MANILA, SEPTEMBER 14, 2008 (STAR) By Juaniyo Y. Arcellana - Somewhere in the upper floors of the Vibal Publishing House building on Araneta Avenue corner Maria Clara Street in Quezon City, the staff of textbook scion Gaspar Vibal is cobbling together material and content for the Filipiniana websites run by the Vibal Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the textbook publishing group.

WikiPilipinas and Filipiniana. net are barely a year old after their launch at last year’s Philippine Book Fair, and related sites Philippine Online Chronicles (POC) and have since sprung up. According to Gus Vibal, the flagship WikiPilipinas has generated easily over 50,000 articles. Another 50,000 more and the enterprise would qualify as a bona fide, subjectively researched, cyber encyclopedia.

“For Filipino history to be told, it first has to be written,” Vibal says. He started the Filipiniana search engines and learning portals after observing that most websites and cyber encyclopedias were western-oriented and told from a western point of view.

So in order to get the complete picture, or both sides of the story, Vibal says and WikiPilipinas offer the Filipino point of view.

A cursory search at the website of would yield a veritable treasure trove for researchers of Philippine history, among these the compete works of the national hero Jose Rizal, including obscure letters and drawings, as well as microfilm reproductions of revolutionary documents, “because not everyone has time to go to the National Library.”

Through these documents, he says, can be traced slight variations in orthography signaling the lead up to the revolt against Spain. Also, Rizal’s correspondence with his father confessor Pablo Pastells to determine if had really broken from the Church, which today remains a subject of scholarly debate.

Vibal is a self-confessed pack rat, which he says is something “that can’t be learned,” and his obsession with things historic, Hispanic, comic and other popular cultural artifacts like old records by Nora Aunor and similar ancient vinyl rescued from fiesta buntings, he has put to good use and which have in one way or another found their way to the websites.

Among his prized volumes is the one by Retana, in the original Spanish because he “doesn’t believe in translations.”, however, often offers similar valuablea documents both in the original and in translation.

In the same website they are putting together 100 Filipino novels, this in collaboration with the critic Soledad Reyes, and also a list of 100 Filipino comics, admittedly subjective. Also in the works are a compilation of 100 Cebuano novels and 100 Ilocano novels, as well as a reputable collection of awit at korido rescued from the baul.

They’ve received reactions why a specific comics was not included, but to this Vibal says detractors can set up their own website and come up with their own list.

After living abroad for 27 years, Vibal has only grown closer to things Pinoy. One of the authors he hopes to provide a larger audience to is Isabelo delos Reyes, who he feels is largely forgotten because his texts were in Spanish, but remains a key figure in Philippine history.

Free and open information are key words to the Vibal websites, as they not only provide research material but also are open to revisions and editing if the logger has something to share or add or correct. But prospective editors and contributors have to register to discourage pranksters and screen latent megalomaniacs.

But Vibal notes that Filipinos are basically passive receivers of information, and so just log on and read whatever is there to read at a click of the mouse.

Among their newer sites are and Online Chronicles, both also interactive, the first a learning portal and educational tool complete with lesson plans and suggested study guides, and the second a news site and video channel.

Asked the difference between E-turo and the Education department’s CyberEd project, Vibal says the foundation concentrates on the software while the DepEd provides the hardware. The government only has to provide the computers and Internet hookup, and the Vibal Foundation would come up with the material.

E-turo also becomes a venue for ongoing school research group projects, which feature constant updating, revising, and feedback until the end of the semester, after which the packet would become an available reference for subsequent loggers, bloggers, and the plain curious.

The POC has budding greenhorn journalists airing a variety of mostly youthful concerns, sort of like a pop rag and news forum rolled into one common referential loop.

There is a video channel similar to YouTube, and Vibal says they hope to build up their archives section so that important issues won’t be consigned to the dustbin by the raging sensationalist current events. As Vibal had once written, “History is capricious.”

Vibal remembers in last year’s book fair where he was pushed to the ground by personnel in the neighboring booth who were selling encyclopedias, probably because they were creating much noise with their website launch and giving away encyclopedias, to boot.

But he clarifies that giving away information on the Internet is a world of difference from giving encyclopedias, and that there is no conflict.

“The book is still the perfect technology,” he says, as the personal computer can hardly be read in the john, or taken to bed, much less have pages to be smelled. He says that those who access their website may also try to eventually find the book they are interested in if still available, because there is no substitute for this.

“You still need books at the end of the day,” he says. The various Vibal Foundation-run websites aim to elevate Philippine culture to the world stage, and what better way to do this than through cyberspace. Target audience is anyone even remotely interested in the Philippines, such as scholars, foreigners, as well as expatriates who may want to connect with homeland things, as Gus Vibal himself felt homesick many times during his years abroad.

WikiPilipinas and now fill that need. “It’s an advocacy,” he says, so better let as many people know that there is so much Pinoy information waiting to be read online.

The world may have grown flat as a computer screen, but the depth of the Internet is immeasurable and boggles the mind. One can spend hours surfing the ’net, drifting from one site to another, from background checks to serious research.

Just as Gus Vibal has done, even if it all started with a love for books, especially old and collectible ones whose main enemies are termites and the passage of time. The book of cyber knowledge is safe from dust and vermin for now, and only has to worry about the occasional virus. But the portal is already there, waiting for inevitable, interactive growth that’s hip and free.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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