PSHEV Holds International Conference to Commemorate Philippine-Spanish Relations
By Michael Pante
On July 23 to 24, 2020, the renowned journal of the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints (PSHEV), held an online international conference to commemorate the five centuries of Philippine-Spanish relations, which began with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in the islands in 1521. Titled “The Philippines, Spain, and Globalization, Sixteenth Century to the Present: An International Conference,” the event gathered scholars from different parts of the globe with the aid of the video conferencing application, Zoom.
A total of 52 paper presentations were delivered, bannered by the keynote addresses of Prof. Xavier Huetz de Lemps of the University of Côte d’Azur, and Fr. René Javellana, SJ of the Ateneo de Manila University. Prof. Huetz de Lemps talked about a new “necrogeography,” a concept he used to analyze how the dynamics between “secular pressures of the colonial authorities and stubborn resistance of the clergy” affected the practices related to Spanish-colonial cemeteries and burial rituals. Fr. Javellana’s lecture, curiously titled “The Hall, The Knot, the Name, and the Indians,” focused on Jesuit influences on Philippine art and architecture during the colonial period.
This event marked the first time that the university hosted a fully online international conference, as pointed out by Dr. Fernando T. Aldaba, Dean of the School of Social Sciences, in his opening remarks. Initially, the journal team intended to hold the usual, in-person academic gathering, but it had to change plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much like how the Philippines became an intercontinental trading hub during the Spanish colonial period, the event facilitated new forms of global connections. Despite the inconveniences of being in time zones widely different from the Philippines, conference participants based in Spain, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Mexico delivered papers and interacted with scholars based in Asia, including a number from Indonesia and Singapore. For example, one panel featured two pairs of scholars from Europe (Luis Castellví Laukamp of the University of Manchester, and Rocío Ortuño Casanova of the University of Antwerp) and the USA (Diego Javier Luis of Brown University, and Richard Chu of the University of Massachusetts) who are engaged in studies on the Chinese in the Philippines. Their papers covered a wide range of topics, from Chinese settlements in early-seventeenth-century Manila to Sinophobia in the Spanish Philippines. Teresita Ang-See, a prominent scholar and civic leader of the Tsinoy community, attended this panel as a member of the audience.
The conference also received a boost from social media, as it was live streamed through YouTube and Facebook, with a combined average viewership of around 100. As a result, online viewers could weigh in on the discussions in real time by posting questions and comments, to which presenters were also able to respond.
Although some of the dynamics of a face-to-face event were missing, the conference still had lively conversations in all sessions. As Dr. María Dolores Elizalde Pérez-Grueso of the Instituto de Historia, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) in Madrid said, “The conference has been extremely interesting, and the organization, perfect.” ■