Sunday, August 30, 2015

when Ambeth took off Rizal's overcoat

Back in college, I swore that I would watch Ambeth Ocampo (whatever it takes) when he lectures about Jose Rizal and his infamous overcoat. The chance for me to see his lecture live didn't happen when I was still teaching at the Ateneo de Manila University. It, however, came as August was ending. Man, who always comes along when I go on a history adventure, was with me. And along for the ride was Bert, an economics student doing his thesis in IRRI. 

Ambeth Ocampo basically led us through the more important details of his book "Rizal Without the Overcoat". This is my favourite textbook among those of my social sciences courses in college. And Ambeth's lecture style makes history come alive, as he entitled his lecture series. It was a major laugh trip to hear about the escapades of Jose Rizal, the Philippines' national hero, as a student in Europe... in the days long before the internet, social media, and computers. Ambeth showed the human side of a man who would be immortalised globally in stone monuments. Rizal had many girlfriends but for the one he loved as he approached death, Josephine Bracken, he asked his family to take care of her after his execution. As if anyone listened to the poor guy. This, and many of his request about what to do to his body after he was executed, was not followed. Hence, he lies in state under constant guard; there's a plaque about his heroism; some of his bones are on display in museums (or is it just in one?), and Josephine was left to fend for herself, forever in history books as the woman Jose left last. 

Ambeth also tackled the stories behind Rizal's novels. It appeared that he followed the trail of the Noli and the Fili... Well, the trail has long been roads now. But how fascinating can it be to actually walk where Rizal walked, where his characters treaded, right? 

I just had to meet Ambeth in person after his lecture. And so Man, Bert, and I joined the  queue to have our books signed. Yeah, by watching the lecture, we got free books! That's how enthusiastic the Ayala Museum is about educating people about Philippine history! Anyway, as he was signing our books, Ambeth asked us about ourselves. And when we answered that we're from the International Rice Research Institute, he said he's been invited to go over there and check out the Philippine traditional rice varieties. 


Now we have something else to look forward to. Man, if he does visit, we will be prepared. Fanmode on!!