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History class, reinvented

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Neal P. Corpus

Posted on September 17, 2020

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Now on its 10th year, Ambeth Ocampo’s ‘History Comes Alive’ returns for its biggest audience yet — online.

Now that school is back in session (albeit online), it’s an opportune time to remind you that learning is a life-long endeavor any which way you go about it. Learning about the past is just as important as learning new things — otherwise, we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

To prevent that is no doubt one of the goals of History Comes Alive, a series of lectures by the esteemed professor and historian Ambeth Ocampo, presented by the Ayala Museum. Now on its 10th year, History Comes Alive makes history fun and exciting for students of any age.

But since we still can’t gather within the halls of Ayala Museum (they are also renovating, apart from the pandemic) the talks have inevitably had to move online. A cause for excitement, actually, because it opens up the lectures to its biggest audience yet.

This year’s History Comes Alive will discuss two topics: pandemics and fake news.

This year’s History Comes Alive will explore two topics on two different dates. The first lecture—streaming tomorrow, September 18—will tackle pandemics, and the second lecture on October 2 will be about fake news.

These two topics have defined our year so far, and learning more deeply about them will give us better insight to our current situation.

Ambeth explains his choice for discussing pandemics in one of his lectures: “School made many of us believe that history is all about great men and women, about revolutions and heroes, and presidents and their administrations but history is not just about the political but of the social and cultural.”

He continues, “I want to talk about disease and culture, what artifacts do we have today that came from epidemics and pandemics.”

As for fake news, Ambeth says that he chose this because of all the misinformation we face on the internet. “What happens to the way we understand the world if we are to go, uncritically, with what appears on our newsfeed?”

“History should teach us to see more broadly, think critically, and connect sometimes seemingly irrelevant things to discover something new,” he adds.

Each purchase of Ayala Museum’s Virtual Pass helps students get internet access for the school year.

Another great thing about this year’s History Comes Alive is that it’s part of a fundraising initiative by the Ayala Museum called “Get Access, Give Access,” along with the upcoming Rush Hour Online Concert in November, headlined by the Manila Symphony Orchestra.

Attendees can avail of Ayala Museum’s Virtual Pass that provides a three-in-one access to the two History Comes Alive talks and the concert, proceeds of which will go to the Ayala Foundation’s Student Online Access Program that aims to give students online access for the school year.

To give us a better idea of what to expect for his lectures, we caught up with Professor Ambeth (online, of course) and asked him about what he’s learned over the last ten years of History Comes Alive, moving the talks online, and how we can avoid the mistakes of the past.

PASYAL: History Comes Alive celebrates its 10th year this year. What is the most striking thing you’ve learned about creating these lectures over the last decade?

AMBETH OCAMPO: What has surprised me over the past decade was the sustained interest in our past. There are many ways to spend a Saturday afternoon, attending a history lecture may not be on the top of the list but we have reached over 12.000 people in the past decade.

Attendees have also become younger such that last year I had to revise the lecture from R18 rating to GP.

What are the challenges of moving the lectures online? Is there a big difference for you?

While going virtual allows me to speak to a wider audience outside the confines of the Ayala Museum, the main challenge is a stable internet connection, that’s why buying access to the online lectures will provide internet access to public school students through the Ayala Foundation.

Over the past decade, History Comes Alive has reached over 12,000 people.

What is it that you love most about history, and what do you find most challenging in getting people (young people, especially) to study it?

I love research, the chore is writing or lecturing. The chore is how to extract stories from the past that will be engaging and relevant to people, even those averse to history.

One of your topics for this year is fake news. How do we ensure that the truth survives as we record the present?

History is a nightmare we should wake up from, thats why for the past three decades I have been researching, reading, lecturing and teaching history so that the present will stop reading like the past.

Apart from the different topics, what can people expect from this year’s History Comes Alive?

People can expect to learn some history and be entertained as well. History is not about the facts; who, what, where, when, and how but finding connections in the past to answer the question why?

I show in the lectures that the true magic of history is in finding connections between present and past so that we can face the uncertain future.

To purchase an Ayala Museum Virtual Pass, visit ayalamseum.org. Individual passes for each of the events are also available for P1,000. For updates and more information, Follow Ayala Museum on Instagram.

Want to read Ambeth Ocampo’s many highly-acclaimed history books?

The National Bookstore in your favorite Ayala Mall might just have a copy of his written works Rizal Without the Overcoat, Looking Back 14: Dirty Ice Cream, Meaning & History, Bones of Contention and many more.

Get your copy in these National Bookstore branches: Alabang Town Center, Ayala Malls Circuit, Ayala Malls Cloverleaf, Ayala Malls Feliz, Ayala Malls Manila Bay, Ayala Malls Serin, Ayala Malls Solenad, Ayala Malls The 30th, Glorietta, Greenbelt, Fairview Terraces, Market! Market!, TriNoma, U.P. Town Center, Ayala Malls Abreeza, Ayala Center Cebu, Ayala Malls Legazpi, Centrio Mall, Harbor Point, MarQuee Mall, and The District Imus.

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