The Manila Times : Historiographic endogamy

News & Interviews
1 October 2021

By Van Ybiernas | The Manila Times

First of 2 parts

ENDOGAMY, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, is the practice of marrying only within the limits of a local community, clan or tribe. It is a kind of inbreeding.

Historiographic endogamy is plaguing martial law historiography, and it is the fault of historians who have chosen to put their partisan political leanings above and ahead of the demands of historiography. For the uninitiated, historiography covers the philosophical and methodological aspects of history. Essentially, it encompasses everything necessary for history to take shape.

Former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. was interviewed by actress, host and YouTuber Toni Gonzaga for her channel "Toni Talks" last Sept. 13, 2021. Gonzaga is a celebrity casually interviewing popular personalities. She is not Stephen Sackur. She is not even Korina Sanchez or Jessica Soho.

As expected, Marcos was asked about his father, the late strongman Ferdinand Sr., triggering howls of protest from the anti-Marcos camp about how martial law history was being "revised." I can't go into the clumsy misappropriation of the term "historical revisionism" being bandied around by these wet hens, but I promise to devote time for a discussion of it in a future column. However, I was aghast to note that some trained historians were among the chorus of indignant protests. It made me wonder whether there is a serious deficiency in the study of historiography in the country right now.

Why else would trained historians be outraged by Marcos' reminiscences of the past when they should be familiar with this phenomenon by now as active historians? Reminiscences, as a rule, are frequently inaccurate primarily because primary sources or participants in the event which is the subject of memory often have a vested interest in a certain narrative that they want to believe is true. This is why historians are trained not to rely entirely on the reminiscences of primary sources. They are taught to look for corroborating evidence before accepting the contents of memory as a historical fact.

Marcos is not the first or last primary source to have a skewed memory of the past. For the impartial historian, there is nothing extraordinary here.

Certain historians went into wet hen mode, however, because of personal partisan political interests against the Marcoses. Of course, historians are political animals, too. However, it is still disconcerting to witness fellow historians let their political leanings affect their professional responsibilities.

The larger tragedy here is that these historians have been responsible for the emergence of historiographic endogamy concerning the martial law era as a topic of historical inquiry. These historians have banded together to act as gatekeepers of historical factoids and guardians of certain narratives for purely partisan political reasons.

Whenever martial law as a subject of discussion or inquiry crops up, these historians buckle down to make sure the following dogma remain unperturbed: 1) Marcos declared martial law to maintain his grip on power; 2) the martial law era was typified by wholesale human rights violations and corruption; 3) the conjugal dictatorship of Marcos and wife Imelda ruined the country's future for decades to come.

No factoid, no matter how trivial, should ever be allowed to see the light of day if it contradicts any of the orthodoxy enumerated above. No other thesis nailed on any church door should be given any credence, especially if even a small part of it paints the Marcoses in a positive light.

It is being framed as an epic struggle between the sanctity of their historical orthodoxy and the "lies" spewed by heretics.

Consequently, the martial law era has become one of the most underdeveloped topics in Philippine history. It has fallen prey to historiographic endogamy. The atmosphere is similar to the dogma and zealotry of the medieval Inquisition period.

Don't talk about the flourishing of the arts during this period except to say it was an extravagant distraction to the nation's suffering under a repressive regime.

Don't dare laud the contribution of the monumental "Tadhana" project to Philippine historiography without calling the University of the Philippines historians who were involved — including my professor Zeus Salazar — Marcos lapdogs. Just say that the project served to feed the strongman's hydrocephalic delusions of grandeur.

Don't even dream of blaming the country's economic struggles on the global economic slowdown, the oil crisis or the flawed Washington Consensus prescriptions that our Western-trained economic managers and technocrats blindly embraced. The only acceptable explanation why the Philippines became the "Basket Case of Asia" is Marcosian plunder.

No one should even question that or, God forbid, do research to test whether that causal explanation actually holds water.

Do that and risk being burned alive at the stake. Or be branded, stigmatized and damned for eternity as a "Marcos apologist."

All this while a plague is raging in our midst.

(To be continued next week)