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History Peeps: Dr. Tristan Osteria, Ph.D. 2016

Growing up in the Philippines in the 1990s, Dr. Tristan Osteria looked forward to unwrapping books on his birthday and at Christmas. Whether reading “Hardy Boys” mysteries or histories of World War II, Dr. Osteria saw himself as a detective, piecing together the past bit by bit.

America loomed large in Dr. Osteria’s imagination as the colonial power in the Philippines from 1898 to 1946. After completing his undergraduate degree and master’s degree at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, Dr. Osteria packed his belongings and trekked across the globe to College Station, drawn by A&M’s renown in diplomatic history. (A&M has more historians of U.S. foreign relations than any other U.S. university.) Although he found it challenging to live alone in a foreign country and learn “American English language in the land of native speakers,” he loved the unique opportunities that came his way. Dr. Osteria had the chance to conduct research in archives across the country, including Independence, Missouri, as a Truman Library Research Grant recipient. Dr. Osteria states that completing his doctoral dissertation and graduating with a Ph.D. in history from Texas A&M is his proudest accomplishment to date.

Now a professor of history at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines, Dr. Osteria values mentorship. He encourages students to feed their curiosity by asking questions about the wider world.

Dr. Osteria’s scholarly goal is to place Filipino history in the context of broader narratives. Under the guidance of advisor Jason Parker, Dr. Osteria’s dissertation, Building from Within: Indigenous Nation-Building and State-Making During the Filipino Third Republic, 1946-1957, examined how Filipinos set about building an autonomous nation after independence in 1946. Rather than viewing the history of the Philippines as one primarily of conquest and subjugation, Dr. Osteria underscores how Filipinos “pursued Filipino visions and shaped Filipino destinies.” During the Cold War, his research finds, Filipinos acted as free agents who strategically aligned themselves with America to stave off Soviet communism. Highlighting the agency of local peoples, Dr. Osteria believes, sheds light on post-colonialism in both Asia and Africa during the modern period.

To what historical figure would Dr. Osteria like to say “howdy” if given a chance? Dr. Osteria would want to meet some of the early Spanish missionaries who brought Christianity to the islands—or the precolonial Filipino warriors who greeted them. Most names have been lost, but Dr. Osteria thinks the perspectives of “unnamed Filipinos from various walks of life” would offer fascinating insights into the archipelago’s ancient cultures and their transformation over time.