Today in History in 1921, 100 yrs ago, William Henry Scott, Episcopalian missionary and historian on the Prehispanic Philippines, was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Settling in Sagada, his works were a great contribution to what we now know on Precolonial Philippines.
Born on this day, July 10, in 1921 at Detroit to a Dutch Lutheran family, he was named Henry King Ahrens. He took interest in Archaeology and upon his graduation from college, changed his name to William Henry Scott. In 1942, during WWII, he was drafted into the US Army.
After the war, Scott joined the Protestant missionary efforts in China thru the Episcopal Church in Beijing and Shanghai. In 1949, when the Communists won in China, foreigners were expelled. Scott went to Yale and graduated in 1951. Immediately after, he was drafted and fought in the Korean War. In 1954, upon receiving his assignment from his denomination, he settled in Sagada, Mountain Province as Episcopalian lay missionary. From then on, he became interested in Philippine history. He took his doctorate in University of Santo Tomas in 1965 taking on the history of the Cordilleran peoples. His PhD thesis in 1968 became the book “Prehispanic Source Materials,” a landmark work on precolonial Philippines. It was here where he debunked Datu Kalantiaw and Code of Kalantiaw Code of 1433 as hoax, sourced from Jose Marco in 1914.
Scott’s works on the peoples of the Cordillera and mere association to his students who were activists put him in a precarious situation as he was red-tagged. Upon Pres. F. Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law, he was immediately detained, facing deportation.
Due to the support of the academia, he was acquitted of subversion in 1973. This didn’t deter him from being critical of the regime. He befriended scholars from across the political spectrum including Renato Constantino and Joma Sison. He was also close to Fr. Horacio de la Costa SJ.
His “Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society” is still an ethnographic reference on 16th-c Philippine culture yet to be fully colonized, while his “Cracks in the Parchment Curtain” invites researchers to glean from foreign/colonial sources their info on Filipinos.
His “Discovery of the Igorots” point to the historical fact that the Spaniards could not penetrate the Cordilleran hinterland for centuries not just because of the terrain but due to fierce indigenous resistance.
After his sterling track record as scholar and church leader, Scott passed away on 4 October 1993, at St. Luke’s Medical Center, QC. Following his written will expressing love for Philippines, he was buried at the burial grounds of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Sagada, Mt. Province.