LAST Tuesday, Marie Vallejo, the head researcher of the BGEN Francisco Licuanan Jr. Collection of World War II guerrilla documents from the US National Archives and Records Administration, talked about the historical materials that had been digitized and are now available at the Licuanan Collection. She showed several pieces of materials that give us additional information about events and people during that war.
The MassKara Hall of the Bacolod City Government Center was fully packed that half of its annex room was opened to allow people to have a seat. The audience was a mixture of young and old, the latter being veterans or those who lived during the period of the war and their children but the most number were social science teachers of Bacolod’s public schools who were instructed to attend.
The exposure of the teachers to this level of archival research is helpful especially if they pursued higher education related to history. I have found no takers whenever I challenged teachers, even in the graduate school, to undertake history research and writing. I can understand their reluctance, even fear, of this kind of research because the work is tedious. It demands patience and an investigative mind.
It was thus worth their time to be there because they listened to a person who had spent considerable time in the US archives where most Filipinos would be unable in their lifetime to visit, much less to do research in. The cost would surely be high unless they are financially assisted to collect or study these documents in the hands of the United States. Indeed, being sponsored to research there would be a great reward in itself.
Fortunately, Ms Vallejo had financial backing and she was generous enough to share her findings and to point the compass, as it were, where to find the WW II guerrilla documents. The Licuanan Collection is not complete, she admitted, but I believe that it might be sufficient for certain purposes, depending on the subject one wants to write about.
The collection in the US appears to be mainly the results of interrogation of persons who claim to be veterans and wanting to be recognized by the US government for a pension. The reports, therefore, provide information about people, incidents, dates and, places that a writer would find a way to other data. Unfortunately, there are still records that remain secrets and have to wait for a longer time for the researcher to get hold of them. The lifting of the secret classification under the Statute of Limitations can last for as long as a hundred years though most are shorter.
The Americans are rather meticulous in keeping documents especially of historical nature; Filipinos are not so that many guerrilla documents had been lost forever. One reason for this is that the government does not look kindly to archiving documents. Most of our officials have no historical sense enough to spend money to ensure that documents are kept, maintained, catalogued and now digitized for easy access by researchers.
One result of this negligence or apathy is lack of appreciation of the role of history in the building of patriotism and good citizenship. I am often tempted to say that they are afraid of the preservation of historical data because they might turn out to be the villain. They prefer to bask in the present glory though they might end up in the dustbin of history once records are studied by independent writers. Indeed it is wisely said that today’s heroes might be tomorrow’s villains. Examples are many of this changing tides when history is written by an independent historian.
Because we lack archives (though supposedly required of all local governments), a lot of historical materials are lost. I am interested, for instance, in the history of communist insurgency in Negros and I asked the personalities that fought this war, but their operation and intelligence reports can no longer be traced.
Several guerrilla officers had written their experiences in the war, but some cannot stand the test of authenticity when placed in relation to official documents. Relying mainly on their memories years after the war, the infirmity of age, the influence of other writers, speculations and the attempt to make themselves heroes, reduce their “history” into a story, some bordering on fiction.
I hope that the information Ms. Vallejo shared will produce more interests and writers of history.