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Why Filipinos Should Read: ‘Filipino Heritage: The Making of a Nation’ edited by Alfredo R. Roces

by Bryan Meniado

I have been collecting Filipiniana for several years now, and recently, I have completed a set of one of the holy grails in my book-hunting journey: the ten-volume Filipino Heritage: The Making of a Nation, published by Lahing Pilipino Publishing. I had bought each volume from different sources in the span of almost two years. I’m so glad to have finally completed a set of this treasure trove! (Related: “Why Filipinos Should Read: Filipiniana”)

For National Heritage Month, I would like to share about this rare collectible. Published in 1977,  the Filipino Heritage: The Making of a Nation is a 10-volume set covering 593 topics in 2,800 fully illustrated pages on the Philippines. It was written by 186 contributors that included some of the most eminent scholars in their respective fields, and edited by the veteran writer and artist Alfredo R. Roces, who has also authored several books on Philippine art. (Related: “Why Filipinos Should Read: Archaeology and Heritage Studies”)

Despite being vintage, the Filipino Heritage: The Making of a Nation remains to be one of the definitive works on Philippine history today. With that, I believe that every local library in the country should have at least one set of this; however, given its rarity, that might be too far-fetched. 

Regardless, if you’re into Filipiniana, I think you should also have your own set. Hence, I’m sharing 10 bits of wisdom I got from scanning through the 10 volumes of the Filipino Heritage: The Making of a Nation in the hope that more Filipinos will be able to read them. 

  1. As presented in the book set, the Philippines is home to a myriad of endemic species making it one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. The richness of our natural heritage should not only be a source of pride for us as a people; but most importantly, beyond aesthetics and tourism, this nature’s gift should remind us of our crucial responsibility as stewards of the environment. 
  1. While the Philippine society we know now is fairly young, there had been thriving civilizations in the islands even way before the Spaniards arrived in 1521. Contrary to some assumptions, precolonial Filipinos had complex social structures and cultures and were not savages, or in any way “inferior” compared to other societies.
  1. One instance that shows the complexity of our cultures lies in our folklore and mythology. We need not to look further toward the ancient Greeks, Romans, or Egyptians for their intricate storytelling and worldviews because we also have our own of which we can be proud of and draw inspiration from. 
  1. Following the previous points, the Filipino Heritage also showcases the rich knowledge systems and practices of the Indigenous Peoples that help us make sense and thrive in our world. It highlights that being “indigenous” does not equate to being backward, or being “less” of a Filipino. In fact, our Indigenous knowledge systems and practices play a big role in our identity as a people. 
  1. The Filipino Heritage beautifully weaves diverse narratives of various ethnic groups from the regions into one shared heritage of us all. This is a reminder that we can also draw inspiration from the narratives of resistance from every region, and not only from the overarching national historical narrative, which sometimes obscures those from the periphery. 
  1. Furthermore, the Filipino Heritage veers away from our purist tendencies of defining what an “authentic” Filipino should be. This only shows that there is no single way of “Filipino-ness” because there are many. After all, we speak more than a hundred languages and have differing traditions. Thus, we should start to embrace that being a Filipino has many forms and shapes, and not just one. 
  1. On the other hand, I came across a blog post by none other than Alfredo Roces on the untold story of Filipino Heritage. It tells us about how the authoritarian regime of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr. was not only infamous for its brutality and corruption as it did not only repress the press but also the academia. (You can access the blog post via this link.)
  1. The Filipino Heritage narrates our prehistory and history from the earliest times. It reintroduces us to our roots that can prompt us to interrogate some of our historical misconceptions and assumptions, which I hope can help us rectify such oversights. 
  1. The Filipino Heritage reminds us of our responsibility to seek and tell the truth, and to foster truth telling for posterity. Now, let’s ponder: how can we rectify our uninformed opinions about our past if we continue to rely on hearsays and chismis and not on actual written and historical records? How can we enrich our discussion if we keep falling for the ruse of those who are trying to bury the sins of the past?
  1. Books may be one of the most overlooked and underappreciated aspects of our heritage. But yes, Filipiniana books, as well as our writers and artists, are a part of our heritage that should be duly recognized and celebrated. 

So if you happen to come across a complete set of the Filipino Heritage at a fairly affordable price and in good condition, I recommend that you grab the opportunity. The current market value of the Filipino Heritage set ranges around PHP 25,000 to 30,000, depending on its condition. For perspective, it was once auctioned at Salcedo for almost PHP 50,000, but I have seen prices for as low as PHP 10,000 elsewhere. 

If you’re on a tight budget like many of us are, then you can opt to follow the path that I took in completing it. You can scour the internet for loose volumes that you can buy individually. It may take a longer time but that will save you some money. But for me, as a Filipiniana enthusiast and book hunter, I would say that it is worth the wait. Happy National Heritage Month! ☁️


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