Dr. Ileto tackles the de la Costa-Agoncillo comparisons on Day 2 of the lecture series

February 15, 2016
Dr. Ileto answers the questions of the students present in the lecture

The commemorative lecture series for the birth centenary of Fr. Horacio V. de la Costa continued to inspire the Ateneo community as shown by the jam-packed day 2 of the series.

The lecture, which focused on the similarities between Fr. de la Costa and renowned Philippine historian Teodoro Agoncillo, was presented by Dr. Reynaldo Ileto.

Dr. Ileto—a leading scholar of the Philippine revolution and Southeast Asia’s first anti-colonial and pro-independence conflict—had developed an interdisciplinary field of research by incorporating history with other humanities and social sciences disciplines.

To formally start his talk, Dr. Ileto cited some of the differences between de la Costa and Agoncillo and how he came to know them.

“The natural tendency was to separate them,” he said. “One was associated with a Catholic school, the other with a state university. One was a Jesuit priest who never seemed to have made enemies, the other was a nemesis.”

At first, his relationship with them was entirely unattached. He knew about Fr. de la Costa as a dignified persona in the humanities in the Ateneo but never really met him personally.

Another full house at the 2nd day of the lecture series

“The only time I got to know him in the flesh was when I was running late for class. I bumped into him in the hallway and nearly knocked him over. All I can remember was his look of surprise,” he recalled fondly. “I wish I had known him better.”

As for Teodoro Agoncillo, he said he never heard of him because of the “us and them” idea of the relationship between the Ateneo and the University of the Philippines (UP). But Dr. Ileto later read Agoncillo’s and de la Costa’s works when he was taking up his graduate studies in Cornell University.

He was soon able to meet Agoncillo in lectures and talks in UP after joining their history department as a teacher, but his luck in meeting Fr. de la Costa remained static.

Dr. Ileto’s one and only unforgettable moment with de la Costa was through a letter the priest gave him after learning Dr. Ileto studied Moro History as part of his thesis.

Fr. de la Costa’s letter stated how delighted he was to learn of another Filipino who was interested in the same field.

“What struck me most was his humility,” Dr. Ileto said, “his admission of the knowledge he lacked and his confidence in the ability of a young scholar he had never met. I can just imagine if I had been mentored by this gentle genius, I would have been blinded by his similarities with Teodoro Agoncillo.”

First speaker of the series Fr. Arevalo was one of the attendees at the lecture

Dr. Ileto shared that he thought the 2 were more alike than different. They were from the same generation and were even kababayans.

Their most common ground was their shared insight in the “unfinished revolution” of 1896 or the Philippine revolution against the Spaniards, which continues to be seen in today’s feudalistic economy. He even read passages from Fr. de la Costa’s essays for some basis.

Towards the end of his lecture, Dr. Ileto said that he vowed to carry on de la Costa’s works after finally understanding the similarities between the 2 historians but wondered if he was torn on which side to choose.

“Perhaps I was being an impulsive young man to be in Ateneo only to depart less than 3 months later to join the UP history department,” he said.

“The point is I wanted to be in both, not to have to choose between us and them, between the Ateneo and the UP, between de la Costa and Agoncillo. I kind of suspected that if Fr. de la Costa had still been the department chairman at that time, he would not have forced me to make a choice.”

The 3rd lecture will be held next Thursday (Feb. 18) with Rev. Rene B. Javellana, SJ on the “Sources, Influences and Silences in The Jesuits in the Philippines.”

Listen to Dr. Ileto's lecture below: