Telling people that I studied in the UP Department of History opened doors a lot of times. Opportunities came, even access to people, sources and research materials.
But more than that, the discipline first taught to me in the BA History program provided me the basic research skills I needed to become a more diligent historian. Having been taught by the best in the field gave me the confidence to speak, write and do research and publish them in academic journals.
More so, the MA History program helped me look at research in a multi-disciplinary way and made me learn through my cognate courses the value of the ethnographic gaze in considering the people’s view of pur society. The visiting graduate professors also provided an international perspective.
Also, having contacts with the faculty and fellow students kept me abreast with the state of the art in the field of Philippine History, especially the latest discoveries and researches even before they are published or proliferated. This helped me a lot with my work as a consultant, commentator, historical segment writer and host on television to deliver the most updated facts to the public.
More importantly, the discipline, as taught in the UP Department of History during my time, told us that “Kasaysayan” is “salaysay na may saysay para sa bayang sinasalaysayan.” The definition reminded me always that my work as educator, historian and broadcaster is not just telling history for history’s sake, but that it should have “saysay” for the people we ought to serve.
The discipline, taught to me by the UP Department of History, gave me the skills and confidence to help bring history closer to the people.
I am a Foreign Service Officer, a.k.a. a career diplomat of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for more than 10 years. I joined the DFA in 2008. As an FSO, I have served in various capacities both here at the Home Office and our Posts abroad.
I was Principal Assistant at the Office of the Undersecretary for Administration, Acting Director for Internal Audit Service, Acting Director for Media and Public Affairs and, very recently, Acting Director for South and Central Asia. I served as Vice Consul and Administrative Officer at our post in Dubai, UAE and as Consul in Osaka, Japan.
In both foreign postings I have also acted as Political Officer, Information Officer, Security Officer, Head of Assistance to Nationals, Head of the Passport and Civil Registration Units, Visa Unit, Administrative Officer and Chair of Overseas Registration, Resident Election Registration Board (RERB) and Special Board of Election Inspector (SBEI). I have officiated mass weddings, led campaigns for cultural programs, acted as Team Leader for consular services, as well as repatriation activities.
History as a discipline is an excellent preparation for a career in the Foreign Service. Diplomacy is about getting under the skin of another country, understanding its people, its culture, and its government while at the same time making that other country understand us so we could work together toward a mutually beneficial relationship anchored on mutual trust and respect. To borrow from a senior colleague, our work is to build bridges of understanding where none exists for our people, the Filipino people, to tread.
History provides a glimpse of how to build that bridge. It equips you with a deeper sense of understanding of what has transpired in the past and how the present came to be. Through history you will find a people’s aspirations, their struggles, their loses and their victories. It allows you to better understand the values they hold dear, their needs, interests, and behavior.
Research and writing are top skills the discipline of History offers. These skills are very relevant in diplomacy. Communication is essential in the success of diplomacy, while research provides the complete staff work so required.
And to state the obvious, History armed me with the much needed in-depth knowledge of our own country. A profound sense of our history is something that all Filipino diplomats should possess, not just a grasp of the stories of our past, but an earnest appreciation of the story of the present as we write a finer future for our country and our people.