Zia De Leon interviewed History Professor Ambeth Ocampo, winner of the Best SOSS Professor award for Teachers’ Appreciation Week 2015.
Zia de Leon (ZL): Congratulations on your award, Sir! What’s it like being voted the Best SOSS professor?
Ambeth Ocampo (AO): This came as a complete surprise. I’m flattered and honored by the award.
ZL: You mentioned in a past interview with Elements that what made you want to teach history was to tell the stories behind the names and the dates. Was there a particular story that started your interest for history? What is one obscure story you want more people to know about?
AO: I have so many stories. You can ask my students which of them they remember most from my class.
ZL: Being a history buff used to not be a huge part of Philippine pop culture, seeing as many people did not know about Apolinario Mabini’s disability, but thanks to Heneral Luna, seeing historical figures on social media are now normal. [They even have memes, an actual fandom, and fanfiction]. As a history professor, would you consider films like “Heneral Luna” or “Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo” a good avenue to introduce people to history, or would the fictionalization of historical figures get in the way of people understanding the real story?
AO: I was asked to preview Heneral Luna, and I told the production staff that they should remove the disclaimer at the beginning of the film stating that it is not history but a story based on facts. When people ask me how accurate Heneral Luna is, my reply is that it is a film and not a PhD thesis. The director told a story, his version of the past based on his reading and interpretation of the materials available to him. Film is a way to get people interested in history but it should not stop there. History is not about facts—who, what, where, and how—but more importantly: “Why?”
ZL: Do you have any message for the students whom voted for you as the Best SOSS Professor?
AO: Thank you. You just made [my] life more difficult because I have to live up to the award and the expectations of students who know of the award.