A short review of Erlyn Ruth Alcantara’s “‘Ib-a Tako Na’—Scotty as Friend, Neighbor, and Kinsman”

By Kelly Ramos

The Commemorative Conference of the Birth Centenary of William Henry Scott held on 24 July 2021, organized by the Department of History and Philosophy of the University of the Philippines Baguio and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines stands out for its subject matter and intent.

Looking back in remembrance and celebration of the triumphs of an age seems to have greater value and importance during these days of uncertainty. It lifts us out of this quagmire of the present times and reminds us that each of us can play a part in the continuity of human accomplishment. With the inspirational guiding light of individuals like Scott who was an intellectual, scholar, writer, activist, historian, musician, as well as mentor and friend to many, hope in humanity’s existence is somehow restored.

The organizers did well to make Erlyn Ruth Alcantara the first speaker in this conference. With a wealth of photographs and textual material, Erlyn shared precious glimpses of the man in his environment. In the presented video (https://youtu.be/QdO6HLvfgS4), we saw Scotty in his everyday life in Sagada and Baguio, among friends and favorite haunts, interspersed with pictures of his books and pages from his journals. As Erlyn herself said, “This is anything but an academic paper. It is more of a remembrance of Scotty, a montage of excerpts and memories of him as a dear friend.”

Erlyn started her deeply sensitive and lovely talk with a visualization of a first meeting in the eighties with a group of writers, artists, and intellectuals in the UP campus. The audience was then transported a few years into the future with the collaborative processes of the two friends working together on books and essays that even now might be on your shelves. Through Erlyn’s stories, we imagine the teacher in Diliman and the principal in Sagada. We see the missionary, the activist and his struggle, then the touching homecoming. One could almost see the man popping up at an office in Baguio to visit a friend, making witty banter, eating cake and drinking beer on a Sagada afternoon, or gleefully pronouncing the peculiar word “eee-mail.”

Erlyn’s tribute fleshed out the man as a human being. It allowed us a greater appreciation of his more scholarly work as the other speakers in the conference told us of Scott as an anthropologist, an educator, and an intellectual. Indeed it is true what the host said at the end of Erlyn’s talk; her perspective “helps us understand Scott not only as a scholar but more as a person.”

There was poignancy in Erlyn Ruth Alcantara’s remembrance of William Henry Scott as she shared with us the last words he said to her, as she delved into the circumstances of his untimely death, and as she talked about an unfinished project that he was working on.

After her talk, Erlyn shared that she had such encouraging and heartwarming feedback. One of them was from a family who knew Scotty well who said they were all in tears as they watched. Another comment from long-time Sagada resident Joachim Voss goes, “What a great tribute. It captures the essence of Scotty and of your friendship. Parts of it had me in tears. Written from both the mind and the heart.”

And so it is as it should be, that those who are left behind bear witness to the precious moments of a life well lived.

About the author

Kelly Ramos is a visual artist and writer who left her heart in Baguio. As she curates for a university museum in Mindanao, she deals with the lowland heat by dreaming of cool nights and mountain fog.