On historically significant anniversaries and holidays like Independence Day, National Heroes Day, or Araw ng Kagitingan, we will often hear about how important it is to internalize the lessons of history and live like our heroes. We hear these remarks often in speeches, movies and documentaries, and read them in newspaper articles and social media posts.
However, it is pleasant to see people who take internalizing history a little bit literally with historical reenactors. They are more than just cosplayers who dress up often as fictional characters in cartoons and anime. Rather, they painstakingly research about what people wore during that time and then remake them as close to the originals as possible. And they don't just wear the costumes--they also try to find out what each piece of clothing or accessory meant and how they denote social class or rank.
In the case of the Republica Filipina Reenactment Group (RFRG), they even hold special training sessions to teach members — and the general public — about commands and combat postures. RFRG is a group of historical reenactors specializing in the military during the Spanish occupation and the Philippine Revolution, and they conduct drills and reenact battles in places like Fort Santiago in Manila. They even figured heavily in a documentary produced by the NHCP about the three martyr priests Mariano Gomes, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora — and there they became actors, not just reenactors.
But RFRG is not the only reenactment group in the Philippines, and it is a growing community. For World War II reenactments, we have the Philippine Living History Society and War Heritage Guild Philippines. And in places outside Metro Manila, we have Meycauayan Reenactors Group in Bulacan and La Liga in Cebu. Energized by the recently concluded Quincentennial, we also have reenactors of early Philippine communities like Karakoa Productions.
And it will continue growing. Just ask the increasing number of couples being wed with brides wearing a traditional terno and grooms wearing Norfolk jackets or rayadillo uniforms. Or, people being encouraged to join tours in their best Filipiniana such as those conducted by Renacimiento Manila. It helps that more Filipino film studios are creating historical films and GMA-7 is creating a historical drama inspired by Jose Rizal’s novels.
Historical reenactors hope that by generating buzz online and offline, they can create chapters and even whole groups throughout the country. And, as intimated to me by one of the senior members of RFRG, faithful reenactments of battles and other historical events could contribute to local tourism. They can also revive cottage industries, especially those involving the production of traditional textiles and manufacture of faux weapons and replica badges, insignia, and other accessories. Thus, historical reenactment will not just be a hobby, but also a source of livelihood.
It takes effort, energy, and even money to become a full-fledged reenactor. But while there is a responsibility to be as faithful to the truth as can be, this hobby and advocacy is open to all. As should history itself—accessible, understandable, yet relevant and faithful to the truth.
My RFRG friends intimated to me that one of the historical events they hope to recreate soon is the uprising of Apolinario de la Cruz aka “Hermano Pule” and the subsequent Tayabas Regiment Uprising. But it will require Quezonins to make the effort to research and recreate what people wore at that time. if you wish to join RFRG or at least have a deeper understanding of what historical reenactment is, send an email to email@example.com.