Saturday, November 28, 2015

The History of the Past

6:44 PM

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Ambeth Ocampo tells The Thing about exploring heroes, history, and humanity.

“Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” - Jose Rizal

Dr. Jose Rizal’s famous quote is colloquially translated to "know your history." But what does it mean to know history anyway? Is it knowing the dates and names of significant events and people? Is it taking a class from elementary until university?

We here at The Thing don’t have definitive answers, so we figured we’d ask history expert Ambeth Ocampo some questions about the past and its role in our futures. Through email, Mr. Ocampo skilfully clears up the ambiguity behind what makes a hero, how human bias affects how history is passed on, and what a historian’s role is in the shaping of history.

[Editor's Note: Some images are GIFs, so you might want to wait a while before scrolling past them.]

The Thing (TH): Much of the details in your book would've gone unnoticed if seen through unwatchful eyes. Do you think we miss out on important details of history because we aren't observant? Do you think this is a fault that will make it hard for us to properly recreate the past?

TH: What, in your opinion, makes a historical figure worthy to be called a hero? Who do you think best fits this description?

TH: Many have pointed out that the history taught in primary and secondary schools and depicted in the media is occasionally inaccurate (Lapu-Lapu didn’t actually kill Magellan, Katipuneros didn’t fight sporting their flashy red pants and bolos in hand, and so on), but this is sometimes done intentionally to hide the “dark chapters” of Philippine history. What do you think of this filtering of history?

TH: Although several aspects of Philippine history are well-known, many are often in the dark on other important historical figures and events that impacted the country greatly. What parts of local history should be given more focus or emphasis?

TH: People have been showing their support for Marcos, saying he improved the Philippines’ economy while implementing Martial Law. They also believe that another Martial Law should be implemented to promote discipline amongst our citizens. What are your thoughts on these perspectives?

Thanks again to Mr. Ambeth Ocampo for answering our questions!

Intro by Dani P.
Cover illustrations and GIFs by Mika
Profile illustration of Ambeth Ocampo by Arielle G. 
Special thanks to Belle Mapa
Dani is a storyteller and a Daughter of Eve. She is a curious creature, studying medicine until further notice, and considers herself a ‘citizen of the world.’ (Whatever that’s supposed to mean.) Oh, and she’s also very much fond of lemon squares. She shares some of her stories on

An avid dreamer, Mika is a fairly eccentric girl with a penchant for the poignant, who spends her days either contemplating the infinite wonders of the great beyond or what to eat for dinner. A professional shower-singer, she lives in the world of her headphones and watercolor, all while her heart does the foxtrot among the stars. If she were a fruit, she would most probably be a banana.

Arielle is an illustrator who firmly believes in the super powers of ramen. She is also an aspiring animator / Jedi who belongs to the art side of the force.


  1. GREAT ARTICLE. I look up to Ambeth Ocampo so hard and not a lot of "youth" publications cover a story on such an admirable guy, so this was refreshing and just what the youth needed.