October 9, 2010

W.H. Scott & the Maragtas Controversy

I owe William Henry Scott a great debt for the inspirations and setting details I’m putting into Hari Ragat. 

Though my first reaction to his debunking of the Maragtas epic and the Laws of Kalantiaw was fury – who was this American, to trample on the cherished heritage of my people? – I came to appreciate his scholarly studies and efforts to penetrate the cloud of Marcos-era propaganda and the biases and inaccuracies of Spanish chroniclers to piece together a better history of the Philippines. 

Scott opposed American colonial policies and decried the Hispanicized colonial attitude of dividing the population into ‘true Filipinos’ and ‘ethnic minorities.’  Through his researches he proved that Philippine pre-colonial culture was not as grandiose as propagandists would have it, yet far richer and more complex than the Spanish friars were able to grasp. Scott died here in the Philippines and is buried in Sagada, a cultural landmark in the north. 

Though I’m glad to have read many of his essays and now own a copy of his book, Barangay: 16th Century Filipino Culture and Society, I still feel a real loss over the debunking of the Maragatas epic.  At the time I was in high school, the epic was still part of the official history texts. Those of you who know of it will easily recognize its influences in my fictional history of the Vijadesans.  Who says all my inspirations have to be historical canon?

2 comments:

  1. I think some of the best inspirations aren't historical canon. There's as much game fodder in the ways people have perceived the world as there is in actual history.

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  2. Yup, and same goes for myth and legend. I'm finding a lot of good material researching epics from the pre-colonial past.

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