IIAS | IIAS Newsletter Online | No. 17 | Regions |South East Asia

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A Century of Philippine-Dutch Connections: Philippine Studies in the Netherlands

On the occasion of the celebration of the centennial of the Philippine Revolution and the proclamation of the First Philippine Republic, the International Institute for Asian Studies, Amsterdam Branch, organized a workshop in collaboration with the Philippine Embassy in the Netherlands on August 31, 1998. The venue was the recently renovated Doelenzaal in the University of Amsterdam Auditorium-cum-Library complex.

by Otto van den Muijzenberg


Amsterdam IIAS Branch Manager Dr Mario Rutten welcomed the more than forty participants from academia, the media, and business reminding the audience that this workshop brought Dutch and Filipino students and observers of the Philippines together in the Amsterdam setting for the second time after the First European Philippine Studies Conference in April 1991.

The Philippine Ambassador, H.E. Rodolpho S. Sanchez, highlighted the relations between his country and The Netherlands, which started violently in 1600 in sea battles between the Dutch and Spaniards in Philippine waters. After a long period of centuries of mutual isolation, the relations are now 'generally good' in the view of Dutch prime minister, Wim Kok, and economic relations were recently intensified by mutual visits of the ministers of economic affairs. Trade grew from $340 million in 1992 to 2 billion in 1997. Several big Dutch companies have invested in the Philippines, some of them indeed have been doing so for decades. Dutch development aid has focused on poverty alleviation, higher education, environmental problems, and the rehabilitation of Laguna de Bay. The Philippines contributes to the Dutch economy by its export, which is mainly directed to Rotterdam harbour, and its migrant workers (seamen, nurses, and professionals). In the educational field, it has sent over 1000 fellows to Holland for training. Ambassador Sanchez concluded by referring to an official Dutch suggestion to celebrate Four Centuries of Philippine-Dutch relations in the year 2000, possibly with an exposition of the San Diego treasures in Amsterdam.
Professor Otto van den Muijzenberg (University of Amsterdam) raised the much asked question why the Philippine national hero, Dr Jose P. Rizal, never visited the Netherlands, although his name was known to late nineteenth-century Orientalists here. He gave an overview of the development of Philippine Studies in the Netherlands during the late colonial period, when socio-economic and governmental problems were studied in a comparative fashion. But it is the past twenty years which have turned out to be the most productive, for Dutch academic work on the Philippines. The overall picture is one of diversity in approaches, topics, disciplines. Much work has been done in the applied fields of development and environmental studies as well as more purely scientific disciplines (e.g. anthropology and linguistics). Owing to limited access to archives, history is an underrepresented discipline in Dutch Philippine studies.
Outlining the general set-up of the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Mrs. Aurora Payayo-Galindo showed how since its inception in 1955 this institution has received hundreds of Filipino students, 365 of whom produced papers and theses on Philippine matters for a diploma or a master's degree in one of eight specializations. Doctoral theses dealt with resource allocation in Philippine households and mail-order bride migration from the Philippines.
Gerhard van den Top M.Ag.Sc.(University of Leiden) introduced the collaborative research and teaching project which his university and its Center for Environmental Problems launched in 1990 in conjunction with the College of Forestry of Isabela State University. The ongoing programme under the name Cagayan Valley Program for Environment and Development (CVPED) focuses on problems connected with deforestation and the transformation of the ecosystem and rural economy and was host to more than a hundred fieldwork projects by pairs of Filipino and Dutch students in the natural as well as the social sciences. Faculty members from both sides transformed this and their own work into PhD theses. The programme tries to contribute actively to the solution of problems of the region.
In her review of Philippine research projects at the University of Amsterdam, Dr Rosanne Rutten showed how a historical conjunction in the mid-1960s in Indonesia led to the diversification of what had been Indonesia-focused work in the University of Amsterdam towards social research in the Philippines (and India), with the first two PhD projects launched in the late sixties. Amsterdam's staff and students have laid great stress on lengthy fieldwork, but insights thus gained are always interpreted in the context of larger and long-term developments. Five themes are to be distinguished: socio-economic change in rural society; changes in urban society, political change and the more recent themes of the social implications of gender and street children, and child labour.
At the University of Amsterdam the medical anthropology unit of the department of anthropology focuses on how people define and experience health problems, improve their health, and respond to health care interventions report. In the mid-1980s Dr Anita Hardon was the first to undertake PhD research in this field in the Philippines, but illness prevented her from presenting her review. Therefore Dr Rosanne Rutten also read the report on the unit's recent and present work, including close collaboration with Philippine counterparts in two action research projects on gender, reproductive health, and population policies; on community drug use and on immunization programmes at several locations in the Philippines.
Joost Oorthuizen M.Ag.Sc. (Agricultural University Wageningen) dealt with research and teaching in which his university has been involved over the years in and with the Philippines. In Wageningen, almost all working relations with the Philippines are based in Los Banos, where the University of the Philippines, the International Rice Research Institute and the Southeast Asian Research Council in Agriculture are located. Much of the work is in the sciences, and research is done in crop science, geographical information systems, soil erosion research, host-pest interaction research, and work on crop ecology, irrigation and, lately sustainability of various technological innovations. More in the social science field is work on the users' perspective in agricultural research, stressing the need for participation by farmers (women) in technology development. Ongoing interdisciplinary PhD research by the speaker and two colleagues deals with contract farming arrangements in Mindanao, interactions between users and officials of irrigation systems and the dynamics of development NGOs in a rapidly changing national and international context.
A documentary film 'The Law of the Jungle' which was made in the context of CVPED, mentioned above, concluded the academic part of the workshop which was rounded off by a reception offered by the Philippine Embassy in the Netherlands. Plans for a regular follow-up in the form of quarterly meetings of a Dutch Philippine Studies network may materialize soon.

   IIAS | IIAS Newsletter Online | No. 17 | Regions |South East Asia