A compilation of Dutch travel accounts in the Philippines during the late-1900s have made it possible for Filipinos to get a glimpse of past conditions in the country through the eyes of foreign nationals.
In celebration of the 65 years of Philippines and Netherlands diplomatic ties and the 150th anniversary of its consular relations, the Kingdom of Netherlands Embassy, together with the Ateneo de Manila University Press, launched two books written and translated by Dutch nationals Otto van de Muijzenberg and Geert van der Linden.
In the book Colonial Manila, 1909-1912: Three Dutch Travel Accounts, writer Muijzenberg retells the travels of suffragist and doctor Aletta Jacobs who was accompanied by scholars Gerret Rouffaer and Hendrik Muller to Manila in 1910 to see how the “benevolent assimilation” imposed by the Americans was affecting Filipino culture and tradition.
According to Muijzenberg, who is a former professor of sociology and modern history of south and southeast Asia at the University of Amsterdam, Jacobs was able to contribute a big change to Philippine society as opposed to usual foreign nationals traveling to the country.
“Travelers often have quite outspoken opinions of what they see and hear, but they seldom have any impact on the society visited. Dr. Aletta Jacobs and her friend Carry Chapman Catt stood at the cradle of what they proudly call the Philippines’s first multiracial women’s organization, which gradually changed and led to the women’s voting rights in the 1930s. We can, therefore, say these two ladies had a bit more influence in the host societies,” Muijzenberg said.
Jacobs and her team set up what was called as “the first multiracial” social and suffragist organization, which would later be known as the Manila Women’s Club.
Meanwhile, the book A Visit to Manila and its Environs is a travel account by Dutch Jacob Wiselius during his visit to Manila and Laguna province in 1875. The book has been translated to English by van der Linden.
Wiselius was positioned in the colonial administration in Indonesia during the time Spaniards occupied the Philippines and was observing how Spain manages its colony in Asia.
Dutch Ambassador Marion Derckx said the books are a good way to revisit the past through different perspectives.
“We are proud to present these books to the Filipino audience for the first time as part of our commitment in strengthening the Netherland’s relationship with the Philippines. These books are meant to inform, educate and inspire Filipinos by remembering how rich and diverse the country’s history is through the lenses of Dutch authors,” Derckx said.
University of the Philippines Diliman Prof. Maria Cynthia Rose Banzon said the books are also a good reference material for schools to have an insight on Philippine history that can spark discussion on the other areas that may have not been looked at by local authors.
“The book is a valuable instruction material. It is replete with observation and insights that could stimulate analysis and a lively discussion in a class on Philippine society and culture. The book opens the discussion of the value of travelogues and their contributions and methodological limitations. Notwithstanding, given the way they are translated and edited, their rich insights that we can deepen and further research. It is interesting also to see the comparison of the Philippines in the 1900s, as seen in the eyes of the Europeans with different temperaments and the same themes and situations in contemporary Philippines,” Banzon said.
In August the Dutch Embassy partnered with artist collective Dakila in bringing the Active Vista Human Rights Film Festival to Manila.
Being a staunch advocate of human rights and the promotion of human dignity, the embassy showcased both Filipino and Dutch films that delve on world problems affecting human condition.
For the closing of the film festival, 2015 Filipino thriller drama Honor Thy Father by Erik Matti was screened. The movie gained recognition in the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was screened.