Jose Carillo's Forum


This page features outstanding works of Filipino writers in English, both past and present. Whenever the need or opportunity arises, a notable work—whether essay, speech, short story, poetry, play, or excerpt from a novel—will be presented here either in its full text or through a link to a website that carries it.

I hope you’ll not only enjoy the offerings of this series but also learn from their felicitous use of the English language!

Jose Carillo

Non-historian explores the heart and soul of the modern Filipino

If politics is too important to leave to politicians, history is too important to leave to historians.

This thought, Filipino writer and creative writing professor Luis H. Francia says in jest but evidently meaning it in earnest as well, was what drove him to write A History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos (Overlook Hardcover, 352 pages). The book, launched in the Philippines last July 13, is a poet and non-historian’s attempt to illumine the heart and soul of the modern Filipino as a multicultural, multiracial society.  

History of the Philippines

The term “Indios Bravos” in the book’s title—it means “Brave Indians,” an allusion to the Native Americans resisting brutal European colonization from the 1600s onwards—is actually a reference to how Filipino national hero Jose Rizal and his fellow ilustrados labeled themselves during their own campaign for Philippine nationhood in Europe in the late 1800s. Their campaign against Spain’s repressive colonial rule over the 7,100-island archipelago marked the beginning of the nationalist consciousness that led to the Philippine Revolution in 1898—a revolution that, however, was to be forestalled by the occupation of the Philippines by the United States, under which the country was again colonized for over 40 years before finally gaining independence in 1946.

“When I finished [writing] the book,” Francia says, “I realized that colonialism is part and parcel of our heritage, whether we like it or not. So we might as well embrace it. Even in our country’s name, we carry the burden and the blessing of colonialism. If we keep decrying our past, we only assign ourselves the role of victim.”

Francia thus hopes that by explaining the country’s colonial past from a non-historian’s perspective, A History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos would arm both Filipino and non-Filipino readers with a more inclusive world view of the Philippines. As he says, “I really think that there is an artificial divide between a nationalist and an internationalist when, in fact, I think they are complementary. Knowing what separates us from other nations is necessary up to a point, but now we have to start thinking as part of a larger community.”

Read Alfred Yuson’s review of From Indios Bravos to Filipinos in the Philippine Star now!

Read Ronald Lim’s “History by a Non-Historian” in the Manila Bulletin now!

Luis H. Francia, a prize-winning writer who resides in the United States, teaches at New York University and Hunter College. He also teaches creative writing at City University of Hong Kong and is on the board of the Asian American Writers Workshop. He writes for numerous international journals and magazines and is the author of several books, including Eye of the Fish: A Personal Archipelago, a semi-autobiographical account of growing up in the Philippines. This book won the 2002 PEN Open Book and Asian American Writers Literary Awards.

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