decisively proved the true nature and provenance of "The Code of Maragtas of Datu Sumakwel" as originating in the 1907 book of Panay legends by Pedro Monteclaro???
Laws were either customary or written. Customary laws were handed down orally from generation to generation and constituted the bulk of the laws of the barangay. They were preserved in songs and chants and in the memory of the elder persons in the community. The written laws were those that the chieftain and his elders promulgated from time to time as the necessity arose. The oldest known written body of laws was the Maragtas Code by Datu Sumakwel at about 1250 A.D.
By the way if you are wondering where Chief Justice Puno got this information:
The Verdict of Maragtas
Maragtas was finally placed in its proper perspective as a book of legends rather than historical fact in 1968 by William Henry Scott. For his doctoral dissertation at the University of Santo Tomas, Scott made a painstaking investigation into all the sources of information about the Philippines before the coming of the Spaniards.
Rather than merely plagiarizing past historians, Scott examined the original documents and searched archives and museums the world over for supporting documents and artefacts. He questioned the top historians of the day about their sources of information and consulted with many experts in other fields such as language, geology, archaeology and anthropology. He scoured the vast collection of prehispanic material amassed by his personal friend, Dr. H. Otley Beyer. He interviewed the friends, colleagues and relatives of the figures behind the stories such as Pedro Monteclaro and Jose E. Marco and he examined their correspondence.
William Henry Scott proved in his dissertation that Maragtas and the Confederation of Madya-as were not actual ancient documents from long ago but only legends that were collected and in some cases possibly concocted by Pedro Monteclaro and published in 1907 in his book entitled Maragtas. As for the Maragtas Code, Scott found that it was merely an invention of Guillermo Santiago-Cuino's mind which was probably based on Monteclaro's book and published in 1938.
Scott successfully defended his dissertation before a panel of eminent Filipino historians, some of whom had formerly endorsed and promoted the erroneous facts of Philippine history. The panel included Teodoro Agoncillo, Horacio de la Costa, Marcelino Forondo, Mercedes Grau Santamaria, Nicholas Zafra and Gregorio Zaide. Scott's meticulous research was published in 1968 in his book Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History and since then no historian has contested his conclusions. M12The Result of Scott's Discoveries
By the 1960s the better scholars already had some doubts regarding Maragtas and they avoided mentioning it in their works. Scott's thesis confirmed their suspicions. However, it was many years before the writers of school textbooks noticed Scott's findings. Most continued to reprint their old texts while others wrote new books that still contained the old mistakes. Take for example this quote from Ang Pagsulong ng Pamayanan (1981):
Maragtas' Code is the premier example of written law and it has been considered the oldest because it was in effect from 1250. M13
Not only is this statement wrong but its authors seem to believe that Maragtas was a person and not a book.
Jose Villa Panganiban used Maragtas to trace the origin of the Tagalog language in the preface of the very popular English-Tagalog Dictionary by Fr. Leo James English in 1965. M14 To this day it remains unrevised in spite of many reprintings.
Even one member of Scott's dissertation panel did not appear to be eager to set the record straight. Gregorio Zaide continued to include information from Maragtas in works such as Pageant of Philippine History in 1979, History of the Republic of the Philippines in 1983 and Philippine History 1984 which he co-authored with his daughter, Sonia Zaide. M15
While making an effort to correct the errors of the past, some historians mistook Maragtas to be one of the many hoaxes of Philippine history rather than a mere legend. When Sonia Zaide revised History of the Republic of the Philippines in 1987, she mistakenly described Maragtas as a fraudulent document:
The legends surrounding the settling of the Philippines by Malay migrants are notably celebrated in the ati-atihan festival and perpetrated by hoaxers in the fraudulent documents containing the Maragtas chronicle and the Code of Kalantiaw. M16E
Zaide clarified her opinion on the following page:
Although previously accepted by some historians, including the present authors, it has become obvious that the Maragtas is only the imaginary creation of Pedro A. Monteclaro, a Visayan public official and poet, in Iloilo in 1907. He based it on folk customs and legends, largely transmitted by oral tradition. M17E
It would be unfair to brand Pedro Monteclaro a hoaxer or his book a fraudulent document because he never claimed that Maragtas was anything more than a collection of legends. Any frauds involving his book were perpetrated by other later writers who misrepresented it as an authentic ancient document.
- Supreme Court of the Philippines
A Brief History. Management Information Systems Office of the Philippine Supreme Court. Copyright © 1998 SUPREME COURT. Author not identified.
- Department of Education, Republic of the Philippines
Looking Back; Important Dates in Philippines History. Education News.
Vol. 7, No.4. April 2001. Author not identified.
- Governor's Office, Province of Antique
Antique Provincial Profile, League of Provinces of the Philippines.
Copyright 2001 Author not identified.
- Mayor's Office, City of Iloilo
The Exciting Blend of East and West. Author not identified.
- Madya-as Heritage Foundation Inc.
Save Madya-as, Save Panay. Author not identified
The oldest known written body of laws was the Maragtas Code by Datu Sumakwel at about 1250 A.D.
it was public school text book published Rex Publishing House.
Leogardo, Felicitas T., Rosalina R. de Leon & Purification Jacob. Ang Pagsulong ng Pamayanan para sa Unang Taon ng Mataas na Paaralan, Published by Rex Book Store, Manila. First edition, 1981. p.177
I'm not done with the ponencia of Chief Justice Puno in the case because it was that decision which upheld the constitutionality of the Indigenous People's Rights Act of 1997, which is in turn the basis of the Muslim Juridical Entity or Ancestral Domain that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is negotiating with the government of Mrs. Arroyo in the Malaysian brokered peace talks.
The Opinion of Puno above represents the the seven Justices that voted to uphold the Constitutionality of IPRA, while the seven that opposed it, are represented by this Opinion of J. Artemio Panganiban.
One is forced to wonder how much more of the Opinion is based on comforting old legends or fanciful "history" tendentiously assembled to support an inexorable conclusion?
In my next post, I shall tackle some of the amazing pseudo scientific and historiographic claims of the Mr. Justice Puno and specious reasoning that led to a politically correct result that could have devastating historical consequences very soon.
Related recent posts are:
Ancestral Domain or Bangsamorostan?
Are Ilocanos, Pampangos, Tagalogs and Cebuanos Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines?
Do You Think This Version of Ancient Philippine History Is Correct?
What Some People Don't Know About Magnifying Telescopes.
Chief Justice Puno on Terrorism--Sophomoric, Uninspiring, Self-Loathing"