ARCHIVES AREN’T GUARDIANS OF TRUTH BUT POWER
Some Filipinos claim that the Marcos regime was the golden age of the Philippine economy. That is especially true for Marcos’ supporters when asked about what they think of our economy during Martial Law. Perhaps, that’s what they have read or heard about. However, there are also Filipinos who are actively debunking this claim. This starkly leads me to confusion.
Why are there two sides to the story? So I desperately searched for the answer. It’s true that the Philippine economy was on the rise, but that argument is only effective at the start of the Marcos regime. Historical records also prove that the economy was already failing at the latter part of his dictatorship.
Analyzing the reason behind these two contrasting claims has brought me to examine the nature of archives where information is being stored. The traditional belief about archives is a good frame of reference to start the discussion.
What then are archives and what do they have to do with power? Archives are the collection of historical records. Society thinks that archives are impartial, neutral, and passive repositories of facts. But that isn’t necessarily true.
The reality is that these archives are not guardians of truth but of power. This collection of information about the past has the propensity to shape and reinvent the collective memory, social and cultural identity, and including how people perceive and understand themselves.
The choice of what records to preserve and what accounts not to maintain is heavily influenced by powerful individuals and social institutions. For instance, the Marcoses, being so influential and powerful can shape and determine how the future will look like by clearing off some historical accounts while maintaining those favorable in defending, strengthening, and safeguarding their power.
But why is there a different claim about the past? Marcoses were not the only powerful family during that time. There are oppositions and historians that can create records based on their needs and what they know about. Their historical accounts also undeniably shaped our present.
The influence of rulers, government, church, and individuals holding power is a factor in shaping history. Schwartz and Cook argue that the archives are active sites where power is constantly debated, negotiated, and contested. They are neither neutral nor passive storage of facts. That is why it’s a necessity to examine the history of evidence and truth.