Zooming through history in the digital realm

March 26, 2021

When COVID-19 upended in-person learning, educators moved into the virtual space, using digital platforms to reach students. Aside from classes, workshops, seminars, and other learning sessions have transitioned online. For Loyola's School's Department of History, this includes pivoting its History Lecture Series (HLS) to the digital realm.

Conceptualized by faculty member Ms. Isabel Consuelo A. Nazareno, HLS was intended to aid faculty teaching of History 12 (Readings in Philippine History). It was introduced to the Loyola Schools (LS) community as History 12 Lecture Series in the first semester of the 2019-2020 academic year. The series was off to a good start that other topics from History 11 (Rizal and the Emergence of the Philippine Nation) were included by the next semester. Hence, by the second semester of the school year 2019-2020, the History 12 Lecture Series was renamed History Lecture Series (HLS). The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, brought learning to a halt.

In a Q and A, members of the HLS team discuss how the full renderings of the past can help us understand the present and guide us for what lies ahead.

Can you talk about the range of topics that HLS has been exploring? Is it intentional? How are topics chosen for each lecture?

The team decided in the second semester of last school year to arrange the topics thematically into three clusters: war and memory; women’s history; and, nationhood and history. We have retained our practice of clustering topics with the new set of speakers for this school year’s run of HLS, assigning themes every month. For instance, the theme for the February lectures is Meanings and Memories, finding a common theme with Dr. Francis Gealogo’s lecture on the historical lexicography of disaster in Tagalog and Dr. Jo-ed Tirol’s lecture on the social memory of the EDSA Revolution. In conjunction with Women’s month this March, the lectures of Ms. Isabel Nazareno and Dr. Katherine Lacson are about women in history. For April, our talks will bring back two lectures from last year’s run of HLS, specifically lectures on the Filipino participation in wars outside the country which were supposed to be given the previous year: Dr. Francis Navarro’s lecture on the Spanish Civil War, and Mr. Neville Manaois’s lecture on the Korean War. Lastly, to celebrate Cultural Heritage month in May, we have Mr. John Ray Ramos’ talk on history and cultural heritage and Dr. Khursten Santos’ talk on food history. We plan to diversify later on so that we can highlight the research interests of the other members of the department as well as share other relevant topics in history.

A screenshot from Dr. Francis Gealogo’s lecture.

What are the challenges and opportunities in producing HLS, especially during these times? 

The primary challenge that the team has encountered is organizing and moving HLS into the digital platform. The convenors before the pandemic were familiar with the processes in arranging logistical and administrative needs within the physical spaces of the Loyola Schools. But, the digital space is an unfamiliar territory the department has yet to utilize in the past. Hence, the department brought into the HLS team faculty members who are familiar with social media and digital platforms (such as podcasts and webinar) to smoothen the digital transition. This helped the HLS team become adept with digital learning tools, choosing digital platforms that would suit HLS needs and placing measures to ensure safety during the HLS lecture sessions. We have also decided to create a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page in our Google Site to aid us.

One opportunity in holding HLS is that more people outside the Ateneo community were able to join the lectures. In our February lectures, we had attendees outside the LS community, both here in the Philippines and abroad. Moreover, the uploading of the lectures and the increasing number of views per day shows the opportunity of the content material that we offer to be used not only within the Ateneo but in other institutions as well. As we have tied up one lecture with an institution inside Ateneo- the  Ateneo Library of Women’s Writing, we hope to partner with more institutions here and abroad for our future talks. In this time when collaborations are made possible online, we hope that we can partner up with institutions that have the same goals and values that the HLS has at its core.
 

The HLS website (https://sites.google.com/ateneo.edu/hls/home) makes it easier to view past lectures and register for upcoming ones.

What do you want the audience to take away from the lectures?

History does not exist in a vacuum. As our tagline goes, “we teach about the past, to our future”, we envision Ateneans and remind the public as well to be more aware and conscious of our past, so that, as cliché as it may sound, we do not let ourselves repeat the past. Moreover, we hope that these lectures can adhere to the call for us Filipinos to liberate ourselves from the past, echoing the words of public historian and fellow faculty member Dr. Ambeth Ocampo in his Arete Magisterial lecture. We hope that through the lectures of our faculty that show varied lenses of our own historical narratives, the HLS serves as an avenue for us to ponder on the tapestry of our history and to aspire for a brighter future.
 
What has been the most interesting feedback you received  about HLS?
 
The clamor for the use of the recorded lectures is worth noting. The lectures in February, for example, are being used by those within the Ateneo community. The EDSA@35 talk of Dr. Tirol is being used by the basic education units of the Ateneo, while the Sakuna lecture of Dr. Gealogo has been used by researchers, students and enthusiasts interested in linguistics and disaster studies.
 
Why is history important?
 
As a discipline, history has evolved from being known as a narrative of the victors to a collection of narratives that includes those maligned, oppressed, and inspired to challenge and break out of the norms and conventions of society. Truly, history becomes even more important as it is one of the ways people can have a deeper understanding of the world: how different systems operated, how societies and cultures thrived, and how they have changed/evolved over time. In our context within the LS community, history can strengthen our understanding of ourselves and others in our Jesuit mission and our own rootedness in our Filipino identity as we grapple in understanding who we are as a nation. At the heart of history is its narrativity that has a power to bring into our collective consciousness that various different contexts that we as a nation grapple with, and even beyond the nation, the various realities that we face in the world.
 
What can the academe do to encourage student interest in history?
 
The academe is already evolving to make history more interdisciplinary and even multidisciplinary, continually exploring and expanding new areas of studies. Thus, history has become more diverse, covering a range of subjects that would certainly pique the interests of students from varied fields and disciplines (such as history of art, history of architecture, history of food, history of sports, history of fashion, history of medicine, etc.). Sharing these areas of studies to students can encourage them to have an interest in our past, connecting historical narratives to current events and phenomena, and even attempting to deepen the historical discourse. The academe must be integrative in its approach to reach students so that we can further engage and encourage their interest in history.
 
Another approach that the academe can do to encourage student interest is to bring out the humanity in the stories from the past and encourage historical empathy. As some historians have constantly emphasized over and over again, history is an exercise and practice of empathy as it calls us to understand our subjects who lived and experienced lives in different contexts. Perhaps, one concrete way that the academe can do to achieve this end is to invite other speakers who have firsthand personal accounts to share their stories. In the wake of historical revisionism in the 2016 elections, the LS community organized an event to share narratives and experiences from those who lived through the Martial Law era, and it became a pivotal moment for the student populace as they became better informed about this period. When our history is threatened by distorted narratives and outright lies, the academe has the duty to safeguard our history and enrich the minds of the future generation, so that we may finally liberate ourselves from the past.

Watch the past lectures on HLS’ YouTube Channel.