Monday, January 14, 2008


my forays into the legislative archives in the house of representatives have done much to actualize some of the discussions we've had regarding historical research since last semester. it seems that the most effective way to learn how to conduct historical research is to actually DO it (with the ample preparation and theoretical foundations laid out of course) and it is in the "doing it" part that I come face-to-face with many of the points that ma'am diokno would often emphasize:

point #1: you think you've got your topic all figured out, but sometimes the immensity of history could get the better of you

OK, this is where most of us had a problem at the onset. Even during the making of our research proposals we'd encounter problems caused by our topics themselves. For example, one of my classmates figured that he could conduct oral interviews as a basis for his research paper, two lectures on oral history later and he's wondering if he went way over his head with his topic. (and chosen method of data-gathering)He remarked to us, "Hirap pala mag-interview no?"

Personally, the problem I encountered with a text and document based research is that the immense data that you could gather could cause you to go off on a tangent and soon you'd find yourself reading an article that isn't even related to your topic, instead of skippinf ahead to the part that's relevant. When reading newspapers in the 40's i often spend more time poring over the advertisements and the comics. It's just that the things you find out about a period almost 4 decades ago are so interesting. It was indeed an effort on my part to rein myself in and not let curiosity (or too much interest and enthusiasm) get the better of me.

that's why a clear and ordered proposal is needed so that your topic is clearly laid out, your points carefully delineated, your time frame sufficiently established, and your sources easily accesible so that your won't find yourself in the middle of your research work asking yourself, "Why am I doing this, again?"

point #2: history is so immense that unfortunately only a small fraction of it gets remembered and recorded

this is what I think poses a great challenge in my search for sources in the archives of congress have yielded a considerable amount of valuable primary evidence. BUT! some pieces of evidence are missing...and unfortunately I confirmed that most are lost with no hope of retrieval.

Like a committee report that I read about in the Congressional Records. I requested said committee report along with transcripts of committee hearings and several folders later, I did not find said committee report. Archivists told me that this is not an uncommon case for old files since it was only recently that they implemented a newer filing system. That, and the fact that the Congress had been subjected to a number of address changes could count as a reason for the loss of said document. Sayang...

I count myself lucky that even though the documents of committee meetings for 1961 are few, those that survive pertain to the time period that I was researching. Imagine, for the whole year of 1961, March lang nga transcripts of meetings ang available and in some transcripts there are glaring ommisions especially of crucial evidence -- hambal sang archivist basi classified info...

And how's this for serendipity? -- tucked away in a folder containing info unrelated to my topic is another transcript of a meeting regarding communist infiltration of student orgs during the 1960's! just what I was looking for! unfortunately page 1 was missing therefore I have no idea on the exact date of said committee meeting...I would have to look for clues within the text of the transcript to divine the said missing info.

Point #3: Most often, pieces of evidence have a tendency to corroborate each other. This is important in ensuring accuracy in the historical study.

I think that I could use this point to my advantage given the lack of some significant primary sources. Newspaper reports usually recap the discussions of previous committee hearings. Privileged speeches of congressmen oftentimes refer to facts and events related to the committee hearings. There are still a number of witnesses who are alive and coherent enough to be interviewed. So all is not lost. Depende lang 'yan kung gaano kasugid ang mananaliksik hehehe

A side note: It's seems that my decision to take spanish lessons are paying off. Ran across a transcript wherein the committee was interrogating a witness -- in spanish. and I'm glad to say that I understood what I was reading. well...almost everything. which was a good sign since I recall last sem when I read a congressional debate in spanish I couldn't make heads or tails of what they were saying. Now, several lessons on spanish grammar later, I could understand about 40% of the text hehe.

Esta bien que estudio espaƱol yo. hahaha my half-assed effort at saying "it's good that I am studying spanish" wonder if it's correct though -- I'm still a long way toward crafting a good sentence in spanish. hehe

whew! three more weeks to go before we have to turn in our research paper...and I'm still stuck in the data-gathering stage. Nakupo! we need to speed things up a bit...wish me luck!

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