Looking Back Teodoro A. Agoncillo@100


8:21 pm | Thursday, November 8th, 2012

WHEN PEOPLE ask about the story of Edsa, we have to go beyond People Power 1986 to a time when then Highway 54 was renamed from a bland generic to honor Epifanio de los Santos (1871-1928). When I asked why the longest road in Metro Manila was named after a historian and former National Library director, the apocryphal story given me was that at the time of the renaming, a contemporary Filipino historian was preferred but then all the short-listed ones—Gregorio Zaide, Horacio de la Costa, and Teodoro A. Agoncillo—were still alive, so they had to concede to someone obscure but long dead.

It is unfortunate that I wasn’t able to ask Agoncillo to confirm or deny this story in the series of conversations we had in 1984, now published as “Talking History” (UST Publishing, 2011). Agoncillo’s name came up again in 2002 during a controversy over the renaming of Panay Avenue into Renato Constantino Avenue. Agoncillo lived on Quezon Avenue and Constantino on Panay Avenue. Agoncillo had to be similarly honored but no one would even propose renaming Quezon Avenue, so the Solomonic solution was to rename half of Panay Constantino and the other half Agoncillo. To date, Panay Avenue is still Panay Avenue.

Agoncillo came to mind recently because today, Nov. 9, is his 100th birth anniversary, and we really should consider the naming or renaming of a street after a historian who, rightly or wrongly, changed the way Filipinos remember and understand their past. During the discussions regarding the redesign of Philippine bank notes in 2010, Agoncillo’s name and image were proposed to be among the icons on our currency. That, too, did not materialize.

History is a humbling discipline because historians are only as good as their material will allow. Agoncillo’s works are not yet obsolete, but they are dated and have been replaced by new research and analysis. At best, Agoncillo’s books are considered “classic” or “standard” works to be read by students and anyone interested in Philippine history. In his books and in the last interviews he gave before his death in January 1985, he left us with a sense of how he went about doing his work: his passion for research, his strong opinions, his literary flair. He may be under the radar these days, but though he lies under the surface of the river we call Philippine history, it is on his shoulders that younger historians stand.

I remember Agoncillo when I try to look at a historical event from a different angle. When I asked “what if,” he scoffed and declared: “It is useless to think of what would have happened.”

I remember Agoncillo when a critic claims I write fiction but pass it off as fact because he said: “History is re-creation while literature is creation.”

I remember Agoncillo when my mind wanders and I daydream because he said: “In the time of writing you have to forget the present, if you can do that. Try to live in the period you are writing.”

I remember Agoncillo when a critic says I go beyond the facts because he said: “A good historian always provides for an exit in case of fire: ‘probably,’ ‘allegedly,’ ‘it is possible’…” And also: “You’re not sure that you will have all the documents. That is why the conclusions in history are not final.”

I remember Agoncillo when I pass judgement on a historical event or person because he said: “There is a great similarity between legal evidence and historical evidence. The only difference lies in the fact that in legal evidence, it is the judge who determines whether the account of a witness is acceptable or not… The historian is prosecuting attorney and defense attorney and judge all rolled into one, and he is the narrator and the interpreter.”

I remember Agoncillo when I am told to write differently, or to publish in an academic journal that nobody reads because he said: “You should see my personality on every page of my book, because I am the author. The book reflects the personality of the author. Do you expect my work to reflect the personality of another?”

I remember Agoncillo when I try to make cardboard textbook heroes human because he said: “A biography should be faithful to the truth. I do not believe that a biography of a man should be all praises, it should be both [praise and criticism] because it is not bad to show the human side of a person. You make him human by painting [his] defects.”

I remember Agoncillo when I am described as being skeptical or cynical because he said: “The attitude of a student in history should be, Do not accept anything until proven otherwise. Doubt everything including your parentage! Including your parentage!”

I remember Agoncillo when I am asked to comment on the present or the future using the past because he said: “History deals with the past, not with the future. We use history to avoid the mistakes of the past, not to recreate the very same events. You cannot.”

I remember Agoncillo because he declared: “What history is not biased? Show me a historian, a real historian, who is not biased! History is never objective.”

I remember Agoncillo because he made me love history by saying: “Everyone is a historian. Everyone is his own historian.” He reminded me that: “History is written by every generation. Every generation writes its own history using the same sources. The interpretations vary according to time.”

Phil Fashion Week S/S ’13: Pushing the borders of ‘Burdang Taal’

Phil Fashion Week S/S ’13: Pushing the borders of ‘Burdang Taal’

Text by Tricia Aquino | Photos by Peter C. Marquez, InterAksyon.com · Thursday, November 1, 2012 · 10:53 am

TV personality Rovilson Fernandez models a Bergamo shirt at the Burdang Taal show during Philippine Fashion Week, October 27, 2012. Photo by Peter C. Marquez, InterAksyon.com.

Taal embroidery is here to stay.

This was the bold declaration of Batangas Vice-Governor Mark Leviste at the Burdang Taal: Habing Pilipino show on Day Five (October 27) of Philippine Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013 at the SMX Convention Center.

As 17 designers showed off their creations of gowns, frocks, jackets, barong Tagalog, terno and more, it became more than a convincing piece of oratory; it was a fact.

Bergamo’s collection featured breezy barong paired with beige and gray pants that stopped inches above the ankle, sandals and loafers completing the outfits. No socks allowed! With hats on their heads and carry-ons by their sides, the men looked like they were off to do a bit of light reading beneath a mango tree. Sleeves were rolled up to their elbows, while some barong featured a skirt underneath. Undershirts were rare, to accentuate the embroidery on the piña fabric.

Models wear creations by, from left, Anthony Nocom, Dong Omaga Diaz, Gerry Katigbak and back detail of Katigbak’s dress at the Burdang Taal show, October 27, during Philippine Fashion Week. Photos by Peter C. Marquez, InterAksyon.com.

As string music played, Anthony Nocom’s pieces took center stage. Barong fit for a groom were on display.

Then it was Dong Omaga Diaz’s turn, dressing up the women in beiges, letting the fabric and the cut speak for themselves. A shift dress with an unexpected train, and a mod pairing of silky shirt tucked into a dramatic skirt were paired with platform heels.

Sugod mga kapatid! To Gerry Katigbak’s atelier, where he jazzed up the traditional barong by giving it a different shape, the collar reminiscent of a Katipunero’s uniform. The mestiza was made short and chic for the cosmopolitan woman.

Models at the Burdang Taal show held during Philippine Fashion Week wear creations by (from left) JC Buendia, Randy Ortiz, Barba, and Edgar Madamba. Photos by Peter C. Marquez, InterAksyon.com.

From stuffy to jaunty, cheeky even, JC Buendia accentuated a sleeveless barong for women with a thin ribbon around the neck, slim pants elongating the legs. A bell-sleeved top was paired with mini black shorts, while a sharply folded collar made a black top even more dramatic, as it was complimented by a long Filipiniana skirt.

Blues and purples were the hues for Randy Ortiz. A structured jacket, a cocktail dress, and a gown each had their own adornment, whether it be bell sleeves or flowery folds.

Vic Barba paired his cool, nude-colored masterpieces with flat sandals. A short frock with sheer sleeves had a pañuelo on top, while slim pants were paired with a hoodie made of traditional fabric.

Tulip skirts and pleats were the centerpiece of Edgar Madamba’s designs, putting wearability into embroidery. The panels on the skirts, he revealed to InterAksyon.com, were inspired from the local fruit balimbing. “The panels started with a few, until I decided to do more, making it look playful like the paper balls of our youth,” said Madamba.

Edgar San Diego punctuated his gowns and frocks with sunflower shades, origami folds and headdresses combining the Filipiniana with geisha.

Lito Perez turned the time-honored into the avant-garde with his graphic printed white skirt paired with a lime green bouffant top, and voluminous black pañuelo paired with an embellished long skirt with a green waist.

Silver corset tops and royal purple skirts marked Johnny Abad’s compositions, the coral-like neck- and wrist-pieces evocative of the sea.

To put embroidery in the limelight, Jontie Martinez splashed it on his dresses with pomp and circumstance, flowers trailing down hems and branding flouncy skirts.

Models in creations by (from left) Edgar San Diego, Johnny Abad, Jontie Martinez, and Lito Perez at the Burdang Taal show on October 27 during Philippine Fashion Week. Photos by Peter C. Marququez, InterAksyon.com.

Fanny Serrano was electric on the runway, with neon red, orange, and green making their way into his gowns and harem pants. Towering hair, groovy sleeves, and geometric accents said bright and brazen were the way to go for the season.

Fanny Serrano’s Filipino fiesta-inspired collection for the Burdang Taal show during Philippine Fashion Week, October 27, 2012. Photo by Peter C. Marquez, InterAksyon.com.

Also making heads turn was Ole Morabe, with his peek-a-boo shift dress, breezy top, and terno with a modern color palette consisting of deep fuschia, royal blue, ivory black, and oatmeal. The inspiration, revealed Morabe to InterAksyon.com, struck him on the way to Taal during one of the fam trips organized by Vice Gov. Leviste, “I was attracted by the children playing with plastic balloon and enjoying lollipops,” he said, “I wanted to make my collection playful and bring in bold colors as well such as

Feathery hems and drapes put the seal on Oscar Peralta’s gowns, embroidery dotting the reworked terno.

For his part, Richard Papa took the nude color to town, giving the monochromatic an oomph with his structured cocktail dress cut to reveal the sides and the collarbones. A collared dress got a shock of color as bolts of orange ran up the hem.

Roland Lirio closed the show with gowns and cocktail dresses with criss-crossing seams across the body, all paired with sporty hats and gloves. Horseback riding, anyone?

Models wear creations by, from left, Ole Moribe, Oskar Peralta, Richard Papa, and Roland Lirio at the Burdang Taal show held during Philippine Fashion Week, October 27, 2012. Photos by Peter C. Marquez, InterAksyon.com.

“We have to be on top of the fashion world,” said Mel Meer, the brains behind Bergamo. Yes, his older clients like their barong classic, but while he sticks to the basics, he updates them.

“You have to work with young people. There are a lot of ideas that are new and young.”

From formal to fresh to funky, Taal embroidery, when handled by visionaries, will continue to be a celebrated craft. Vice Governor Mark Leviste revealed that the local government has plans of setting up a museum in the near future where burdang Taal will be one of its main features.

Fashion designers are acknowledged by Batangas Vice-Governor Mark Leviste (in photo, sixth from right) at the Burdang Taal show during Philippine Fashion Week, October 27, 2012. At extreme left is event host, TV producer, and fellow Batangueño Michael Carandang of America’s Next Top Model fame. Photo by Peter C. Marquez, InterAksyon.com.