Aguinaldos Breakfast More Looking Back Essays Ambeth R Ocampo



Find out how Mabini's remains fit snuggly into a small coffin, and while he was still alive, how he tried to learn how to dance with a chair as partner; what happened on Bonifacio's last days and how much Aguinaldo spent while traveling and many more.


In this volume, Ocampo ponders the arrangement of Mabini's bones in his tiny coffin, examines the curling irons for Luna's moustache, tracks down the exact expletive General Mascardo used to goad General Luna to fight him, gawks at the vaginal clamps used by Galiciano Apacible and the "pickled appendix" of Aguinaldo, and much more interesting historical vignettes as only Ocampo can write.

These are essays, which present our heroes as more than concrete and stone, with their grand moments in history and their own sets ofidiosyncrasies.





The essays offer new insights and data on Rizal as unearthed by historian Ambeth Ocampo through photographs, correspondences, lists, and other miscellany obtained from his meticulous researches. Received the 1990 National Book award for the essay.




Ocampo discovers the Tagalog draft and the Spanish borrador of Rizal’s third and unfinished novel. Received the 1992 National Book Award.



And more looking back essays

Although written from 1986 to 1989, these essays continue to delight as they bring the reader to the past in exploration of food, haircuts, courtship, cursing and even farting. Through the interviews and profiles we get to know more about Teodoro Agoncillo, Dely Atay-atayan, Jose Ma. Sison and others. Definitely not what history textbooks will teach you.




The lectures in this book were written between the years 1993-1998, which according to the author is a glorious time to be a Filipino historian. History, according to Ocampo, must have story and meaning to become an effective tool in helping people appreciate and see their past, present and hopefully their future.


Companion volume to Meaning and History





Find out why Andres Bonifacio preferred his gun to his bolo and why he was not the "Great Unwashed" as myth would have him depicted as Ocampo continues to add interesting bits to other scrapbook of history





In this collection of transcripts of free-wheeling, no-holds-barred conversations, Ambeth R. Ocampo paves the way towards a re-evaluation of National Scientist (1985) Teodoro A. Agoncillo's scholarship, by providing readers "insight into his working methods, his joys and struggles that shaped the particular, nationalist way he viewed and narrated Philippine history."



"I don't know that Ambeth's stories are the best example of it, but I should think that the concept of storytelling itself as an approach to history is a vastly important one. It's a mistake to think that anything that is not written in the turgid, analytical style of dissertations, or does not argue aggressively for an interpretation, is not important or does not strike the core of life. If anything, I would argue the opposite. Stories are more important thatn analyses. Or so for the historical demands of our time and place. Stories inspire, stories light fires. And they do offer concepts and interpretations, without violently yanking the heads of people and saying 'Look, this is the way it happened!'"

Former National Historical Institute chair Ambeth R. Ocampo shares to us how he deals with writer’s block, his pet peeves, his favorite hangout, being a stand-up comic, and things that only a few people know about  the most popular and accessible Filipino historian of our generation.

Traveler on Foot: Is Ambeth a nickname?

Ambeth:  AMBETH is a nickname that I have used all my life and the name I have used professionally thus I am better known under this than my baptismal name. I am seriously considering a change of name so my passport will carry Ambeth Ocampo.

Traveler on Foot:  Your followers admire you for your writings. We all know that you were influenced by great Filipino historians (Teodoro Agoncillo, Carmen Guererro-Nakpil and Nick Joaquin) and were taught by equally great teachers like Prof. Doreen Fernandez. However, what we do not know is how your interest in history all started. Can you please tell us about your childhood? What were your favorite toys?

Ambeth: I don’t remember much of my childhood toys but I grew up in a house with books. My father was a reader and the deal was that I would never be refused a book I wanted. If I asked for a toy he could say no. I was always interested in history and that became stronger when I had BAD teachers, maybe I became a historian because I didn’t like the way I was taught. Or maybe I became a historian because of the Folger Shakespeare we used in high school that had the play on the left side of the book and all the most obscure notes on the right.

Traveler on Foot: Why did you decide to enter the Benedictine Abbey in Mendiola? Can you describe your life as Dom Ignacio Ma. Ocampo, OSB? Why did you leave the Abbey?

Ambeth: Benedictine life was the bedrock of my life, I’d think it was to balance my Jesuit upbringing (hence the name Ignacio Ma. for Ignatius Loyola). Monastic life appealed to me because of the history of the order that was a light in the dark ages, monks copying out and annotating manuscripts was a very strong image, but most importantly it was a READING order, we read all the time and when you were too lazy to read they read to us during meals and during the Divine Office. (for a glimpse into my life there see Mabini’s Ghost) it was the happiest and most productive time of my life and I often entertain thoughts of returning but I do have to finish all the work I have to do outside the cloister.

Traveler on Foot: We know that balimblings (Gallery of Traitors), insensitive people asking if you’ve read all the books in your personal library are some of things that annoy you. Can you please share what else your pet peeves are?

Ambeth: Pet peeves? I met most of those during my stint in government. Scheming corrupt jerks. Also those who want to believe the worst of me. You cannot please everyone, I tried to do my job to the best of my abilities and my opportunities if that is not enough for my critics let them try and do better before they criticize. I don’t mind well meaning or constructive criticism because I learn from that but criticism from people of lesser intelligence or from a lower form of life really gets my goat.

Traveler on Foot: In your FB fan page, you have an album called Near Famous where you are seen with national artists, ambassadors, politicians, and mostly famous people. As a public figure you rub elbows with both famous and ordinary people. Who do you consider are your closest friends? Who are the special women in your in life?

Ambeth: I appear to have a very public life but Im actually introverted–thats why I entered a cloistered religious order–but as a public servant it was my job to be outgoing. I had to create a public face for historians (that many don’t agree with), I had to be the public face for culture and acted as Philippine Culture Minister abroad. I have very few friends, some writers but am most at home with family also with common souls in the Ateneo. I guess this answers your question “who are special women in your life?” (smiles)

Traveler on Foot: As a researcher and writer, do you experience writer’s block? What do you do when you don’t feel like writing even if you have all the materials you’ve researched in front of you?

Ambeth: I’m just recovering from Writer’s Block. Last time I had this was 20 years ago and was cured by the touch of the Dalai Lama (that’s another story). In my profession we cannot have writers block, we don’t need a blue moon or love to write. Our only inspiration is the deadline!

Traveler on Foot:  If you’re not Ambeth the historian now, you are Ambeth the ….?

Ambeth:  If I’m not Ambeth Ocampo the historian, I’m Ambeth Ocampo the teacher, the writer, stand-up comic (smiles)

Traveler on Foot: We all know that you are a busy person even you are no longer with NHI, but you still teach, travel, and accept speaking engagements. Can you describe how you start your day? What are the things you like doing that is not related to historical research? How do you unwind?

Ambeth: My home is my refuge. Surrounded by my books and a modest collection of art and antiques it is a wonderful place where ideas percolate in my head, writing is easy, research and composition is the hard part. Research I enjoy more than writing because I explore many avenues, writing is only one topic.

Traveler on Foot: You are undoubtedly the most popular Filipino historian of this generation. You have numerous followers, influenced and inspired a lot of Filipinos to appreciate our culture, art, and history. Can you now say that this is the life that you want? What else do you want to achieve in life?

Ambeth:  As the country’s former National Historian, as allegedly the most popular historian of my generation I’d like to think I took history from the ivory towers of academe and brought it down and returned it to people where it also belongs. I wanted to share my interest and enthusiasm for history by making it relevant to people. I am an accidental historian, I didn’t plan it. Many things in my life fell on my lap and I made the most of them. Skill is nothing without opportunity and I was blessed with both. I’m lucky that I like what I’m doing such that my “work” doesn’t seem like work at all because I enjoy it–and this shows.

Related link: Ambeth Ocampo and Nick Joaquin


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