Sharing historical research
Hambin (Hamiling Kabilin-Cherished Legacy) is a group that has been taking our local heritage seriously; they had taken courses on various aspects of it. It celebrated its founding anniversary very aptly by having Dr. Michael Cullinane share his recent research describing the context of the protest of the legendary protest hero, Juan Diong at the Provincial Capitol Social Hall with students, researchers and other heritage enthusiasts.
Recently, Michael Cullinane had been formally recognized as an adopted son of Cebu City for his historical research, which has been very revealing about our Cebuano past and identity. He has not limited his search to archives and academic institutions but, together with Dr. Resil Mojares, has explored areas of our city and province, which we ourselves ought to do some discovery trip on.
The session was thoroughly intellectually stimulating. At the same time, it was very informative regarding historical sources and therefore helpful for teachers. In the new K to 12 curriculum, local history is part of the intermediate Araling Panlipunan (Social Studies) curriculum. Cullinane’s discussion did not only present the realities in the historical topic that he discussed, but he also discussed historical sources. He pointed out that in “Bag-ong Kusog,” Vicente Rama had an essay on Juan Diong. He reminded the audience that the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos has a complete set of “Bag-ong Kusog.” He also mentioned the documents of the Spanish Colonial Government and where they can be accessed. In the course of the discussion, he also remarked on how good the documentation of the Augustinians had been. These are all very helpful for teachers who have been encouraged to use primary historical sources.
What Cullinane presented was the context of the Juan Diong protest. A discussion of context helps us understand why the events happened as they did, as well as to explain why certain persons or sectors behaved in some unexpected ways.
He started by saying that that there were many stories and legends about Diong, but the truth was missing. Perhaps this was to make us understand why some ideas we may have about him and what happened to him are really far from the truth. In fact, Gavin Bagares and I were discussing one such fact as we shared some snacks.
The context is a period of lessened power on the part of the Spanish Colonial authorities in Cebu. It was also a time of decreasing power of the traditional religious orders. But the period saw the rise of the secular clergy. Part of this scenario was the release of the 1812 Constitution of Spain.
The Spanish authorities in Cebu had provided Chinese mestizos a grant of land. But on this land were farmers who had been tilling this land. Juan Diong led the protest march of these farmers from the south, walking north towards the center of the Spanish colonial government for them to address their grievance. Along the way, many other Cebuanos joined the march. Julian Bermejo, an Augustinian, sided with them. They had simple weapons, and there were no battles along the way one could talk of.
Julian Bermejo is the Augustinian friar who organized a Christian Army to respond to the Moro raids. He was also responsible for the building of a system of watch towers, “baluarte,” also called “bantayan sa hari.” Alliance with him made the Cebuanos less defenseless in the face of Moro attack.
Then, Cullinane reminds us of the anecdote which tells us about a little boy asking Diong to delay the confrontation with the Spanish authorities. The same little boy also delays the confrontation of the Spanish authorities with the protestors. They both listened. So Cullinane declared, there were really no losers nor winners. The Chinese mestizos were provided with another land grant in Valladolid, Carcar.
We encounter in this narrative an uncommon friar and a Cebuano taking responsibility for fellow Cebuanos, supporting the cause of farmers. Careful historical research can be very liberating and expanding. It can help us transcend stereotypes. It is quite refreshing to encounter a friar during Spanish Colonial Rule who sided with the farmers protesting the loss of their land.
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