Around this time last year, we had an exclusive talk with a University of the Philippines Baguio history lecturer about historical distortion. Aside from the difference between historical denialism and revisionism, we were also able to lightly touch on the role literary works play in publicizing (and preserving) history.
“I think there’s nothing wrong with producing [them]. The problem, however, comes from the way of retelling,” said Luis Zuriel Domingo. According to him, there are two questions that could guide the making of any historically sensitive creative endeavor: “Is it based on established historical facts and narratives or just hearsay? Were legit historians consulted? Because if not, the said [output] can be a source of historical denialism.”
We also asked him about some actions he suggests we (or other governing bodies) should do to avoid historical distortion. “Our Congress can pass a law that will add more history subjects and let the kids read more; [or] a law that will push for the return of Philippine history in the high school curricula and strengthen the educational system,” he concluded.
And guess what? Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) seems to share the same sentiments. The university’s English department has been offering an elective that delves into the “residues of violence” present in literary works centering on the Marcos regime—and it’s still available this semester.
In an era where disinformation can easily cloud historical truths, it’s more crucial than ever to equip the younger generations with the tools to discern fact from fiction. “Violence in Marcosian Fiction” seeks to do just that by encouraging students to (critically) engage with narratives that expose the complex interplay between state violence and literary representation.
“State violence not only warps self-other relations. It also alters the means upon which storytellers rely to restore human sense to dying and survival,” read the description. “This course responds to the nostalgia and amnesiac revisionism currently framing the Philippines’ totalitarian past. Against the perils of forgetting, the truth of fiction offers a possible antidote.”
Through close examination of short stories and novels, students embark on a mission to unearth the truths that lie beneath the layers of fiction; and how these literary projects can work as pieces of evidence—a reminder of the times when brutality gripped the nation.
Guiding students through this journey is “The Quiet Ones” author Glenn Diaz. His expertise will provide Ateneo students with an opportunity to learn from a literary mind that is deeply attuned to the complexities of weaving narratives amid societal upheaval.
The echoes of the past—whether they’re distorted or pure—have the power to shape the present and mold the future. And as the academic community continues to rally behind the cause of truth and remembrance, may the vision of a more enlightened society come into sharper focus.
(P.S. Take it from “Alone/Together’s” Tin Lazaro: “Our history is tragic. But no matter how tragic our past is, we must not forget. We must never forget. To forget is to deny the present any significant meaning.”)
Photos from the book covers of “Desaparesidos” by Lualhati Bautista and “12:01” by Russell Molina and Kajo Baldisimo