Tackled below is the debate between scholars Floro Quibuyen and John Schumacher S.J. printed on the pages of the journal Philippine Studies and spilling over onto a second journal Kritika Kultura. Debates are fun. More than just the question at hand (in this case Rizal), they give you an insight into how the historians involved think. The issue in question, I’d like to contend, is much simpler than its four long articles let on. It may seem at first to be an argument of empiricism vs critical hermeneutics. Frankly, it’s not.

The debate between Schumacher and Quibuyen  is not a debate between opposing perspectives. Both parties imply agreement that history involves both reliable data (or facts) and interpretations (or theory), even if each author seems to give primacy to opposite ends of the research process. Majority of their contentions are accusations of negligence (lack of contextualization, lack of verification which leads to misreadings of the text) rather than assertions stemming from opposing ideas of what it means to be a historian.

Their main, and most interesting, disagreement is on the use of what I’d like to call “semi-reliable sources”, under which I’d categorize both Pio Valenzuela and John Foreman as used by Quibuyen. The former source is arguably contradictory. The latter source is arguably biased. Schumacher tends to dismiss them both. Quibuyen tends to accept them. In my opinion, Quibuyen’s assertion (that contradictory sources are still usable sources) is technically correct, but at the same time Schumacher is correct to critique him. One the one hand, it’s true that just because someone (Valenzuela) lies once, does not mean he lies all the time. On the other hand, if you’re going to use a document from Valenzuela, it’s up to you then to present sufficient evidence to show he wasn’t lying in the documents that you cite.  More or less the same can be said for Quibuyen’s assertion that biased/fictional accounts can be used as historical evidence. On the one hand it is true that they can readily be used as evidence on the author’s (Foreman’s) own subjective world. But to use them as indications of the subjective world of a community alien to Foreman,  or to use them as an account of real world events, is to tread dangerous waters. Even for these purposes, semi-reliable sources can in theory still be made usable. But, I’d imagine, only with thoroughly explained justification.

For a full dose of the debate, to benefit from their argument’s actual content, or to just amuse yourself on accusations of argument-from-authority and insinuations of malicious intent, see:

Quibuyen, Floro. 1999. A nation aborted: Rizal, American hegemony, and Philippine nationalism. Rev. ed. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

______. 2002. Rizal and Filipino nationalism: Critical issues. Philippine Studies 50(2): 193–229.

______. 2004. How are historical texts to be read? My final rejoinder to John N. Schumacher, S.J. Kritika Kultura 5: 96-106.

Schumacher, John, S.J. 2000. Rizal and Filipino nationalism: A new approach. Philippine Studies 48(4): 549–71.

______. 2002. Reply of John N. Schumacher to Floro Quibuyen’s response to the review of his ‘A nation aborted’. Philippine Studies 50(3): 435–37.