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Looking Back

By Ambeth Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:53:00 10/17/2008

Filed Under: history, Personalities, Human Interest, Libraries & Museums

MANILA, Philippines??Jurassic? is a word I never imagined would apply to me, until my students brought home the point. Three years ago I came to class, as I had been doing for many years, to give what has since been known on campus as ?The Great Ambeth Ocampo Slideshow.? This was my introduction to the course on Jose Rizal, made lively by my collection of photographs showing the development of the National Hero from age 12 to the time he was shot at 35 years, six months, 10 days, seven hours and five minutes. I had been using positives and a slide projector. I think for many of the students this was part of the experience. As I was setting up the equipment, one of the students, pointing at the projector asked, ?What is that?? Then it hit me: This equipment was ?cutting edge? two decades earlier. But in the age of PowerPoint and Keynote for the Mac, the ?Great Ambeth Ocampo Slideshow? was quaint.

To compare pictures, I would sometimes run two machines on two screens, and that used to be impressive. In the computer age, however, it was definitely antiquarian.

So I stepped into the 21st century like everyone else, and the experience of the clicking sound and the ventilator of the slide machine is no more.

Another thing my students find strange are research assignments that require a trip to the library. You can actually hear a collective groan when this is announced, and voices from the back of the room ask, ?Aren?t those materials available on the Net?? When I explain that not all things are available online and that a trip to the library is part of university life, someone stands up and asks, ?You mean to say, you want us to handle a physical book??

This sharp remark made me feel 200 years old. Looking back on my days in college, we did have to visit the library and go through those 3 x 5 cards in narra drawers called a ?card catalogue.? Today students can open the catalogue of almost any major library in the universe online. To borrow a book, I had to write down call numbers and accession numbers on a library card, sign my name on yet another card found in a sleeve on the back cover of the book. The end of the process was when the librarian stamped the due date on the book and the library card.

Today you can check out a book without a librarian. All you need to do is scan your university ID and barcodes on the books, just as a ?tindera? [vendor] checks out groceries in a supermarket. I wonder what became of all those narra card catalogues. What I regret though was not collecting the cards with signatures in the backs of books. Fellow teacher Danton Remoto once told me to gather these from the Ateneo de Manila University?s Rizal Library because I would actually find autographs of famous borrowers: Horacio de la Costa, Fernando Zobel, Doreen G. Fernandez, Rolando Tinio, Alfredo Navarro Salanga, Bienvenido Lumbera, etc. The University of the Philippines (UP) Main Library in Diliman, Quezon City, would have been another source of famous autographs.

The Internet is really a wonderful research tool, and I cannot imagine scholarly life without it. But there is still a thrill to handling physical books, there is still excitement going through the stacks and finding a book that one did not expect to find. Just recently I was in the UP Main Library and I saw that they still maintained a card catalogue in some forgotten corner of the reference section. Out of pure nostalgia, I hurried there to handle old and grimy cards and was surprised that it contained a list of periodical materials indexed by author and subject. Then there was one drawer that had an alphabetical listing of pseudonyms. This was not on the Online Public Access Catalogue, or OPAC. The pen names were not even written on cards but on slips of scratch paper. I spent an hour going through these, and here are some of my findings:

I always knew Rizal used the pseudonyms Dimasalang (that?s Tagalog for Touch me not), Laong Laan (Ever-prepared) and even Calambeo. But this list said Rizal also used AGNO. Faustino Aguilar was SINAG-INA. Novelist Valeriano Hernandez Pea had many names: Ahas na Tulog, Anong, Damulag, Dating Alba, Isang Dukha, Kalampag and Kintin Kulirat. Antonio K. Abad was Akasia. Pedro de Govantes de Azcarraga was Conde de Albay. Luis Taruc used Alipato, which means ?spark that spreads a fire.? One of Rizal?s pet dogs was also called Alipato.

Aurelio Alvero was better known as Magtanggul Asa. Macario Adriatico (1869-1919) for whom Adriatico Street in Malate was named used the names Amaori, C. Amabri and Felipe Malayo. Hugo Salazar was Ambut. Jose Palma (1876-1903), the poet who wrote the lyrics of our National Anthem, was also known as Ana-haw, Esteban Estebanes, Gan Hantik. Both Lope K. Santos and Pascual H. Poblete used Anak-Bayan. The former also used Doctor Lukas. Rizal?s grand niece Asuncion Lopez Bantug used ?Apo ni Dimas.?

Revolutionaries had many aliases. Jesus Lava was B. Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista was Ba Basiong. Pascual Alvarez was Bagongbuhay. Moises Salvador was Araw. Andres Bonifacio played on his initials and used Agapito Bagumbayan, while his inspiring Katipunan name was Maypagasa.

Sixto Lopez was Batulaw. Apolinario Mabini was Bini. Gen. Vito Belarmino was Blind Veteran. Severino de las Alas was Di-kilala. Juan Luna was J.B. or simply Buan, a translation of his surname Luna which means moon. For writing, Emilio Jacinto used Dimas-ilaw. His Katipunan name was Pingkian.

* * *

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu.

Copyright 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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