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Learn more about the beginnings of the PNHS.


The Philippine National Historical Society (PNHS) is today the oldest voluntary professional organization devoted to the study and research in Philippine history. It was officially organized on February 2, 1941 when its constitution and by-laws were approved, with the organization initially called the Philippine Historical Society. While this was the first organization of historians in the country, there were other similar groups that actually preceded it, like the Asociación Histórica de Filipinas, founded by Felipe G. Calderon in 1905, and the Sociedad Histórico-Geográfica de Filipinas, founded in 1916 or 1917 by a group led by a Filipinist named Carlos A. Sobral. Both groups went defunct after just a few years although they managed to publish some issues of the Revista Histórica de Filipinas and Boletín, respectively.

The Philippine National Historical Society can trace its beginnings to the History Club at the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) organized by Eulogio B. Rodriguez sometime in the late 1920s when he was a history teacher in the same institution while concurrently serving as Assistant Director of the National Library. The PWU History Club published a quarterly called The Historical Review which fostered historical scholarship during the pre-war period.

In 1941, Rodriguez and Eufronio Alip transformed the student history club into the Philippine Historical Society, an organization beyond a mere student history club. The charter members included a veritable “Who’s Who” in Filipino intellectual life at that time. Among them were Antonio K. Abad, Elias M. Ataviado, Evergisto Bazaco, O.P., Conrado Benitez, Manuel I. Carreon, Horacio V. de la Costa, S.J., Jose Lopez del Castillo, Gabriel Fabella, Leandro H. Fernandez, Tomas Fonacier, Mariano del Prado Goyena, Maximo M. Kalaw, Pura Villanueva Kalaw, Leoncio Rizal Lopez, Paz Policarpio-Mendez, Camilo Osias, Jose Villa Panganiban, William C. Repetti, S.J., Walter Robb, Miguel Selga , S. J., Benito T. Soliven, Leopoldo B. Uichanco, Jaime C. de Veyra, Gregeorio Yabes, Nicolas Zafra, and Gregorio F. Zaide.

The Society, according to its constitution and by-laws, aimed to “encourage and undertake the study of Philippine history.” To this day, this remains the fundamental aim of PNHS as it seeks to catalyze nationwide interest in and appreciation of history as the bedrock of Filipino national identity. The Historical Review became the Journal of the Philippine Historical Society, with the first issue coming out in July 1941.

Eulogio B. Rodriguez served as President of the Society at the time of its founding and throughout the years of the Second World War. Eufronio M. Alip succeeded Rodriguez around 1946, and served as the Society’s President until his demise in 1976, when Marcelino A. Foronda, Jr., took over. In 1965, the Philippine Historical Society changed its official name to Philippine National Historical Society. In the same year, the Society approved The Journal of History as the new name of its official publication.

The Society aggressively contributed towards setting the pace and the agenda of historical research in the Philippines during the incumbency of Foronda, under whose leadership the Society effected a major intellectual shift in the agenda of Filipino historians away from what Resil B. Mojares, another distinguished lifetime member of PNHS, describes as “classical colonial scholarship,” towards studies depicting the grassroots of Filipino civilization and the life histories of individual Filipino communities showing rural life in its full detail and color.

This shift was concretized by the PNHS in its First National Conference on Local and National History held at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City in 1978. Such a shift in intellectual focus has, in turn, led to stimulus being given to more research by local historians on the finer aspects of Philippine history, thus enabling Filipino historians to be in a good position to contribute towards the breaking down of age-old stereotypes and perceptions regarding the Filipinos and their history and culture. Since 1978, almost every year, in October [and since 2001 in November (because of typhoon weather], the traditional annual national conference on local and national history is convened by the Philippine National Historical Society. The focus on local history was continued under the presidency of Leslie E. Bauzon from 1983-1994. In these conferences, papers are presented not only on history, but also on other disciplines, such as archaeology, literature, anthropology, and other aspects of Philippine studies. Upon his appointment as Visiting Professor at Tsukuba University in Japan, Dr. Bauzon turned over the presidency of PNHS in February 1994 to Bernardita R. Churchill, former Chairman of the Department of History, UP Diliman. Today, Dr. Bauzon serves as PNHS President emeritus.

The diversity and the comprehensiveness of the program of activities of PNHS merited an Institutional/Disciplinal Award for PNHS in 1993 as one of the two best member-associations of the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC), of which the PNHS is a charter member.

Aside from the publication of the Journal of History, which features selected papers from the annual national conferences, the PNHS also started a monograph series with the publication of In Search of Historical Truth, edited by Leslie E. Bauzon. The other monographs are the following: The Story of a Province – Surigao Across the Years by Fernando A. Almeda, Jr. (1993); Land of Hope, Land of Want – A Socio-Economic History of Negros, 1571-1985 by Violeta Lopez Gonzaga (1994); and The Revolution in the Provinces, edited by Bernardita Reyes Churchill (Centennial Volume, 1999). The PNHS also contributed the section on the discipline of history in Volume II of the Philippine Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, published by the Philippine Social Science Council in 1993.

The Philippine National Historical Society has also co-published monographs with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts-Committee on Historical Research (which sponsored its annual conferences from 1995-1998) and the Manila Studies Association, Inc., such as Manila, edited by Bernardita Reyes Churchill (1994); Determining the Truth, The Story of Andres Bonifacio, edited by Bernardita Reyes Churchill (1997); A History of the Philippines by Samuel K. Tan (1998); and Centennial Papers on The Katipunan and the Revolution, edited by Bernardita Reyes Churchill and Francis A. Gealogo (Centennial Volume, 1999).

During the Centennial year in 1998, the Philippine National Historical Society, with the assistance and sponsorship of the National Centennial Commission and the National Historical Institute, under then Chairman and Executive Director, Samuel K. Tan, conducted 16 regional seminar-workshops on oral and local history on the theme “History from the People, Kasaysayan Mula Sa Bayan,” thus continuing its tradition of advancing the frontiers of historical research in local history in the context of national history. The proceedings of the 16 seminars have been published in 16 volumes, four each edited by Digna Balangue Apilado, Bernardita Reyes Churchill, Eden Manalo Gripaldo, and Violeta S. Ignacio. The sixteen seminar-workshops were held in Vigan, Tuguegarao, Muñoz, Los Baños, Naga, Miag-ao, Dumaguete, Dapitan, Calapan, General Santos, Cotabato City, Bago City, Surigao City, Koronadal, and Bangued.

On April 30, 1999, the PNHS received the “Gawad Sentenaryo” from the National Centennial Commission “Bilang pagkilala at pasasalamat sa mahalagang pakikiisa nito sa layunin at adhikain ng Komisyon upang maisakatuparan ang matagumpay na Pagdiriwang ng Sentenaryo ng Kasarinlan ng Pilipinas noong ika-12 ng Hunyo, 1998.”

The PNHS is proud of the tradition begun in 1978 to hold its national conference on local and national history. These conferences have been held all over the archipelago in an effort to bring to teachers and students of history the most recent researches on local and national history and related disciplines, as they also encourage researches on local history and national history. In Luzon up to Kabikolan, five national conferences have been held – in UP Diliman (1984), Ateneo de Naga (1990), Ateneo de Manila (1996) and UP College Baguio (1999), and again in Ateneo de Naga (2000). In the Visayas, seven conferences have been convened – at Silliman University, Dumaguete (1979) and again in 2001; with the Negros Occidental Historical Commission in Bacolod City (1980); at San Carlos University in Cebu City (1981) and at UP Cebu College in 2002; at Palawan State University in Puerto Princesa (1994); and at Leyte Normal University in Tacloban City (1998. The PNHS has convened the most number of national conferences in Mindanao and Sulu – twelve altogether, in the following institutions: Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro (1978); Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (1982); Surigao City Historical Commission in Surigao City (1985); Mindanao State University-General Santos City (1987 and 1989); Butuan City Historical Commission (1988); Mindanao State University–Marawi (1991); Mindanao State University–Bongao, Tawi-Tawi (1992); University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato (1993); Western Mindanao State University in Zamboanga City (1995); Mindanao State University- Jolo (1997); and Surigaonon Heritage Center , Surigao City (2003).

In each of these conferences, a conference theme is featured in order to draw attention to the region where the conference is held. For instance, the following themes were chosen for the various conferences: “Local Traditions and National History” in Tawi-Tawi; “Focus on Maguindanao Studies” in Kabacan; “Focus on Palawan Studies” in Puerto Princesa; “The Lumad, the Bangsa Moro and the Christian Filipino: Documentary History of the Philippines” in Zamboanga; “The Muslim Filipinos in Philippine History” in Jolo; “The Unknown and Unsung Heroes of the Revolution: A Centennial Tribute” in Tacloban; “History and the New Millennium: Northern Luzon in Perspective” in Baguio; “The Millenarian Movements, Historical and Contemporary: Perspectives for the New Millennium” in Naga; “A Century of Education in the Philippines,” in Dumaguete; “Towards a National History of the Philippines: Local History in the Context of National History” in Cebu City; and “Cultural History of the Philippines; Ethnohistory of Mindanao and Sulu” in Surigao City.

Aside from the annual national conferences, the PNHS Board has also started holding a series of informal fora on Philippine history, historiography and Philippine studies since October 2001. In a more intimate setting, a small and select group of academics/scholars discuss issues in historiography and explore new avenues of research on a variety of topics. To date, ten such fora have been held in the home of the PNHS President in UP Village.

With a proud record of achievements thus far, the PNHS continues with its various activities with greater vigor and inspiration to help build the Filipino nation, advance Filipino historical scholarship, develop the discipline of history, and contribute towards enabling us to understand Filipino society and solve social dilemmas besetting the nation.

Since 1998, the PNHS has counted a membership of 762 regular members all over the archipelago and 143 lifetime member,s including international members from Malaysia, Hong Kong, Spain, France, Ireland, and the United States.

[Portions of this article were written by Leslie E. Bauzon and published in the Philippine Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. II (Quezon City: Philippine Social Science Council, 1993). Updating of the history of the Philippine National Historical Society was done by Bernardita R. Churchill.]

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