A Brief History of the the International Conference on Philippine Studies (ICOPHIL)

A Brief History

In July 1992, when the 4th International Philippine Studies Conference was hosted by the Philippine Studies Association of Australia (PSAA), it was decided that the 5th International Conference would be held in Hawai‘i with the Center for Philippine Studies (CPS) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mãnoa as host. The 5th ICOPHIL was held in July 1996. Thus was born the International Philippine Studies Committee.

Realizing that the international conference should be institutionalized, the CPS called a business meeting mainly to establish the Committee to look into the possibility of holding a conference every four or five years in an international venue to gather together scholars engaged in Philippine Studies across disciplines as a way of generating knowledge and disseminating research findings on Philippine culture and society.

The International Committee (now called the International Board of Philippine Studies Conferences, or ICOPHIL Board for short) was loosely organized with Belinda A. Aquino as founding Chair and the CPS as Secretariat since it already had a staff to handle some of the administrative arrangements needed to be in touch with Philippine studies associations or organizations in various countries. Members of the Committee at the time were heads of Philippine-related institutions internationally, such as the Philippine Studies Association of Australia (PSAA), the Philippine Studies Group (PSG) at the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) in the US, the Philippine Studies Association (PSA) in the Philippines, and a core group from Japan and Europe (which has convened several EUROPHIL conferences). Other individual scholars who were active in Philippine studies were also included in the Board.

So that enough lead time would be given to future hosts of the international conference, it was decided in the 1996 Committee’s business meeting that the planning process would begin with the designation of the next two international conference hosts/venues. Thus it was decided that the 6th International Conference in 2000 would be hosted by the Philippine Studies Association (PSA) in the Philippines and the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC), and the 7th International Conference in 2004 would be held in Leiden, with the cooperation of the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS).

At the 2004 ICOPHIL meeting in Leiden, the next two venues which were decided were the following: Manila (with PSA and PSSC again as hosts) to the 8th ICOPHIL in 2008; and Michigan State University at East Lansing, Michigan, to host the 9th ICOPHIL in 2012. The hosting was confirmed at the PSG Meeting in San Francisco in April 2006. In the 2008 meeting in Manila, the ICOPHIL Board should designate the hosts for the 2016 and 2020 ICOPHIL conferences.

It should be noted that in the intervening years – when the ICOPHIL was not scheduled – there have been a number of national conferences held to encourage attendance from regions near the host institutions. Thus, in Europe, EUROPHIL (European Philippine Studies) Conferences were held in Amsterdam, London, Aix-en-Provence, and Alcala. In Japan, several Philippine-related conferences have been sponsored by various universities since 1985, the latest being the First Philippine Studies Conference of Japan (PSCJ:2006), hosted by Kanagawa University and Tokyo University last November 2006. In the Philippines, the Philippine Studies Association convened the 3rd and 4th National Philippine Studies Conference at PSSC in 2003 and Baguio in 2004, respectively, and a regional conference was held in Cebu in 2005.

The main responsibility of the ICOPHIL Board is to coordinate the international and national/regional conferences to avoid overlapping and ensure maximum participation of potential attendees to these conferences. The Board also encourages a comparative approach to the study of the Philippines across national borders. Also, since its inception, it has advocated including various aspects of the “Filipino diaspora” or an estimated 8 million overseas Filipinos, in the broader field of Philippine studies.

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