Ambeth Ocampo

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Ambeth R. Ocampo is a Filipino historian, writer, educator, and cultural administrator. He has achieved distinction for his articles detailing fascinating little-known historical facts. His bi-weekly editorial column “Looking Back” has been running in the Philippine Daily Inquirer since 1993. He has served as chairman of the National Historical Institute and of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.


Education and career

Ocampo was born in 1961 in Manila. He took his primary, secondary, and tertiary studies at Ateneo de Manila University. Later, he went to De La Salle University where he earned a BA and MA in Philippine Studies. He enrolled at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Southeast Asian History. In 1993, he left the university and entered the monastic life in the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat in Manila. He was then known as Dom. Ignacio Maria, OSB. Four years later, he left the monastery and has not renewed his monastic vows since then.

Ocampo was appointed chairman of the National Historical Institute (NHI) in 2002 and of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) from 2005 to 2007.

He became lecturer in University of the Philippines teaching Philippine literature, Pilipino, and Art Studies and History. He was also a columnist in the newspaper, Philippine Daily Inquirer where his column, Looking Back first appeared. From these columns, he had written 55 essays about Rizal from 1987 to 1990 which he later compiled for his best-selling book, “Rizal, Without the Overcoat” – a book with rare facts and stories about Jose Rizal. Its title connotes the uncommon details about Rizal that was gathered by him through his travels and personal consultation to the persons who deeply knows the Philippine national hero.

At present, Ocampo is completing his doctoral degree at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies. In 2008, he was conferred the degree Doctor in Public Administration Honoris Causa by the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). He is an associate professor in History at Ateneo de Manila University and a professional lecturer under the Filipino Department at UP Diliman. He also teaches at San Beda College and De La Salle University.


Awards and recognitions

  • National Book Awards for the Essay, Literary History, and Bibliography
  • Premio Manuel Bernabe, Centro Cultural de la Embajada de Espana en Filipinas (Makamisa: The Search for Rizal's Third Novel)
  • National Fellow for Essay by the University of the Philippines Creative Writing Center (1995 - 1996)
  • Fulbright Senior Research Scholar (2000)
  • Research Fellow, Kyoto University Center for Southeast Asian Studies (2003)
  • TOYM Ten Outstanding Young Men (History)(1997)
  • Gawad Balagtas Lifetime Achievement Award (Essay) from the Writers Union of the Philippines (2006)
  • MetroBank Outstanding Teacher Award
  • Gatpuno Villegas Award/Patnubay ng Sining from the City of Manila for Culture (2007)
  • Commander in the Order of the Knights of Rizal
  • Encomienda [Commander] de la Orden del Merito Civil from the Kingdom of Spain
  • Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres from the Republic of France

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