Ambeth Ocampo is a noted historian and curator who makes the subject of looking back feel fun and fresh. He does this through his widely-read opinion column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, his large following on social media, and his History Comes Alive lecture series. Just take a look at the next series of discourses in History Comes Alive. It’s called “The Eras Lectures,” a clear reference to Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour.
Aside from his columns, social media posts, and lectures, Ocampo makes history more accessible and relevant with his extensive bibliography. Labinlimang Ambeth is a boxed set of his Looking Back books, filled with straightforward, thoroughly researched essays on Philippine history and culture. Rizal Without the Overcoat uncovers the man behind the glorified hero that is Dr. Jose Rizal. It’s so popular that it continues to be reprinted with different covers.
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Now, the historian is out with a new book. It’s called Cabinet of Curiosities: History from Philippine Artifacts. This book is a journey through Filipino history through 100 artifacts that have significantly shaped the nation’s identity.
In the book’s preface, Ocampo writes, “History need not be confined to the written word. Compared to texts that are voices from a printer or handwritten page, artifacts are mute. Yet, they too have stories to tell, many stories that contribute to a sense of what it means to be Filipino.”
Cabinet of Curiosities is divided into three sections spanning times during our history: the Prehistoric Period, the Spanish Period, and the Contemporary Period.
Ocampo discusses specific items like the Angono Petroglyphs, the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, as well as more traditional items like the salakot, the anting-anting, and even pastillas wrappers. Each artifact takes only a few pages so the book is a fast yet informative read.
Cabinet of Curiosities is a fascinating re-introduction to Philippine history. Ocampo’s commitment to research, his writing style, and wit make reading it even more exciting.
The book is available in select National Book Store branches and will be on sale online soon.
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