It all started in 2013, when Ian Christopher Alfonso, Senior History Researcher at the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) , noticed something in a Gawad Kalinga school in Tarlac where he usually volunteers. “Most of the visual educational materials they have are alien t o the pupils—not even American, for a Filipino to easily recognize,” he says. The charts that teach the ABCs and the basic shapes, colors, posted on classroom walls,are foreign.
BY JOHN LEE CANDELARIA
He also noticed in other Philippine schools that the quotations usually posted in theclassroom, at the very front where the teacher usually stands t o teach, is oftentimes an easily googled proverb or an adage from “anonymous” or “unknown”. “Such class room displays—products of the labor of love by those who prepared them, theteachers—must encourage and help students to understand the world,” he explains.
So the next time he went to the school, instead of the usual ch alk, eraser, maps, and other schools supplies, he made posters with quotes by Filipino heroes like Jose Rizal, Apolinario Mabini, Andres Bonifacio, Gregoria de Jesus, and others. He gave it out tothe school to be posted on the classroom walls.
And thus, Project Saysay was born.
FINDING MEANING THROUGH HISTORY
Saysay is Filipino for “meaning,” “sense,” “value,” or “relevance,” the root word of kasaysayan or history. This is Alfonso’s inspiration for creating posters of Filipino heroes with quotes which he personally researched
“Project Saysay wants to utilize the visualization of Philippine history for schools and offices,” he explains, “it strives to democratize history in its practical purpose: be appreciated and be inspired to take action through it.”
Indeed, these visual representations in the form of educational instructional
materials are always in the presence of the students, and Project Saysay wants to turn this presence into a worthwhile experience. “We use rare illustrations of a particular historical figure or even lesser known personalities… and to further appreciate them, their words of wisdom are superimposed on their profile—
and presto! A poster worth appreciating,” he elaborates.
Project Saysay started with nothing but an idea. “It started with everything coming from my own pocket. I would ask for used illustration boards, with the black backing serving as background and the posters would be printed and stuck to the illustration boards,” Alfonso recalls. It’s a process which is
cumbersome and costly, but he did it because he believed in the cause, which is his personal
In 2016, Alfonso established the Project Saysay Creatives Team, composed of friends, officemates, and colleagues who shared the common mission and vision with him. He understands understands that for
his advocacy to grow further, he needs the help of educators, artists, and other professionals
since visual communication involving children needs technical knowledge. “The quotes we choose must be appropriate to the competencies of the students,” he notes.