Jonathan R. Matias
Miagao, Iloilo 5023 Philippines
Professor Johnston often said that if you didn't know history, you didn't know anything. You were a leaf that didn't know it was part of a tree.
~Michael Crichton, Timeline
Michael Crichton’s 1999 sci-fi novel, Timeline, was among the many compelling books I had read in the past and later turned into a movie. Many of his other novels – Andromeda Strain, Eaters of the Dead, Congo, ER, Sphere, Terminal Man, Rising Sun and Jurassic Park, just to name a few, had all been adapted for the cinema. Most of my book reading time was when riding the New York City subway going to and from work back in the days. It was only lately that I learned he had passed away many years ago and how remarkable a writer he was. At 14, he was already writing a column in The New York Times. In college, he switched to medical school because he had major disappointments with professors who disliked his literary style. Finishing his MD at Harvard University and then a post-doctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute, he decided that the medical profession was not his true calling and concentrated on writing instead. He never practiced medicine [1,2]
Timeline was of particular interest because of my growing passion to study the convergence of history and science. How to merge the two disciplines was a problem. I managed later on to mix both in a series of articles . Crichton’s novel about a futuristic time travel machine that sent archaeology students back in France during the Middle Ages, was personally compelling story for me. I had been pre-occupied with my own personal timelines—all the work I did had a built-in timeline in mind. I rarely succeeded in meeting my own set of timeline, but having it made me fit everything possible within the period of time I projected things to happen. Timeline was my futuristic guide through time.
Historical timelines are also a pre-occupation, a mental exercise about history. Without understanding timelines and how certain events happened in sequence, it is often not easy to make sense of why things happen throughout history.
And since I am living in Miag-ao for now, the history of the town became my new obsession. So, here I am again making a timeline, this time not mine, but that of my adopted town of Miag-ao.
Map of Panay Island in 1734. Even during this period, Miag-ao did not show up as a distinct entity. Damilisan and Guimbal are older arrabals, but between them was marked as Bongol. Is Bongol the old reference for Miag-ao?
1716 as the founding year of Miag-ao as a pueblo (town) did not make sense to me for some time now. History taught us that Miag-ao in 1580 was nothing more than a barrio of Oton, the first establish town in Iloilo province. Then Miag-ao became part of Tigbauan town until 1592 when it was then transferred under the jurisdiction of Guimbal. Miag-ao was like an orphan child nobody wanted whose care was relegated from one uninterested neighbor to another.
Then, who made Miag-ao a pueblo? Normally the Spanish friars are responsible for establishing a town as a way of aggregating the natives into a more manageable group, having the church as the center of activity, with the plaza and all the wealthier natives (and mestizos) building homes around the plaza. In Miag-ao, it was different. It was not the Church at all. The Spanish Civil Government simply decided to make Miag-ao an independent pueblo. Perhaps it was simply economics and for better accounting. Our Miag-ao of 1716 had 13,493 people and 2,974 houses. Of this population, there were 4,570 taxpayers. I can only suppose that the Spanish Governor of the province thought it best to make Miag-ao a new entity for better tax collection. After all, the governor and his officials use Miag-ao as the summer escape because of the beautiful shoreline filled with colorful sea shells. Miag-ao as the economic center also was likely the reason for the frequent Muslim raids during the 18th century. In 2016, those seashells are nowhere to be found. How interesting it would be to go back in time in Michael Crichton’s time machine to see how Miag-ao looked in 1716.
It was often surmised that Miag-ao became a town in 1731 during the election held in Guimbal to decide on the town officials to run Miag-ao -- Nicolas Pangkug as capitan (equivalent to mayor) and Diego Sale as teniente mayor (our equivalent of vice-mayor) were elected . I presumed that the attendance during this election by the then Spanish Governor Victorino made it a significant event in the province.
I was happy to receive the other day from Arjun Perez a copy of student undergraduate thesis by Ricza B. Fuentes published in 2008 . The footnote in page 40 was the reference on the evidence for the foundation of 2016. Here it is:
I think this settles the question of the year 1716 as Miag-ao’s true Foundation Day. Wouldn’t it be great to know what month and day it really was?
The dates on this timeline from 1716 to 1979 were chosen from dates in Elias N. Failagao’s book “History of Miagao,” which had already authenticated by the then National Historical Commission . The 80’s and up to today? After 1979, the salient events in Miag-ao seem less dramatic; meaningful events were far in between the years. Well, we are mostly living this period of history. The events of the last three decades just seemed ordinary. Fifty years from now people may think otherwise. For now I see no major events to qualify in the timeline other than those I have noted. I am sure there will be plenty of our readers who will beg to differ. Political events, such as who became mayor and other similar events are important, but not possible to list them. Otherwise, this will be a 20-page timeline and will be subject to much controversy in the upcoming election showdown of 2016. Perhaps that can be a subject of another timeline.
Miag-ao’s history is rich. It is a history of a people who struggled through the Spanish era, through successive Muslim raids, through the American invasion and the privation of the Japanese Occupation decades later. It is dynamic story of a people that survived and continuing to re-invent itself to find its proper place in the world.
Does history really matter? Miag-ao history is not taught in local schools. It is a situation not just in Miagao, but all over the country. I would be surprised to find ten high school students who would know our local hero, Tan Pedro Monteclaro, in more detail than simply a hero with a statue along the highway. Perhaps, that will change in due time when the ‘system of education’ begins to give equal value to local history.
As Lewis F. Powell, Jr. said, “History balances the frustration of "how far we have to go" with the satisfaction of "how far we have come." It teaches us tolerance for the human shortcomings and imperfections which are not uniquely of our generation, but of all time. “
As for an armchair historian like me, Tolstoy’s quote below seems to hit the mark.
Historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no one has asked them.
 Failagao, EN (1979) History of Miagao. Libertad Publishing, Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines
 Fuentes, RB (2008) Changes in the poblacion streets of Miagao, Iloilo (1716-2007). Undergraduate thesis, College of Arts and Sciences, University of the Philippines Visayas, Miagao, Iloilo.