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Home » column You are browsing column “Looking Back” - Ambeth R. Ocampo

Holy Week taboos

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“Tapsilog” was on the menu for breakfast last Monday. What better way to start the week right? Well, the cook wanted to alter the schedule and offered yogurt and cereal instead, so I remarked that it was the first day of the summer term and I needed a power breakfast. She hesitated a bit, gathered her courage, and said, “Sir, it’s the Holy Week, you shouldn’t be eating meat.” I explained that abstinence from meat is observed only on the Fridays of Lent, and that fasting (or having only one full meal) and abstinence are observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I was amused and flattered that our cook cared not just for our belly but for our soul as well.

Posted: April 16th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Toothpicks and toothpick holders

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Why is it that when we speak of Manila we refer to it in the past tense? Spanish Manila was once the walled city (Intra-muros) and the rest of the city outside the walls (extra-muros) were arrabales or suburbs. Legazpi founded Manila in 1571 in an existing city, may-nila, where the nila plant grew in abundance. (It’s not and never has been nilad with a “d.”)

Posted: April 11th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

‘Brown Madonna’

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One of our demanding theology professors once entered the classroom and predicted: “One day you will return to the Ateneo with a big smile on your face after being told by a member of the Opus Dei that all Jesuits will go to Hell.”

Posted: April 9th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Featured Columns,Featured Headline,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

‘Demonyo tables’

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Weeks ago I wrote about the overheated auction scene in Manila and the elegant Baliuag furniture made from Philippine hardwood ornamented with pleasing designs from carabao horn.

Posted: April 4th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

A peek into Kapitan Tiago’s house

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Dramatic indeed was the closing of the International Congress on Jose Rizal in 1961, when news leaked that the original manuscripts of Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere,” “El Filibusterismo,” and “Mi Ultimo Adios” were stolen from the National Library and held for ransom. These historic manuscripts were recovered piecemeal by then Education Secretary Alejandro R. Roces in an amazing story that should be made into a film someday.

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Death blanket in the living room

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Browsing the dry goods section of the Baguio market for abel or Ilocano cotton blankets, I often eavesdrop on other shoppers.

Posted: March 28th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

The Philippines under Portugal?

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Contrary to popular belief, I frequent Ermita for antique shops and Solidaridad Bookstore, not for the sad remainder of a once-bustling red-light district that has since moved to the northern end of Makati Avenue. Manila’s red-light district used to be in an area between Ermita Church and Malate Church, both shrines of venerated images of the Virgin Mary. Not wishing to lose this religious element, the Makati red-light district is concentrated around P. Burgos Street, named in honor of Fr. Jose A. Burgos (the “bur” in “Gomburza”).

Posted: March 26th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

From Panacot to Panatag

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Like most historians, I do research in libraries, archives, and museums but, believe it or not, sometimes I do research in antique shops.

Posted: March 21st, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Chewing ‘buyo’

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When you look at a painting by Pablo Picasso, what do you see first? Is it the picture itself or its multimillion-dollar price tag? When you look at Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium,” what do you see first? Do you see dead gladiators in a bloody scene from ancient Rome or Luna’s comment on the condition of the Philippines under Spain, or its multimillion-peso price tag? One of the unfortunate effects of the current frenzy in the art market is that it makes people buy names rather than pictures. As a historian, I am happy that many hidden masterpieces are making their way to the auction block because there is a chance to document these pieces and add to our knowledge of Philippine art.

Posted: March 19th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

‘Lupang Hinirang’ or ‘Bayang Magiliw’?

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Archived on YouTube is an engaging TED talk delivered by Joey Ayala at the University of the Philippines Diliman that proposes a more musical and euphonic way of singing the national anthem. While his version makes sense and is definitely in tune with Filipino sentiment and musicality, it runs counter to the present Flag Law that needs review and perhaps revision by Congress. To appreciate Ayala’s version, it is definitely better than the “hataw-birit” renditions sung as introduction to Manny Pacquiao’s boxing matches in the United States that mimic the American anthem.

Posted: March 14th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Featured Columns,Featured Headline,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

From ‘epal’ to art

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When used for the right purpose, computer printing on tarpaulin is one of the technological advances of our time, but when used to inflict the names and faces of “epal” politicians on us, tarpaulin advertisements become the visual curse of our time. Tarpaulin will never rise to the level of art, but self-promotion, or the need to leave one’s mark in the world, sometimes gives birth to World Heritage sites like the pyramids in Eygpt and Mexico or the Taj Mahal in India. In the Philippines, we have the iconic Marcos-era buildings that inspired the term “edifice complex,” describing one of Imelda Marcos’ afflictions.

Posted: March 12th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

‘Chicharon’ and furniture in Baliuag

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If we are to go by the results of the recent local and international auctions, the prices of Philippine art have not only hit the roof but actually shot out of it! There is so much liquidity in Manila these days that many speculators have jumped on the bandwagon and have been buying names rather than pictures.

Posted: March 7th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Featured Columns,Featured Headline,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

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