Philippine History

I bought some new books from PCBS today and while there I bumped into a friend who writes a weekly column for a local daily. We fell into talking about theology and local politics, and soon the conversation turned to Philippine History and authors of books on Philippine History, such as Agoncillo, Constantino, Gregorio Zaide and Sonia Zaide. I learned a few interesting things from him: he said the first mass was held not in Cebu but in Butuan. I still have to check whether what he told me is correct but, anyway, he sure whetted my appetite for Philippine History. History happens to be one of my weak points. I don’t read a lot of history (although I’ve read a good number of Christian biographies) and I think it’s high time for me to make amends for my neglect of this important subject. And so when I got home I opened my copy of Sonia Zaide’s The Philippines: A Unique Nation. And while scanning the pages I chanced upon the header on one of the pages: “From People Power to a Great Christian Revival.” It seems Zaide interprets history from an overtly Evangelical Christian perspective, and she’s not afraid to say so. Here’s a pertinent quote from page 407 of the book –

“The Lord has a special mission for the Philippines, and this is found in our country’s history. The Philippines is the bridge between the Christian West and the non-Christian nations of the East. That is why the Lord is now forming the Filipinos into strong Christians. Because He wants us to be His chosen witnesses for the other non-Christian nations towards the East.

“No other nation in the world at this time can fill this role better than the Philippines. So if the Filipinos do their part in taking the gospel of the Lordship of Jesus Christ to the other parts of the world, this will fulfill our destiny as the ‘light of Asia’.”

This is quite an interesting perspective coming from a Filipino historian. Some might be surprised how something like this could find its way into a history textbook, but it’s actually a sentiment I share. Two good friends of mine are now missionaries in Cambodia; one of them temporarily left his job at City Hall and brought his wife and two kids with him to share the gospel to the people there. As far as physical features are concerned it’s easy for them to blend in. And last I heard the kids are learning the Cambodian language faster than their parents.

The point is Zaide might be on to something here. Historically, culturally, religiously, educationally, Filipinos seem to have been providentially prepared for such a task. If we believe that God is involved in shaping our individual lives so that we can fulfill his purposes for us, surely we can believe as well that he is similarly involved in preparing and shaping the life of our nation so that we as a nation could fulfill a task which is peculiarly ours? At any rate, here’s a verse to ponder:

“For we are are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2: 10)

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