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F. Landa Jocano, To My Generation

The author with the late Dr. Jocano. Photo courtesy of Mr. Vince Escarcha.

The author with the late Dr. Jocano. Photo courtesy of Mr. Vince Escarcha.

Many people think that my generation does not know F. Landa Jocano as though he is a relic belonging to the past.

The first time I encountered the name F. Landa Jocano was when I was in second grade. At first, I thought F. Landa Jocano was a woman. He was just a name in one or two sentences in my textbook, not given any further elaboration or introduction in class discussions back then.

Until fifth grade, we were taught that the first Filipino ancestors were the dawnmen who lived in caves, followed by the Negritos who were short, dark, and had curly hair, then the Indones who were “balingkinitan,” had fair skin, and straight hair, and then finally the Malay who were not too tall and not too short, had brown skin, and straight hair similar to the Indones. This was H. Otley Beyer’s theory on the peopling of the Philippines.

In sixth grade, I encountered F. Landa Jocano again. We were taught in HeKaSi about Beyer’s waves of migration and this anthropologist F. Landa Jocano’s theory debunking Beyer’s. Our textbooks said that according to Jocano, the peopling of the Philippines was a result of a lengthy process of evolution and migration, rather than of waves of migration as evidenced by fossil discoveries in the Tabon Caves in Palawan.

When I finished my elementary education, I wanted to be an Anthropologist and I wrote this in our class journal. I entered the University of the Philippines in 2009 under the BA Anthropology program. On my first enrolment, I had to have my registration forms signed by our undergraduate adviser. And – just my luck- I found out that our adviser was Felipe P. Jocano Jr, who we call “Sir Bot.”

Jocano? Familiar. Very familiar. He was F. Landa Jocano’s son. I was elated. For four years, I was under the advisership of sir Bot. He became my professor in Anthropological Theory, and my partner in many educational discussions. During one trip to Porac for an activity of our organization, Sir Bot told us stories about his father. This was when I came to know more about the elder Jocano, through the eyes of his son.

F. Landa Jocano worked for the National Museum as a janitor. He began writing articles on folklore and eventually got promoted. He went to the University of Chicago for his MA and PhD. In one of his books, he wrote to his boy, “This is to make up for all the times I was absent at home” or something like that. In his time, his Core Population Theory was considered a David to the Goliath Waves of Migration of H. Otley Beyer. Then, he was debunking a history giant, like he was Galileo Galilei insisting that the Earth is round at a time it was widely held to be flat. I could just imagine the difficulty of going against the mainstream. But history and later researches would vindicate him. His theory is now taught to students, with more than one sentence of elaboration and introduction. His studies on Filipino culture—- value system, kinship system, folklore, among others, are propagated in the academe. He is considered one of the great pillars of Philippine Anthropology.

The month before I went to Palawan for field school, the GT Toyota Asian Center held an event for the great Jocano. It was there where I met him. To me, meeting someone who contributed so much the documentation of our history and culture as a people is one of the best things I could ever experience as an aspiring anthropologist. Before he left, we had a little chat. He asked me, “You want to be an anthropologist?” “Be strong. Be like Margaret Mead.”

That was the first and last time I met F. Landa Jocano in person. But I know him from the body of his works. He made history and helped mold countless tenets in Anthropology and Philippine Studies. In effect, he has changed and will continuously change lives of many.

Thank you, F. Landa Jocano, for the legacy.

In the words of his namesake, he was a father, anthropologist, and nationalist.

He is survived by his wife, two children, and granchild.

To his granchild who is also his namesake, Philip, your grandfather was a great man. He is a great man, a Filipino treasure whose life this country should celebrate for his immense contribution to the study of the Filipino people. He lives in my generation, ours, and those that will come

Karminn Cheryl Dinney Yangot is a BA Anthropology graduate of UP Diliman. She finished her course magna cum laude while serving as an ex officio member of the City Council of Baguio City. Her term will expire this Nov 30, 2013. She plans on taking further studies in Anthropology next year.