The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), by virtue of Republic Act 10086, is responsible for the conservation and preservation of the country’s historical legacies. Its major thrusts encompass an ambitious cultural program on historical studies, curatorial works, architectural conservation, Philippine heraldry, historical information dissemination activities, restoration and preservation of relics and memorabilia of heroes and other renowned Filipinos. The NHCP undertakes the commemoration of signiﬁcant events and personages in Philippine history and safeguard the blazoning of the national government and its political divisions and instrumentalities. Its five divisions are Finance and Administrative; Historic Preservation; Historic Sites and Education; Research, Publications and Heraldry; and Materials Research Conservation.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines traces its beginnings to 1933, when American governor-general Frank]. Murphy issued Executive Order No. 451 creating the Philippine Historical Research and Markers Committee (PHRMC). Its chief functions were the identification, designation and proper marking of “antiquities”—the structures and sites throughout the Philippine archipelago where historic events took place involving heroes and other eminent Filipinos—before these were permanently lost. Its chairman was American journalist and history advocate Walter Robb, while members included Fr. Miguel Selga S.]., director of the Weather Bureau; dean Conrado Benitez of the University of the Philippines College of Business Administration; Prof. Jaime de Veyra, former resident commissioner and historian; Prof. Eulogio Rodriguez, historian, pioneer librarian and later director of the National Library; Prof. Henry Otley Beyer, anthropologist; and dean Edward R. Hyde, MIT alumnus and then head of the U.P. College of Engineering.
The PHRMC was superseded by the Philippine Historical Committee (PHC), which came into existence during the Philippine Commonwealth period. Funding for PHC came by way of Commonwealth Act No. 169 of 1936 entitled “An act appropriating the sum of fifty-thousand pesos to be expended under the direction of the President of the Philippines for the purpose of identifying and appropriately marking the historic antiquities in the Philippines, or preserving or acquiring the same.” The outbreak of the Second World War in the Paciﬁc in 1941 and subsequent Japanese occupation of the country put an end to the PHC, whose functions were assumed by the Japanese—sponsored Commission on Education, Health and Public Welfare.
The PHC was restored in January 1947, initially directed by the Office of the President and, thereafter, by the Education Department. The PHC logged 28 years of outstanding service highlighted by the rebuilding of the Rizal ancestral house in Calamba, Laguna; the acquisition of some 600 Rizaliana mementos; and the marking of more than 400 historic sites throughout the country for future generations. It was also during the administration of the PHC that policies were first formulated and clarified regarding the naming and renaming of streets, plazas, towns and other public sites and structures, specifically in Manila.
The Philippine Heraldry Committee was created by President Manuel L. Quezon on December 1O, 1940, through Executive Order No. 310, giving it the sole functions of studying and advising the state and its various arms—the executive offices, legislature; judiciary, and local government units——on matters concerning the adoption of official coats of arms and other heraldic symbols. This function would later be transferred to the mandate of the National Historical Institute through the Reorganization Act of 1972. As With the PHC, the Heraldry committee, as it was, ceased to operate during the Japanese occupation but was revived in 1946 by President Sergio Osmeña. Dr. Jose Bantug, noted historian and Filipinologist, and Galo Ocampo, a pioneer in the Philippine abstract art movement, were appointed to head the Heraldry Committee as chairman and secretary respectively.
In 1954, seven years before the 100th birth anniversary of hero Jose Rizal, a commission was created to prepare the groundwork for, and lead the national celebration of, the milestone event. The Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission Was constituted in early 1955, upon the issuance of Executive Order No. 52 of 1954. Then Secretary of Education Gregorio Hernandez, Jr. headed the JRNCC.
The most outstanding concrete accomplishment of the JRN CC was the erection of the National Library building, part of an envisioned three-structure “National Cultural Shrine” that would be dedicated to Jose Rizal. The building was inaugurated on the hero’s birth centenary itself, June 19, 1961. The JRNCC also undertook the translation, reprint or new publication of Rizal’s novels, essays, and other works, as well as his letters, the latter having been anthologized in the 1930s by historian T.M. Kalaw under the six-volume title Epistolario Rizalino. Other accomplishments include the holding of the International Congress on Rizal in Manila in December 1961, one of the culminating events of the yearlong celebration, participated in by Filipino and foreign scholars; conduct of local and international competitions in oratory; poetry, essay and libretto writing; in musical composition; in sculpture, and painting; holding of exhibits, local conferences, and lectures.
The creation of the JRNCC heralded the creation of a similar body in 1957, the Juan Luna Centennial Commission, created through E.O. No. 254, which spearheaded the celebration of the birth centenary of Luna. It was headed by former senate president Quintin Paredes and counted among its members Luis Montilla, then chair of the PHC, Dr. Eufronio Alip, historian; and Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, National Museum director.
The JRNCC was subsequently transformed into the Rizal Presidential Committee via Executive Order No. 14 of 1962, issued by President Diosdado Macapagal. The new committee however had a brief existence as it was superseded by the National Heroes Commission (NHC) within the year with the issuance of Executive Order No. 28. While the Secretary of Education was given supervision over the NHC, the conduct of historical research and publication was given to the National Library, and the supervision of the Rizal house in Calamba assigned to the National Museum. Primary function of the JRNCC was to undertake preparations for the celebration of birth centenaries of other heroes: Andres Bonifacio in 1963, Apolinario Mabini in 1964, etc.
Petitions began as early as 1962 for the creation of a single body encompassing-—and even exceeding—the scattered duties and functions of the various existing historical entities. These petitions resulted in the ﬁling of several bills in both houses of Congress, which shared a common objective: to create a commission primarily concerned with historical matters—in short, a historical commission. The bills from both houses— House Bill No. 2241 authored by Rep. Salih Ututalum and Senate Bill No. 18 co-authored by Senators Camilo Osias and Eulogio Balao—were merged and passed into Republic Act No. 4368 on 19 June 1965, which created the National Historical Commission as an agency of the Department of Education.
The act abolished both the Philippine Historical Committee and National Heroes Commission, with their functions, personnel, documents, equipment, materials and funds passing onto the newly-created National Historical Commission (Sec. 6). Further, the funds of the JRNCC, defunct since 1962, also passed onto the new NHC. Much of the mandate of the present NH1 was enunciated in the new Act, and whereas before only particular heroes were the concern of the earlier commissions, this time the new commission would cover all Filipino heroes and other outstanding personages, as well as the whole of Philippine history.
The main functions of the new commission were the publication of works of national heroes and other eminent Filipinos, compilation and publication of various sources on Philippine history, identification and marking of historical sites; erection and reconstruction of national shrines and monuments, and conduct of commemorative activities, historical research and writing, and publication of historical researches. The NHC operated under the following policies: awakening and fostering of a sense of history among the Filipinos, implementation of a publication program aimed at both scholars and general populace; adoption of the Filipino point of view in the interpretation of Philippine history; and the clarification of historical controversies
The writer Carmen Guerrero Nakpil was appointed the first chairman of the NHC and served until February 1971 for health reasons She was succeeded in March 1971 by historian Esteban de Ocampo Prof de Ocampo served as head of the NHC until 1972, when he became the chairman of the newly-created National Historical Institute which replaced the NHC.
Presidential Decree No. 1 also known as the Reorganization Act of 1972 issued on September 24, 1972, provided for the adoption of the Integrated Reorganization Plan (IRP) primarily effecting the reorganization of the state administration and executive branch Part XII Chapter I Article XV of the IRP pertains specifically to the creation of a National Historical Institute (NHI) and the abolition of the National Historical Commission and similar agencies including the Philippine Heraldry Committee and Osmeña Memorial Commission under the Office of the President; Roxas Memorial Commission; Gomez, Burgos and Zamora Centennial Commission; National Shrines Commission under the Defense Department; Emilio Aguinaldo Centennial Commission; Pinaglabanan Commemorative Commission; Quezon Memorial Committee; Intramuros Restoration Committee; Archives Division of the Bureau of Records and Management, and others. Their functions, now absorbed by the new NHI, were distributed among five divisions: administrative, research and publication, monuments and heraldry, special and commemorative events, and archives.
The National Historical Institute was replaced by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines through Republic Act 10086 also known as “Strengthening Peoples’ Nationalism through Philippine History Act” approved on May 12, 2010.