The Thanksgiving story Filipinos need to know

As an American holiday it remains a commemoration of the country's birth, its victories, and its continued status as the Land of the Free. However it is also important to note that Native American communities still consider Thanksgiving Day a National Day of Mourning when they remember the courage of their ancestors whose land was forcibly taken from them by the early European settlers. 

Why is this relevant to Filipinos?

Just like Magellan did not "discover" the Philippines, Columbus did not "discover" America. It was inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived.  When Magellan arrived on our shores in 1521, we already had language, social systems, a form of government, and even a system of trade. We were not "discovered" at all, but instead we were conquered. 

The Thanksgiving story is relevant to Filipinos because as a country that has been repeatedly colonized over the past 500 years, we know about historical revisionism all too well. From being taught that the Spanish occupation's only objective was to propagate Christianity, and that the American and Japanese forces came to the Philippines to be our "friends," history has a way of sweeping colonization's greatest offenses under the rug, and people are only too eager to believe and repeat the more pleasing versions of these stories.

Celebrating an American Thanksgiving to commemorate the arrival of the Europeans in Native American land is like celebrating the Bombing of Manila or the Bataan Death March with a feast year after year, and saying that these days were about friendship and brotherhood. 

If we are to celebrate Thanksgiving, let's focus on how it gathers families together to give thanks for their blessings. Let's mention the families and communities that were driven out or killed so that America could be what it is today.

Let's teach the real story of Thanksgiving to our children as well as the more valuable lesson that what we read in history books is not always the truth, and that believing the wrong version of the past directly influences our present and changes where we are headed. It is the stories that outlive us and propel our society forward.

Happy Thanksgiving! –

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