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LIST: Most challenged PH history books, resources to exercise your freedom to read

By NICK GARCIA Published Jun 12, 2022 4:00 pm

Reading (books) gives knowledge, and as mentioned time and again, knowledge is power.

Throughout history, authorities worldwide have banned books that they think are obscene, if not subversive. The Philippines, of course, has had its fair share of censorship and curtailment when it comes to the written word.

As we celebrate Independence Day, here's a list of reading materials that were taken off shelves, banned production and, like any other source material, allow you to exercise your freedom to read in full.

Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo by José Rizal

José Rizal, considered as the country's national hero, ruffled the feathers of Spanish authorities during the Spanish occupation with his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

The novels depicted frailes as corrupt and hypocritical. In Noli, the character Padre Salvi, for instance, was behind the killing of altar boy Crispin after accusing him of stealing without proof.

The more infamous Padre Damaso was later revealed to be the biological father of Maria Clara, the love interest of protagonist Crisostomo Ibarra, whose dead father's remains were earlier ordered exhumed by Damaso. Salvi is also shown secretly lusting over Maria and later on sexually abuses her, as implied, when she enters the convent as a nun.

In El Fili, Ibarra, who's presumed dead after a shootout during Noli's events, returns after over a decade and assumes the new identity Simoun.

He's hell-bent on exacting revenge and starting a revolution against the Spanish government. Later in the novel, Simoun brought a lamp that's actually a bomb meant to kill church leaders and government officials at a wedding reception.

Rizal was exiled to Dapitan in Mindanao from 1982 to 1986 for his novels. In 1986, he was arrested and put to trial for rebellion, sedition, and conspiracy. He was then ordered executed by a firing squad.

In 1956, Noli and El Fili became part of the Philippine education system via Republic Act 1425 or Rizal Law, which requires all schools to teach the life and works of Rizal.

Foremost Filipino diplomat and writer Leon Ma. Guerrero's translations under Anvil Publishing are available on its website and e-commerce platforms Shopee and Lazada. The Penguin Classics edition of the books, translated by American scholar Harold Augenbraum from the original Castilian Spanish with annotations, are also up for grabs and available at popular bookstores National Bookstore and Fully Booked.

The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos by Primitivo Mijares

In The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Primitivo Mijares, the late dictator's media adviser, exposed the "massive corruption and military abuses" during the martial law period, and the "schemes that built and held its infrastructure."

The book, first published in 1976 by Union Square Publications, was subsequently banned while the Marcoses were still in power. Mijares, meanwhile, disappeared a year after the book's first publication.

In 2017, Primitivo's grandson JC Mijares Gurango relaunched the book with Ateneo University Press, with revisions and annotations.

The publishing house has received a surge in orders when Marcos Sr.'s son and namesake Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. won as president-elect in the May 9 polls.

In a Facebook post, Ateneo University Press said it closed Conjugal Dictatorship reservations for the time being. Soft copies of the 700-page book, meanwhile, are also making rounds online.

The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos by Carmen Navarro Pedrosa

Journalist Carmen Navarro Pedrosa, a former STAR columnist who passed on last June 8, was known for her biographical books about the former first lady Imelda. Her most (in)famous book was The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos, originally published in 1969.

"A modern Cinderella story, it tells of how she rose from being a destitute child to becoming the most powerful woman of the country," the publisher's note reads.

It was banned by the Marcoses during Martial Law, and Pedrosa's family were exiled to London for 20 years. Before going out of print, over 300,000 copies of the book were sold, and was translated into French, Japanese, and Portugese.

After the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, Pedrosa's second Imelda biography The Rise and Fall of Imelda Marcos was published in 1987 and in 2016, a semi-autobiographical book in Imelda Romualdez Marcos: The Verdict followed.

Reading materials related to CPP-NPA-NDF

In September 2021, three state universities in Kalinga, Isabela, and Aklan removed from their libraries "subversive" books and other materials from and about the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People's Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

A month after, the Commission on Higher Education-Cordillera Administrative Region made things "official" via Regional Memorandum No. 113, s. 2021, saying all Higher Education Institutions in CAR "are encouraged to join the region-wide removal of subversive materials both in libraries and online platforms."

Isabela State University

The memo defined subversive materials as “literatures, references, publications, resources, and items that contain pervasive ideologies of the Communist-Terrorist Groups," which should be turned over to local counterparts of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Among the materials removed was the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, a landmark agreement between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDF.

The 15-page public document, which is actually available onlineseals the first of the four substantive agenda laid out by the two parties. The agreement was signed by NDFP chairman Mariano Orosa on April 10, 1998, and President Erap Estrada on Aug. 7, 1998.