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Paul Morrow

    The start of something truly significant


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  “History is not finished once a history book is written.”  

“I was hanging around with college students for the entire week as one of the ‘crew’” – Dr. Mike helps with the decorations for the Barrio Piyesta


Months ago, when the members of Aksyon Ng Ating Kabataan (ANAK– Filipino Youth in Action) told me that they were organizing a week of Philippine Studies at the University of Winnipeg, I said, “Where do I sign up?”

At the time I didn’t even know what was going to be taught at the summer institute or who was going to teach it, but the chance to study anything about the Philippines at the university level here in Winnipeg was something I could not pass up. I looked forward to filling in, or at least illuminating, the holes in my knowledge of Philippine history, which is obviously one of my interests.

For the members of ANAK, however, and Filipino-Canadians in general, this first step toward establishing a permanent programme of Philippine Studies in Canada holds a much more profound meaning. According to ANAK’s executive director, Darlyne Bautista, “We’re lighting a path for the next generation who won’t grow up confused, who won’t grow up without an identity. So, for us, this is very important not just for Winnipeg but all of Canada.”

The course, which ran from July 9-13, was billed as an Introduction to the History and Culture of the Philippines. Its ambitious goal was to give an overview of the entire known history of the Philippines from the beginning of time until the present, including the history of Filipino migration to America.

The visiting instructor was Dr. Michael Cullinane, Associate Director for the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Mike, as his students call him, presented the whirlwind trip through time in an energetic and entertaining fashion; sharing with the class plenty of funny historical asides as well as personal anecdotes from his U.S. Peace Corps experiences in the Philippines in the 1960s, his seven years living in Cebu City during the 1970s and his yearly visits to the country since then.

From day one, when Dr. Cullinane started the course with a brief geography lesson delivered by way of a music video of the late novelty songster, Yoyoy Villame (Philippine Geography) to the end of the 20th century (on day five) with the protest rock of The Jerks singing Paalam [Goodbye] Uncle Sam, the stereotype of a stodgy old history professor was definitely absent from the classroom.

The class of 35 students, 15 of whom will take a final exam to receive 1.5 credit hours toward their university degree, included not only Filipinos of various ages and professional backgrounds, but also several interested non-Filipinos.

On the first day Nolan Reilly, the Chair of the History department at the University of Winnipeg introduced Dr. Cullinane to the class. “I went to the class with the intention of perhaps staying for the first few minutes but I found it so interesting that I not only stayed for the first morning but I’ve gone to every class. I’ve been a very good student.”

  I went to the class with the intention of staying for the first few minutes but I’ve gone to every class.” – Dr. Nolan Reilly (centre) with (l-r) Maureen Justiniano, Dr. Cullinane, Darlyne Bautista and Jan Nato at Dr. Mike’s evening lecture, Bayan Ko and the Anti-Marcos Movement
  Dr. Mike says good-bye at the end of a fun and productive week

Another student was Takahiro Senuma from Japan who signed up for the course after reading about it on a poster. He said that he knew very little about the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during the Second World War and he wanted to learn more.

If this first summer institute is any indication, a permanent Philippine Studies programme could prove to be valuable not only for Filipinos as a way to learn about their own culture but also as a way to promote the understanding of Filipino culture in the mainstream of Canadian society.

“This is really just the beginning,” said Cullinane, “it’s an effort to start something that is truly significant… The next step here, though, would be to integrate a more sustained programme and the key thing there would be to find someone in the community in Canada or the U.S. to be the centre of that. I think that would be a more substantial step [but] I love to do these summer institutes.

“My only regret about the class,” he continued, “was that we didn’t have enough time to just sit around and talk with people. If I came back again it might be to do something with a smaller group, to focus and combine some research and do some serious reading. In other words, take it to another step… and try to produce something. That would be fun.”

Dr. Cullinane also pointed out that a more focussed summer institute would not necessarily be about Filipino history; it could be on current political and economic affairs in the Philippines or sociology and anthropology with other instructors.

Concerning the course that was just completed, Cullinane said, “This class was an incredibly successful thing for me, because, first of all, it was fun because I got to teach about the Philippines, which is what I love to do, and secondly because the students were very responsive. Nobody fell asleep!”

Considering the pace that Dr. Mike and the ANAK students had set for themselves, sleep was a low priority. Apart from delivering a three-hour lecture every morning and one on Monday evening, Dr. Cullinane attended every evening function after touring the sites in and around Winnipeg with the ANAK group during the afternoons.

“It has been a very full experience. I already feel quite familiar with Winnipeg at this point – certainly with the Filipino community,” said Cullinane.
On the final day of the course, Dr. Mike showed no signs of slowing down when he went straight from the morning class to help decorate the U of W’s Riddell Hall for the wind up Barrio Piyesta, held later that evening.

“I spoke to my wife the other night,” he said, “and I was saying that I was hanging around with college students for the entire week as one of the ‘crew’ – and that’s actually been quite fun.”

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The “graduates” of Canada’s first Philippine Studies Summer Institute at the University of Winnipeg
Field trip to Oak Hammock Marsh
After-lecture dinner with Flor Marcelino, member of the Manitoba legislature (right)