I love history, especially Philippine history.
But it wasn’t a love that took root and blossomed at school, with its emphasis on dates, names, places, and exams that asked me to “enumerate xyz.”
No. It was a love awakened at home by Ambeth Ocampo’s wit and humor in “Rizal Without The Overcoat” when I was in high school. It was a fascination that grew with Sionil F. Jose’s sweeping Rosales saga. It was a love haunted by the sound of cicadas in Nick Joaquin’s beautiful prose about a time gone by.
And I want the same for my children. To love our country’s rich history and culture using real, living, and interesting books.
A Chronological Study of History
Charlotte Mason (CM) recommended the study of history to be chronological. It’s quite logical, as it allows children (and their parents learning alongside them!) to clearly see cause and effect, or how one event led to another.
This approach has given me a framework with which to design our Philippine history studies. After transitioning to the CM method, trying the prepared curriculum by Ambleside Online, and learning more about the philosophy while doing it, I’m now more confident to make it more relevant to our family.
The students in Mason’s schools studied their country’s history. And, like when we were using Five in a Row, I want to go beyond the curriculum that we’re using and focus on the Philippines too. I’m raising Filipino children after all!
So… Sanne and I have been on a mad frenzy for several weeks now searching, reading and sourcing books. We’re aiming to start our next homeschool year this June/July, so we were working on a tight deadline.
We were looking for living books that we can read to and with our children for each time period in our country’s history. We recognize the limitations of locally available books, but believe that we were still able to choose the best ones for this Philippine history booklist.
About the books we’ve selected
- We’ve categorized them according to the Philippines’ historical periods.
- They’re generally for our children’s age groups: four to eight and nine and up to early high school. As we all know, though, it still depends on the individual child.
- We selected historical picture books for younger kids.
- We’re so happy to have found well-written historical fiction novels for tweens and teens!
- You’ll also find biographies in this booklist, to further immerse yourselves in an era.
- You can choose books that are beyond your children’s reading level for read-aloud to them.
For non-homeschoolers, you can pick one of these books to enrich whatever historical period your children are learning about.
The same goes for homeschoolers, no matter which method of education you are using. Of course, you can definitely offer your child a “feast” and pick more than one book from a particular time period.
Important! Perspective in history
My children and I went through a Hamilton-addiction phase. That musical gave me a great lesson about history and perspective — “who lives who dies who tells your story.” History is informed by those who tell it.
So, as we read any of these recommended books, let’s keep in mind that these stories were written by people who may have their own beliefs or agenda. That’s fine.
Having read most of the books on this list has made me realize that the differences in details and assertions are food for thought. Some historians portray the Spaniards as completely evil who did not do anything for our country, while some acknowledge the development of the Philippines under them. It made me stop and ponder. And that’s what I would love for my children – to think, to wonder, and to come to their own conclusions.
This, our master booklist, is labor of love for our children and our country. We’re extending that love to you, and we hope you find this booklist helpful!
First, the spine
In homeschooling circles, you’ll always hear about a “history spine.” Essentially, it’s the main history book that gives you a general idea of the flow of history. From there, you can read other books, both fiction and non-fiction, about a certain event or person. This gives children a more intimate picture of and immerse them in a particular time period. Note, though, that some also do not use a spine at all!
Being fans of the Charlotte Mason method, we really wanted a living book for our history spine. But honestly, where would we find such a book about Philippine history? All we seem to have in bookstores are textbooks crammed with dates and names!
Fortunately, we found some books other than the usual textbooks that a lot of parents complain about. Hopefully, these will expand your Philippine history options.
Manila, My Manila by Nick Joaquin
Through research, I stumbled upon National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin’s Manila, My Manila. Former Manila Mayor Mel Lopez commissioned the book for the benefit of young Manilans. It’s described as “pop” or popular history.
I knew my father had a copy, but it took a while for it to be found! Reading a borrowed copy at first, I knew I found our history spine. I was holding my breath while reading about how Rajah Soliman tried to fight the colonizers off his land.
What I like about it: It’s beyond well-written (of course, Nick Joaquin!), engaging, and takes the reader from pre-colonial times up to the EDSA Revolution.
Where to find it: Sadly, the book is now out of print and is around $100 at Amazon! I still included it on this list in case any of you has or has access to a copy. It is the “most living” narrative that I’ve read about pre-Spanish and Spanish times; it beautifully reads like a story. If you know someone who has a copy, borrow it! Before I got hold of our copy, I planned to visit my old university to see if I could borrow one.
History of the Philippines by David Prescott Barrows
“History of the Philippines”, written by American anthropologist David Barrows and published in 1905, was intended to be used as a textbook for high school students. I find it exciting that it was written just a few years from the Philippine revolution against Spain.
It offers a glimpse of how our country’s history was first presented, based on available sources during the colonial period. Since it was written just a few short years since the Americans took over, not much was really said about that period. You can expect, though, that they come on top in the narrative.
I read several passages to my 9-year-old and she found it engaging enough. Sanne supposes it’s because a native English speaker wrote it, making the tone and rhythm of language more fluid. We think young students (8 to 9 years old) will already be able to appreciate the language of this book when it’s read aloud to them.
What I like about it: I like that it discusses what’s going on in other parts of the world when significant events are taking place in the Philippines. There’s also information about how the other parts of the archipelago were colonized, including Mindanao provinces.
Where to find it: P450 at our bookshop. Click here.
The Other Philippine History Textbook by Christine Diaz
Described by the publisher as “a unique take on Philippine history,” we were hopeful that it would be THE book.
While it is more than just facts and figure and include some interesting narrative that students will find contemporary, it has mixed reviews. One friend said it’s “definitely better than reading Zaide.” Another homeschool mom in a Facebook group, though, said that it did not meet her expectations.
What I like about it: The test for a book’s readability is how it sounds when read aloud. While the sentences can be long and winded, we think that it IS better than the textbooks that we’ve peeked at. It’s not just straight-up facts served in a boring dish. 🙂
Where to find it: It’s almost out of stock, but you can try calling different branches of National Bookstore.
An Introduction to Philippine History by Fr. Jose Arcilla, S.J.
This concise history of the Philippines promises to be “a story to be read, and not a calendar to be memorized.” It starts with great promise with the arrival of Magellan and vividly describes the ensuing battle. Reading further along, I felt that it could be a book for higher elementary or lower high school students.
What I like about it: The book is written by respected historian and academician, Fr. Jose Arcilla, S.J. Each chapter has a list of “Suggestions for Further Reading,” as the author says in the preface that “without sources, one will never write history, only fiction.” I imagine that older students will find this slim volume an interesting, yet rich read.
Where to find it: P260 at our bookshop. Click here.
If you have the funds, we recommend the following as an add-on to your Philippine history collection. As parents teaching our children, we also need to learn alongside them. If you prefer something that is more appropriate for you, we recommend the following…
Kasaysayan: History of the Filipino People
I considered using this 10-volume set for our Philippine history spine. It is well-written and supposedly complete. However, I really can’t wrap my head around how to use it as such as it’s too long. I decided to just keep it as a reference when we want to know more.
Where to find it: Fully Booked still has copies at P3500. We saw a set at their Century City Mall branch.
Nick Joaquin’s Books About Philippine History
We browsed several pages of Culture and History and found it enlightening. Again, it’s Nick Joaquin! We’re not listing it as a history spine options because it’s not geared towards children and it’s not chronological. However, it’s a very rich read about historical events. One chapter that I read at the bookstore was about the beatas and how Mother Ignacia came to be one. It was full of insight that I did not get from a children’s biography of her.
A Question of Heroes is another interesting read about our heroes. Joaquin humanizes them in this book and makes for good discussion with teens familiar with the usual life stories of these heroes.
Where to find: National Bookstore! The books are packaged together at P700.
Ambeth Ocampo’s Looking Back Series
If you haven’t read Ambeth Ocampo yet, you should! There are lots of tidbits (chismis?!) that make events and people more real. Really, he made me fall in love with Philippine history. The first one I read before was about Rizal called Rizal Without The Overcoat. He also has one on our country’s prehistory. He’s always an enjoyable read!
Where to find: National Bookstore
Filway’s The Philippine Almanac
As an almanac, this book arranges events by month, so it can be quite difficult to find something in particular. But, it’s fun and easy to read. The short stories about legends and myths can be read to younger kids. I actually put a lot of sticky flags on the stories that I want to read to my 6-year-old. Sanne, on the other hand, does a “What happened this day in history?” and checks the book.
Where to find it: Send Filway a message! Click here.
Join us for the rest of this series. Just click on the links!
II – Before and Up To When The Spaniards Came – Read about Magellan, his slave Enrique, and other interesting stories from this time period.
III – Spanish Era Until the Revolution – Learn more about the heroes of the era through picture books and biographies.
IV – American Era to World War II – Take a peek at life during the American period and discover how Filipinos were able to quickly adopt the English language. There are also several wonderful chapter books about life during World War II.
V – Post World War II – Our country’s history after the second World War was highlighted with two intertwined events: Martial Law and the EDSA Revolution.