A Unique Resource for Philippine History
Sulat sa Tansô is a newsletter devoted to ancient Philippines. This short account is designed to tell you how it came to be, what to expect from it, and how you may get a subscription.
In January 1994, I attended a paleography conference at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. Antoon Postma, the man who deciphered the Laguna Copperplate Inscription (LCI), a Philippine document from 900 AD, spoke about its provenance and how he worked on it. I also found out later that he was one of the few in the Philippines who could also talk intelligently about other Philippine scripts.
Nontheless, I met many people who were very, very interested in the LCI and classic Philippine scripts. I started corresponding with some of the people I met when I got back home to Los Angeles. I noticed that I was saying the same things to many people and repeating comments from others as well. I decided that I could save time by simply writing a newsletter and sending them out to everybody. So I did, and Sulat sa Tansô was born.
I had no previous experience with newsletters which was good because I never would have gone through with the project had I known what it entailed. I was fortunate that I had initially planned to send out only a few copies. This helped me ease into this "business" of newsletters. The original recipients were mostly those in academia who had expressed an interest in history. The subscriber list has grown to include non-academics who I found had just as much interest and love for ancient Philippine history as those who were on my original list. The circulation is small (a few dozen in seven countries) and has to remain small if I am to take care of it in my spare time. As such the printing and mailing costs are very high.
The newsletter was originally devoted to matters about the LCI. However, I noticed that almost everybody with such an interest also had an interest in ancient Philippine history. Articles on non-LCI topics have gradually been added in.
The newsletter does not have a publishing schedule but will come out on a nominal bimonthly schedule. There is no guarantee that this can be maintained but I feel that a short newslet ter on a more frequent basis is better than a bigger one on a less frequent schedule.
The newsletter covers topics that may be too esoteric for consumer magazines or too speculative for learned journals. I know the subjects we have covered so far have not been seen in any other publication. Among the subjects featured recently were how ancient languages are represented in modern English (romanization schemes), a reconstruction of the ancient Philippine calendar including an exact Julian date for the LCI, a new translation of the LCI in English and in Tagalog, a primer on Kavi the script used in the LCI, a list of recommended books for study, Study Aids with charts showing all the symbols in the LCI and what they mean, the various titles used in pre-Hispanic Philippine political organizations, the Butuan silver strip, the Calatagan pot, the Butuan ivory seal, a preview of a new book on ancient Philippines that will come out soon, and an account of the first Filipinos to land in California.
Antoon Postma, the man who originally deciphered the LCI, praised Sulat sa Tansô in a recent letter where he said, "You went in a painstaking and strictly reasoned manner through the LCI that I had been treating haphazardly in my various, sometimes contradictory, explanations... Through Sulat I am actually learning more and more about the LCI."
Sulat sa Tansô has a sliding scale of subscription prices based on factors that will be explained to you if you send me an email giving your postal address and your occupation. The reason it has to be done this way will become apparent when you get a return email.
Sulat sa Tans˘.
Please send me your comments. I would love to hear from you. Hector Santos <email@example.com> Los Angeles