Event — Conference

Final Report on the Seventh International Conference on Philippine Studies (ICOPHIL)

16-19 June 2004

Leiden, The Netherlands 

Seventh International Conference on Philippine Studies
"The Philippines: Changing Landscapes, Manscapes, and Mindscapes in a Globalizing World"
Leiden, the Netherland

Final Report by Prof. O.D. van den Muijzenberg



Favored by a spell of pleasant weather, the Seventh International Conference on Philippine Studies (ICOPHIL) was held in Leiden, the Netherlands from 16 to 19 June, 2004. After three such conferences in the United States, two in the Philippines and one in Australia, this was the first time for Philipinists from the five continents to congregate in Europe to discuss their work under the title The Philippines, changing landscapes, humanscapes, and mindscapes in a globalizing world. About two hundred and fifty participants from 22 countries attended. Almost all of them presented a paper. By far the largest contingent of speakers (94) came from the Philippines. Among the origins of other major delegations were the host country, the Netherlands (43), the USA (38) and  Japan (11).

Opening of the conference

The conference was opened in the historic Pieterskerk with a keynote speech by the Philippine Secretary of Education, Dr. Edilberto C. de Jesus, a historian of the Philippine 19th century, who discussed the growing ‘digital divide' in the Philippines as well as between the country and its neighbors and the developed world. He positioned the lagging ICT-modernization of his country in an international comparison and proceeded to analyse this against the background of other ‘divides' in the Philippines, like religious divisions and potential tensions, the socio-economic divide between the rich and the poor, which is strengthened by the political make-up of the country. Recent publications show a strengthening of political family dynasties which enlarges this divide. The result is alienation from politics among the citizens. Focussing on education, the speaker emphasized another divide, between a tiny number of  top schools and a mass of under-funded, under-equipped and under-manned schools, which results in only half of the young Filipinos completing basic education. Recognizing the need for improving ICT literacy he stressed the pre-eminent need to improve functional literacy and numeracy. Among several policy measures intended to ‘bridge the educational divide', Secretary De Jesus mentioned the ‘bridge program', which allows weak students to study an extra year in order to enter High School, appointment of more teachers, education vouchers for poor families and (self) regularisation of the Islamic religious schools.

Philippine ambassador to the Netherlands, H.E. Romeo A. Arguelles, addressed the conference expressing the hope that the Philippine studies conference would provide insights and inspiration for public servants striving for improving the performance of government. Finally, the convenor of ICOPHIL, Professor Otto van den Muijzenberg, pointed out that the conference finally realized a wish formulated by Philippine national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal in the late nineteenth century to bring together students of the Philippines from all over the world in Europe and organize them in an international association. He briefly reflected on past conferences and the importance of conducting the 7th ICOPHIL in the Netherlands.  The speeches were interlaced with Philippine melodies sung by Ms. Mary Ann Morales.

The conference: papers, panels, and participants

Three days followed of intensive discussions on papers which were made accessible digitally beforehand. The papers were arranged in 60 panel sessions. Brief presentations allowed for exchange of views, even though in many cases participants felt that discussion time was too short. The second and third days and were opened with brief plenary sessions which were adressed by Dr. Susan D. Russell (University of Northern Illinois) and Dr. Charles MacDonald (Université de Marseilles).

Special sessions were devoted to the recent (May) round of elections in the Philippines and to the state-of-the art in Philippine Studies. Furhtermore, two roundtables were organized: 1) From plural society to multiculturalism and civil society: differentiation or integration?, which was held in honour of Prof. O.D. van den Muijzenberg, who retired earlier in 2004 and

2) International cooperation in the Philippines: Sharing experiences

The diversity of subjects and disciplines was too large to warrant specification here. They were grouped under several titles. A new and interdisciplinary field was Biodiversity (10 papers) whereas Development issues (5) had been part of earlier conferences. Also in correspondence with the contemporary development discourse were papers on the Environment, dealing with land use changes in agriculture and the forests, measures to enhance productivity and methods of modelling various ways of using land. In a country of more than 7000 islands, water naturally  came under scrutiny as well (23)

The global reach of Philippine studies became evident through papers presented under the common denominator Filipino Diaspora, which covered family, community, identity, entrepreneurship, integration and reintegration of Filipino global migrants and their descendants (18 papers). For the first time the hundreds of thousands of sea-based overseas migrants received ample scholarly attention (9 papers). The Philippines was also debated in its global geopolitical context and international relations including recent developments of terrorism(5).

The Philippines is known as one of the most natural hazard-prone countries in the world, but it is only rather recently that academic studies started to systematically investigate this field. A focus on Disasters and natural hazards brought researchers together from history, physical geography, economics and sociology (5). Eight papers dealt with various issues that were briefly preluded upon by the keynote speaker on present and past developments in Philippine education. A topic like Gender and Sexuality (9 papers) has been on the academic and societal agendas for quite some time, but the various papers by anthropologists, historians, linguistics and literature and psychologists offered new vistas, as well as unknown material. Partly overlapping in themes discussed were two panels on Philippine Youth (7 papers), with special attention to sexual risk taking and  behavioral innovations among young Filipinos and Filipinas.

The largest single cluster was called History (32). Such a general name of course covered panels of strongly varying content: economic history (5), the Philippines under the American colonial empire in three panels (13), may be seen as recurring clusters. Violence and the Philippine state (3) Panels on Portuguese historiography and sources on the Philippines (3), the Chinese-Filipinos (3) and a more general panel (5) completed the successive sessions.

As a former colony, nation-building processes, both in their political and cultural dimensions are a major preoccupation of scholars (9 papers). Several of the issues raised there were deepened in a cluster on Contesting Discourses on Religion, Revolution, Civil Society and Nationalism (9 papers).  

In the past, Indigenous Peoples  were studied only by anthropologists, but in the past two decades attention to their being oppressed and chased away from their ancestral lands has grown both among themselves as well as nationally and internationally. A variety of ethnographic, legal, environmental, representational, and humanrights issues were discussed in 18 papers presented in five sessions.


Cultural activities, museum exhibition, and excursion

In the context of the conference, the National Ethnographic Museum in Leiden mounted a special exhibition on part of its, until now unused, collection of Philippine ethnographic objects, collected by a German gentleman in the late nineteenth century (Alexander Schadenberg). Photographs from the same period from the collection of his friend, the Dutch consul in Manila completed the exhibition (P.K.A. Meerkamp van Embden), which was opened on the second day of the conference.

On the cultural side, several sessions Philippine Literature and Language (13 papers) were strongly focused on the sociolinguistic dimension, more particularly on oral traditions. The more linguistic analysis of Philippine languages was somewhat underrepresented. Three of the four Russian participants in the conference contributed to this cluster. A special panel was devoted to Philippine films as a special medium of representation (3). 

In the abovementioned clusters of panels important sectors of the Philippine economy received extensive attention, but additional panels were organized to discuss developments in Mining (3) and Tourism (4) Last, but not least, were the geographical, sociological, anthropological and historical contributions on various dimensions of  the ongoing metropolisation of MetroManila and MetroCebu (9 papers).

Apart from music, films, and the museum exhibition mentioned above, a much-acclaimed extracurricular activity was the plenary boatdinner to bird park Avifauna, some twenty kilometers from Leiden. The park recently opened a special section devoted to Philippine birds, especially hornbills and is engaged in a breeding programme that contributes to nature conservation in the Philippines. The extend of the conservation activities for this Philippine species impressed many of our guests from the Philippines.

The international organizing committee

The conference organization was a joint effort of a group of Philipinists from major academic centers in the Netherlands, and an admirably efficient staff provided by the International Institute for Asian Studies under Drs. Marloes Rozing. The Organizing Committee received vital help from the international board of Philippine Studies Conferences, namely Professor Belinda A. Aquino (Hawaii) and the Philippine Studies Association of the Philippines (chair: Professor Bernardita R. Churchill).   

Sponsors and support

The conference was generously sponsored by the International Institute for Asian studies (IIAS), the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds/Oost Europafonds, the Prince Claus Fund and the Research School for Asian, African and Amerindian Studies CNWS. A Young Filipino Scholars Fund was set up for the purpose of  supporting the attendance of fourteen Filipino scholars, whereas special funds were acquired to enable their Eastern European colleagues to be present.

The business meeting of the International Board of Philippine Studies Conferences decided to encourage the continuation of regional  Philippine Studies Conferences like the Japanese Philipine studies Conference (2005), Europhil, to be held in 2007 and to support the next (8th) ICOPHIL to be held in conjunction with the Centennial of the University of the Philippines (2008).

Word of thanks

The Organizers would like to thank the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) for its crucial organizational support and the above mentioned sponsors for their contributions, which contributed greatly to the succes of the conference (see attachments).

Otto van den Muijzenberg

On behalf of the Organizing Committee and the Conference Secretariat

Greg Bankoff, University of Auckland and Wageningen University
Erhard Berner, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague
Aurora Galindo, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague
Thea Hilhorst, Wageningen University
Ton van Naerssen, Catholic University Nijmegen
Gerard Persoon, Leiden University
Rosanne Rutten, University of Amsterdam
Denyse Snelder, Leiden University
Wim Stokhof, Leiden University/ IIAS
Willem Wolters, Catholic University Nijmegen

Marloes Rozing, IIAS

Bastiaan van de Loo, IIAS

Amis Boersma, IIAS