Editorial Note—Issue 5

Mara Coson


Isabelo de los Reyes is an interesting case in Philippine history. Not quite among the ranks of the lunatics, paralytics, and pen-or-sword romantics at the turn of the 20th century who have at one time become the heads of coins if not the state, but a man who took on the curious job of being the new nation’s non-European archivist. Upon reading De los Reyes’s quixotic and two-volume flop  El Folk-Lore Filipino (1889), historian Resil Mojares in turn decided, sitting on a mine of side notes and miscellany spun off from his own research, to create his own idiosyncratic assemblage, and called this landmark book Isabelo’s Archive (2012). Men with tails? Katipuneros on their bellies singing songs with bullets over their heads? In our opening essay, Mojares discusses the capricious tales, the fictions, and the failures that come with undertaking such an archive, and the freedom in its impossibility.

And because history has been forgetful of those who sit at the margins, in this issue we bring some more up beyond imperial Manila and souvenir ethnicities. A boldly impassioned Pangasinan scholar E.S. Fernandez, through his example of bringing the province and its culture out of the shadows of the Ilocos region and the Tagalog language, asserts the importance of broader Philippine studies. Down south, our editor-at-large Patricio Abinales, in not quite a similar vein, begins with a different question: “What would Philippine history look like if one were a Moro woman standing in Tawi-Tawi, sorting out smuggled iPhones and Blackberries from Borneo, eagerly awaiting money from a daughter working in Saudi Arabia?”

We then travel back up north, up to Baguio, where Padma Perez, who runs Mt Cloud Bookshop, tells us about the realities of the bookshop dream. I am reminded of a Japanese term our editor-in-chief, Leloy Claudio, currently stationed in Kyoto, has recently taught me: “kotsu-kotsu,” which means, though imprecisely, a kind of nose-to-grindstone diligence as a means to get at the bigger picture—whether it’s about running a bookshop or a country, building an archive, crawling through EDSA traffic, or simply keeping a publication going. It is with this kind of principle that we hope our selection of essays in this issue finds a reader in you.