On 4 May 2017, the Foreign Service Institute held a Mabini Dialogue entitled “Nationalism, Culture, and Philippine Diplomacy” at the Benedicto Room, Carlos P. Romulo Library, Department of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Leslie E. Bauzon, Vice-President and Chair of the Social Sciences Division of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) and Retired Professor of History at the University of the Philippines, Diliman was the guest speaker.
Tracing Philippine ancestry
Dr. Bauzon traced Philippine ancestry back to the upland Mamanwan people of Surigao del Norte in northeastern Mindanao. Referring to them as the “first Filipinos,” Bauzon described their genetic heritage as hailing from a mix of Asian and Oceanian roots. They played a vital role in enabling Filipinos to transition from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of farming and crop cultivation, thereby contributing to the formation of Philippine civilization.
He described an expedition he took to Escalon Cave in Surigao, where he and his team, comprised of Japanese and local researchers, unearthed the skeletal remains of a young adult male who lived in 4000 B.C., later dubbed the “Escalon Man.” His team conducted extensive laboratory testing on the remains and concluded that the Escalon Man is closely related to the Lapita people of Oceania.
He then narrated how the colonization of the Philippine archipelago later led to the assimilation of European and American culture and heritage into Philippine society, leading to the creation of the modern Filipino identity.
Nevertheless, he stressed the similarity of Filipinos with ancient Asian and Oceanian civilization. “There is no denying our Asian and Oceanian heritage. It is fitting therefore that while we acknowledge our unique heritage as Filipinos, we should also remember our Asian and Oceanian roots,” he said.
“We must therefore bring our Asian and Oceanian souls to the fore and bring them to the forefront of our subconscious and take pride in them.”
Addressing structural issues
Dr. Bauzon emphasized the importance of history and anthropology as tools for understanding ancestral roots, which he says provides a lens to assess the social and economic dilemmas that beset the Philippines today.
This framework provides a historical basis to guide national leaders and policymakers in addressing the structural issues that plague the country at present. He describes, for instance, how the “dominant Christianized majority” tend to marginalize katutubos (indigenous peoples) due to the strong influence of the Spanish colonizers, who discriminated against upland Filipinos who refused to convert to Christianity.
This social segmentation is reflected in the words that Filipinos use to describe these groups, citing the use of the pejorative word “baluga” by the people of Cordillera in Central Luzon toward the Aetas.
He then asserted that the various forms of discontent that marginalized groups take part in – namely banditry, millenarianism and revolution – effectively serve as methods of protest that challenge the unjust social structures and institutions that exist in the Philippines today, including discrimination against minorities and economic inequality.