Tackled below is John Schumacher, S.J.’s assessment of the debate between the historians Reynaldo Ileto and Milagros Guerrero as it appeared on the pages of Philippine Studies. Debates are fun. More than just historians’ facts, we get to see their logic, logic we can apply in our own readings.

In his book Pasyon and Revolution, Reynaldo Ileto distills operative concepts in the pasyon text and finds similarities in how these concepts were used in several peasant revolts from 1841, 1896, 1910 etc. He then contrasts these concepts, with those deployed by the formal Malolos government. In this way, Ileto counters the top-down understandings of history prevalent during his own day. He emphasizes readings from below, as well as revolutionary (as opposed to static) understandings of events. Milagros Guerrero, in her review essay of the above, contests Ileto’s findings on several grounds. Most of her objections, as Ileto points out in his later response, are premised on her positivist priorities of event-history and causation. Priorities he does not share. But Ileto does not respond to Guerrero’s most important contention, a contention which Schumacher explains at greater length and detail in his own article.

That is: that in generalizing the application of findings (in this case the readings/meanings given to a text) from a population A to a second population B, one needs to be able to prove that both above populations were sufficiently of the same context, to be able to understand structurally similar texts in similar ways.

Schumacher’s article goes on to add that Ileto and Guerrero actually present complimentary rather than mutually exclusive strains of the same history. Himself, he would like to add a third strain to the set: the influence of the Filipino secular clergy (the focus of his own extensive research). Research on these strains are all  efforts to break down prevalent monolithic generalizations about Filipino participation in the revolution. Schumacher goes on to list other generalizations that need to be broken down: 1) that the elite all homogeneously joined the revolution for economic interests, 2) that the revolution was everywhere anti-friar, and 3) that the masses all supported the war.

Ten years later, Schumacher addresses the second of these items, in his article Religious aspects of the revolution in the Bikol Region (on the pages of Philippine National Historical Society’s The Journal of History). 

For a full dose of the debate, to benefit from their argument’s actual content, or to just amuse yourself on how so many damaging accusations can be mixed-in with kind words, see: 

Ileto, Reynaldo. 1979. Pasyon and revolutionPopular movements in the Philippines, 1840-1900. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Guerrero, Milagros. 1981. Understanding Philippine revolutionary mentality. Philippine Studies 29: 240-56.

Ileto, Reynaldo. 1982. Critical issues in “Understanding Philippine revolutionary mentality”. Philippine Studies 30: 92-119.

Schumacher, John, S.J. 1982. Recent perspectives on the Revolution. Philippine Studies 30(4): 445-492.