Ambeth Ocampo on Marcos and the writing of history

Dr. Ambeth Ocampo talks about Heneral Luna, the Marcoses, and The Three Little Pigs—and delivers a profound lesson about the subjectivity of history.

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On September 26, Dr. Ambeth Ocampo, who is quite a paradox himself by being both popular and a historian, delivered a lecture to a sold-out audience at the Ayala Museum in Makati City. The topic was Ferdinand Marcos, although he could not resist starting his talk with Antonio Luna, due to the hot topic of the town at the time, the historical film Heneral Luna.

With Luna he continued from what wrote in the Inquirer (“Two Lunas, two Mabinis”), and made an important point about the subjectivity of history. All histories are written by a historian, and that historians will always have a unique point-of-view, a different angle of perception that casts varying judgments on historical subjects, depending on who is writing. It is a truism that is basic knowledge to those with the leisure for philosophical musings, but it is often a novel idea for most, especially for those who have never taken a deep interest in history outside of the classroom.

With the online discussions about Heneral Luna, we can already see this in action. Despite the filmmakers’ disclaimer at the start of the film, many of those who have seen it seem to take its narrative as historical fact—even if it is considered unfair to Aguinaldo, for instance, and despite it representing only a slice, although admittedly the most significant one, of Luna’s life.

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