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NAVEA, Nicole Dane L.

September 23, 2014


2011-13107 Anthro 185

A Critique on Looking for the Pre-Hispanic Filipino: Mistranslations and
Misconceptions by William Henry Scott

History, though often neglected, is crucially important to a countrys
progression. It shapes the way in which people view the present consequently
dictating how people would answer existing problems.

But, what if the history taught to you is misconstrued?

W.H. Scott emphasized and enumerated many misconceptions and
mistranslations embedded in the Philippine prehistory. One of which is the
deliberate omission of an essential phrase in the 1963 Dominican History by
translators Blair and Robertson, changing the idea of the whole sentence
entirely. As it tackled the early Filipinos brewing wars against the Spaniards, Blair
and Robertson phrased the false statement by affirming that Filipinos were
fighting because of the imposed Christianity making them appear to be directly
attacking the religion. The deleted phrase indicated that this was not the sole
reason and that it included the oppressive ways of the Spanish conquerors.

Another misleading aspect of the Philippines history is the misuse of the
term maharlika. Frederick Morrison, a Harvard historian, equated maharlikas to
English and Spanish noblemen who were titled lords. In fact, maharlikas were
simply former slaves and were then freed men, as stated clearly by the early
dictionaries. We view our history through American eyes and understanding.

Such mistakes and errors can be accounted to the translators bias. Blair,
Robertson, and Morrison have one thing in common they were all foreigners.
They have fields of experience that can be entirely different to the customs and
ways of the Philippines. Not knowing the depth of the circumstances can be
deadly to translators and people who are into cultural studies.

In particular, Blair and Robertson may have misinterpreted facts based on
the beliefs they hold according to the country they serve. Also, other early
translators may have committed such errors due to their lack of experience
regarding uncharted territories like the Philippines.

Knowing all of these, how do these inaccurate representations of the
Philippines affect Filipinos?

For one, the Philippines may undergo an identity crisis. Individually,
identity crisis can be managed but if it is pertaining to something as huge as a
whole country, then it may become unmanageable. In addition, not knowing the
real story behind ones own country is not only humiliating to ones self but also
demeaning to the country itself and to the contributors to its rich history.

Inaccurate history can also be a factor in the Filipinos having different
perspective of things. As they are taught incorrect things, the way they think may
be affected. For example, learners of history may take Blair and Robertsons
translations as something against early Filipinos. They may believe that Filipinos
back then were truly against Christianity, the countrys main religion today, when
they should put their faith in them for standing up for their independence and
against the Spaniard oppression.

W.H. Scotts article puts a huge emphasis on the role translators play in
writing history. In mastering their craft, translators have the power to influence
views and beliefs of people. The fairness of their outputs is only dependent on
their motive. Seeing the impact historical inaccuracies may bring, translators
should observe neutrality.

Reliance in documents and translations is the foundation of history. Thus,
writing sound history is of the essence for a countrys future.