History Gossip Series: Ambeth Ocampo’s Looking Back

Looking back Series, Ambeth Ocampo Book (Photo Credit: Reflectionsofasia)
Looking back Series, Ambeth Ocampo Book (Photo Credit: Reflectionsofasia)
Looking back Series, Ambeth Ocampo Book     (Photo Credit:    Reflectionsofasia)
Looking back Series, Ambeth Ocampo Book (Photo Credit: Reflectionsofasia)

Do you like History?

Oh well, I am not surprised if you will utter such words like “Boring” or “puro sinasaulo”.  Perhaps, your former teachers or professors required you to read books bombarded with names, dates and places. But allow me to share how I learn to love reading History.

As a regular book-worm, I prefer reading catchy series. My good reads list includes Harry Potter, The Hunger Games Trilogy (foreign), Eros Atalia books and Ambeth Ocampo’s Looking Back Series (Filipino). Fiction and non fiction.I love these apples and oranges! If you ask me what’s my favourite fruit? I can answer you straightforwardly, It’s the Looking Back Series!

The Writing Style

I can compare Ambeth’s works with a tomato, because I am not quite sure where I’ll categorize it. Is it a fruit or vegetable? I am not sure, but I love eating tomato! Rizal without the Overcoat became my first love. This 1990 National Book Award for Essay, offers “intrigues” and “juicy bits” about Rizal. Ocampo vivdly unveils the “jucy” and “intriguing” never-before-seen or never-been-told stories of our national hero. Para ka lang nagbabasa ng gossip stories or tabloid!  He got a warm reception from the National Artist for Literature veterans. His wit and humor hindsight on Philippine History was praised. On the other hand, some critics called him a “feature writer” not a “Historian”. Nakakahiya naman daw kina Teodoro Agoncillo at Renato Constantino. Ika nga nila “kapag mabunga ang puno, binabato” .

Relevant Gossips

If you are want tsismis here are the snippets:“Gregorio Del Pilar was a Play Boy” (Looking Back), “Aguinaldo was No Puppet” Dirty Dancing (Looking Back2), “Quezon’s Many Faces” Death by Garrote(Looking Back3) and “Quezon Saved Jews from the Holocaust” Chulalongkorn’s Elephants (Looking Back4).

Ambeth Ocampo gets his facts from primary evidence and tells it in an interesting manner. I would like to call it as “relevant gossips”. Unlike any other academicians, he makes historical figures come alive. He writes in an entertaining, and bracing style with the absence of voluminous footnotes. On a personal note, I became a history book lover even more. Thanks to this History Gossip series, now I am head over feet with History! (Ambeth’s of course!)

Ambeth Ocampo is a public historian who has published 16 books about the 19th Century Philippines (art, food, society and culture).He is an Associate Professor in Department of History, Ateneo de Manila, Professorial Lecturer in Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature, (UP Diliman), Regent of Universidad de Manila and Chairman of National Historical Institute. He writes in Philippine Daily Inquirer and moderates a Fan Page and Facebook page!

A book review by Ann Louise De Leon, 23

author:  maningning