Tell it to SunStar: In defense of historian Ambeth Ocampo

·2 min read

This is not a statement explaining what history or the historical discipline is.

It is not a statement that will show how to research and write history, and how to distinguish what is fact from fiction in the writing of history.

It is not a statement that will argue about the vast difference between gossip and history.

But this is a statement that defends the work and practice of history and the valuable work of historians.

A few days ago, the prominent and popular historian Ambeth Ocampo wrote in defense of the historical discipline, responding to a flippant statement that compared history with gossip and rumor, or in local parlance, tsismis. For almost five decades now, he has devoted himself to the research of Philippine history, spent countless hours in archives all over the world, taught history to thousands of young students as an educator.

Mr. Ocampo devoted himself every week, as one of our very few seriously committed public historians, to writing and popularizing history for countless Filipino readers.

He has insisted in his usual, unpretentious and unembellished way, that “Real History is about Truth, not lies, not fiction,” a statement that should not be controversial. And yet, Professor Ocampo has been vilified, furiously trolled online, and both his life and reputation have been threatened. Is this how we treat and repay our teachers? Our historians? Subject them to vile and discriminatory, unprincipled and unjust attacks? While it is reasonable to debate questions of historical value and interpretation, such debates should be pursued in an open, respectful dialogue. Historians like Ambeth Ocampo deserve this respect, and if a writer and scholar of Ocampo’s stature is vilified like this, then what can others expect, when they stand up for truth and history?

The Network in Defense of Historical Truth and Academic Freedom gives our unqualified support to Ambeth Ocampo. We condemn these ad hominem attacks on the character of a well-regarded and highly professional historian of the Philippines. We remain vigilant in the defense for historical truth and integrity, and vow to do our best to preserve an open and respectful environment for historical dialogue and debate.

We stand with Ambeth Ocampo in defending truth in history.

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