By PINK-JEAN FANGON MELEGRITO
BAGUIO CITY (Sept. 27) — The Anvil Publishing House’s campaign for the “propagation of the book readers community” brought today authors Prof. Ambeth Ocampo and Jessica Zafra to the UP Baguio community to encourage people increase their “Passion for Books.”
The activity was a two-part forum – in the morning, Ocampo talked about “popularizing history”; and in the afternoon, Zafra divulged her ‘how-tos’ of personal essay writing.
Anvil Publishing head Karina Bolasco said it is very important that all people should “sustain the community of book readers” as the technology age rapidly passes by.
The Anvil Publishing, in cooperation with UP Baguio College of Social Science, Department of History and the College of Arts and Communication, with some Speech Communication classes and organization SPEAK-UP, sponsored the said event.
Images of Boni and Rizal beyond the coins
A history professor at the Ateneo de Manila University (with teaching units at UP Diliman, La Salle and San Beda), Ocampo shared that he opens his classes instructing students to draw how they perceive heroes Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio.
This time, Ocampo assigned one team composed of UPB Chancellor Priscilla Supnet-Macansantos, CSS Dean Ray Rovillos, Prof. Chat delos Reyes and writer-painter-teacher Jun Cruz Reyes; the other was a team of 3 students and National Artist Ben Cabrera, also one of the Ocampo enthusiasts who graced the forum.
Both teams had the ‘stereotypical’ images of Rizal – hair parted on one side, wears coat-&-tie, holds the books Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo; and Bonifacio – barefoot, bolo hanging from the side of his red pants, holds the red Katipunan flag, wears the white kamisa de chino.
Ocampo immediately then discussed “what’s wrong with this picture.” As current chairperson of the National Commission of Culture and the Arts and the National Historical Institute, Ocampo delved ‘truth about these images.’
He interviewed Gregoria de Jesus’ (wife of Bonifacio) grandchild, who was actually a descendant of De Jesus’ second marriage to Julian Nakpil. Throughout the interview, he was repeatedly asked, “What was the color of Bonifacio’s pants during the revolution?”
Startled yet curious, Ocampo answered, “Red.” The Nakpil grandchild quipped that it was illogical to wear something so bright like red pants and white kamisa if you’re in war – your enemies would spot you right at your first step. The same analysis goes with the red Katipunan flag.
In addition, the only picture of Bonifacio found was that he was actually wearing a coat-and-tie with a corsage. Bonifacio was always depicted as the “macho-farmer-type”, but he is actually thin. Moreover, he could not have used his bolo to kill enemies, he couldn’t be only a few inches away from his enemy or else he could be defeated easily – a revolver gun would have been more appropriate.
He also shared that Rizal would have not used a quill as was seen in some history books; instead, Rizal used a wooden pen since the quill was already defunct the time he started writing. Rizal is always seen holding two books, and yet he published three books – the Noli, El Fili and the annotated version of Las Islas Filipinas.
Ocampo explained that some details of images maybe trivial but to really think about it, that’s the only way we could be familiarized with our own history. As also a national paper columnist, Ocampo elucidated, “We should make the past relevant to comment on current social issues.”
“Draw beyond what is taught. Let us push the parameters of knowledge a bit further. Critical thinking, raising questions and (de)constructing the past will guide us to un/re- learn, write, read and understand a more relevant, readable, livable, creative (yet still truthful) and interesting history,” Ocampo concluded.
Zapping off personal blah-blahs
The second half of the forum opened with a Speech class’ performance poetry (oral interpretations) of some Zafra’s works, particularly from her own book “Tw7sted” (7th of the series Twisted).
Author of Twisted, a series of personal essays, and other books (The 500 People You Meet In Hell) Palanca awardee and a Creative Writing Institute Fellow, Jessica Zafra described her writing process.
She shared that one must “list deadlines; gather data – choose a movie, for example; then write your article in longhand; then when you pass your article, your boss decides not to publish your article.” She explained that to write for a living is actually a brave thing.
Also, as she read some entries from her journal, she imparted some tips of personal essay writing. “You must ‘cannibalize’ your own work – realize that you have a life. Everything is material – even if your life’s boring, you could still find something. And [be real] – don’t use a pseudonym, be embarrassed, [that’s part of it (personal essay writing)],” Zafra elaborated.
She also commented on lack of book reading nowadays, “We should ask questions. Though the Internet (has been used for research,) and yes, it is reliable, have you ever heard of books, the library?”
“[What got me started in writing] was that I was the only child until I was 12 or 13 (years old). Most of the time, I interact with books. Then I started to write something to entertain myself. And I realized, ‘Wow! I’m a writer.’ Just be the best Juan/Juana you can be,” Zafra concluded when asked what she could tell the aspiring writers.
Meanwhile, Bolasco did not disclose details of where the Anvil authors would be touring next time. #