‘Like Japan’: Historian Ambeth Ocampo calls for companies to design manhole covers on streets

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In case you follow Ambeth Ocampo on his Facebook page, you might have noticed that the historian and professor has quite the penchant for documenting manhole covers — from the colorful, creative versions in Japan to the more utilitarian versions dotting the streets of Manila.

Now, the former National Historical Commission of the Philippines chairman is calling on corporations to sponsor design contests for the city’s manhole covers “to add joy to our streets.”

“Some pleasures in life are free. Japan has an amazing variety of man-hole covers; different in each city, and region. I have photo of these, some shared on this Facebook page,” Ocampo began his post.

“I noticed recently, during my aimless morning walks around Makati, that we have different man-hole covers too. Documenting these I realized that unlike the Japanese manhole covers, ours remain on the base, utilitarian level. I hope to see the day that these everyday objects can be raised to the level of art,” the historian wrote.

“Perhaps Meralco, PLDT, MWSS, Ayala Corp can sponsor manhole design contests to add joy to our streets. As I always tell my students, it is one thing to see and another to notice. So when you next hit pavement, use your eyes aside from your feet,” Ocampo said.

A journalist and curator, Ocampo has written over 48 books and publications, including essays on Philippine history, arts, and culture. Best known through his former column “Looking Back” in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the historian has received acclaim for making Philippine history more approachable through his work.

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