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Levi Phillips
Levi Phillips

How Teodoro A. Agoncillo Changed the Way We Understand Philippine History

Teodoro Agoncillo is a noted Filipino historian, essayist, poet and author. In 1985, he received the National Scientist Award for his contribution to Philippine historiography. He is known as a nationalist author whose books, essays, and poetry often reflects the point of view of the Filipino masses. His book History of the Filipino People is widely used as textbook and some students consider it as their bible in studying the history of the Philippines.

Philippine History Book By Teodo

Going beyond the retraction controversy, it is interesting to note that some documents in the Cuerpo collection do not jibe with the present and popular knowledge about the Philippine Revolution. For instance, there are documents about the Katipunan that if proven true may lead to a revision of some details about the organization. Philippine history textbooks mention that the complete name of Katipunan and the meaning of the acronym KKK is Kataastaasan Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng manga Anak ng Bayan (Agoncillo 2012, 156). But there is a document in the Cuerpo collection that says the name of the secret society is Katipunan, Kataastasan, Kalayaan ng mga tunay na anak ng bayan (NAP Manuscript A-1 [4], Doc. 162). There is another document, which allegedly came from Fr. Mariano Gil, saying that the name of the secret organization is Kataastaasan Katipunan Katagalugan (NAP Manuscript A-1 [1], Doc. 14). These two documents deserve serious consideration because they are primary sources and the second one is a document taken by Fr. Mariano Gil from the lockers of the Katipuneros in the Diario de Manila printing house.

Users of the Cuerpo collection should be cautioned that the reports of the Cuerpo agents have positive and negative attributes. On the one hand, they may be regarded as objective sources of information because they were written immediately after the event was heard or witnessed. Unlike the memoirs of participants in the revolution, which are mostly self-serving and written decades after the event, the reports of the Cuerpo agents were contemporaneous accounts of informants who were just doing their duty. Most of the reports are unedited, unadulterated, and not tailored to serve a particular interest group. On the other hand, scholars should be forewarned to use the Cuerpo collection critically because not all the reports are historically accurate. For instance, Agent Heriberto Fernandez reported that Aguinaldo returned from Hong Kong aboard a British ship on March 29, 1898, while in fact he arrived in Manila on May 19, 1898 (NAP Manuscript B-17, Doc. 12). Similarly, one Cuerpo report states that on February 18, 1898 Aguinaldo was allegedly murdered by his comrades who were not satisfied with the way he was running the Hong Kong junta (NAP Manuscript B-20, Doc. 37). There is another report stating that Aguinaldo was assassinated by forces loyal to Mariano Trias a few days after he returned from Hong Kong (NAP Manuscript B-17, Doc. 13). As recorded in history books, Aguinaldo died of natural causes six decades after the end of the revolution. Taking these facts into account, one can conclude that the Cuerpo reports should not be regarded as gospel truth.


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