The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al
Public Domain Books
Among the many wrongs done the Filipinos by Spaniards, to be charged against their undeniably large debt to Spain, one of the greatest, if not the most frequently mentioned, was taking from them their good name.
Spanish writers have never been noted for modesty or historical accuracy. Back in 1589 the printer of the English translation of Padre Juan Gonzalez de Mendoza’s “History of the Great and Mighty Kingdom of China” felt it necessary to prefix this warning: * * * the Spaniards (following their ambitious affections) do usually in all their writings extoll their own actions, even to the setting forth of many untruthes and incredible things, as in their descriptions of the conquistes of the east and west Indies, etc., doth more at large appeare.
Of early Spanish historians Doctor Antonio de Morga seems the single exception, and perhaps even some of his credit comes by contrast, but in later years the rule apparently has proved invariable. As the conditions in the successive periods of Spanish influence were recognized to be indicative of little progress, if not actually retrogressive, the practice grew up of correspondingly lowering the current estimates of the capacity of the Filipinos of the conquest, so that always an apparent advance appeared. This in the closing period, in order to fabricate a sufficient showing for over three centuries of pretended progress, led to the practical denial of human attributes to the Filipinos found here by Legaspi.
Against this denial to his countrymen of virtues as well as rights, Doctor Rizal opposed two briefs whose English titles are “The Philippines A Century Hence” and “The Indolence of the Filipino.” Almost every page therein shows the influence of the young student’s early reading of the hereinafter-printed studies by the German scientist Jagor, friend and counsellor in his maturer years, and the liberal Spaniard Comyn. Even his acquaintance with Morga, which eventually led to Rizal’s republication of the 1609 history long lost to Spaniards, probably was owing to Jagor, although the life-long resolution for that action can be traced to hearing of Sir John Bowring’s visit to his uncle’s home and the proposed Hakluyt Society English translation then mentioned.
The present value and interest of these now rare books has suggested their republication, to make available to Filipino students a course of study which their national hero found profitable as well as to correct the myriad misconceptions of things Philippine in the minds of those who have taken the accepted Spanish accounts as gospel truths.
Dr. L. V. Schweibs, of Berlin, made the hundreds of corrections, many reversing the meanings of former readings, which almost justify calling the revised Jagor translation a new one. Numerous hitherto-untranslated passages likewise appear. There have been left out the illustrations, from crude drawings obsolete since photographic pictures have familiarized the scenes and objects, and also the consequently superfluous references to these. No other omission has been allowed, for if one author leaned far to one side in certain debatable questions the other has been equally partisan for the opposite side, except a cerement on religion in general and discussion of the world-wide social evil were eliminated as having no particular Philippine bearing to excuse their appearance in a popular work.
The early American quotations of course are for comparison with the numerous American comments of today, and the two magazine extracts give English accounts a century apart. Virchow’s matured views have been substituted for the pioneer opinions he furnished Professor Jagor thirty years earlier, and if Rizal’s patron in the scientific world fails at times in his facts his method for research is a safe guide.
Finally, three points should constantly be borne in mind: (1) allowance must be made for the lessening Spanish influence, surely more foreign to this seafaring people than the present modified Anglo-Saxon education, and so more artificial, i.e., less assimilable, as well as for the removal of the unfavorable environment, before attempting to from an opinion of the present-day Filipino from his prototype pictured in those pages; (2) foreign observers are apt to emphasize what is strange to them in describing other lands than their own and to leave unnoted points of resemblance which may be much more numerous; (3) Rizal’s judgment that his countrymen were more like backward Europeans than Orientals was based on scientific studies of Europe’s rural districts and Philippine provincial conditions as well as of oriental country life, so that it is entitled to more weight than the commoner opinion to the contrary which though more popular has been less carefully formed.
University of the Philippines,
Manila, March 11th, 1916.