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Why History is Not 'Chismis', According to Historians

Based on facts, not opinion.
by Arianne Merez
Jul 5, 2022
Photo/s: Screenshot from Presidential Museum and Library on Flickr
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An actress' comment comparing history to chismis or gossip has spurred conversations online, prompting historians to clarify that the discipline is based on facts, not opinion.

The comment was made by Ella Cruz as she discussed her portrayal of Irene Marcos-Araneta, daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., in an upcoming film that shows the last hours of the family in Malacañan Palace before their exile to Hawaii in 1986. It's the first feature film to tell the story from the family's perspective.

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“History is like chismis. It is filtered and dagdag na rin, so, hindi natin alam what is the real history. Andoon na iyong idea, pero may mga bias talaga. As long as we’re here, alive at may kanya-kanyang opinion, I respect everyone’s opinion,” Cruz said in her interview.

Public historian and academic Ambeth Ocampo said history and gossip shouldn't be confused with one another since the former is based on facts not opinion.

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“History may have bias but it is based on fact, not opinion. Real history is about truth, not lies, not fiction,” he said in a Facebook post.

Historians don't just pass off gossip as information, public historian Xiao Chua explained, noting that history is a discipline that is based on evidence.

"I know that history is really discipline. May mga set of standards 'yan na bagama't we argue about those standards, there are standards," Chua said in an interview on Facts First.

"A historian is not a mere chronicler kasi pwede gawin 'yan ng kahit na sino. Ang historian nag-aanalyze 'yan. Ina-analyze 'yan kunyari may kulang sa kwento. 'Paano kaya inisip ito? Paano nangyari ito?' but based on the evidence doon siya magko-conclude," he added.

Chua acknowledged that history in many ways is filtered, opinionated, and has biases but emphasized that such judgments can only be made by historians after doing proper and extensive research, and verification.

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"You can only have a judgment of bias, you can only have an opinion and you can only filter or delimit if you did the methodology of history already," he said.

Historian Alvin Campomanes also disagreed with Cruz, saying that history is a social science that involves a method and is among the social science disciplines.

Mariin ang pagtutol sapagkat may tinatawag tayong metodo o kaparaanang pangkasaysayan (historical method). Ang history o kasaysayan ay nakapaloob sa mga agham panlipunan (social sciences). Bagama’t may aspetong subhetibo, siyentipikong maituturing ang historikal na pananaliksik,” he said on Facebook.

"Hindi totoong isinusulat ng isang historyador kung ano lang ang gusto niyang isulat," he added.

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