History Metro Manila

Rizal Ransomed: The Saga of the Rizal Manuscripts

By on June 30, 2013

HCA - ambeth ocampo1

Despite the threat of Gorio striking the metropolis yesterday afternoon, there was still a huge crowd turnout for 2013’s History Comes Alive! at the Ayala Museum in Makati. This is a series of lectures by Dr. Ambeth Ocampo, a widely read columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and an Associate Professor and former Chairman of the Ateneo history department.

Why he commands such a strong following amidst the PAGASA weather update, could be probably attributed to his incredible talent of making seemingly useless, obscure and even controversial Philippine historical tidbits into something meaningful, very engaging and more importantly, fun. Although he peppers his talk with his trademark quirky asides, you will still leave the packed venue feeling a bit more intelligent than when you entered it an hour or so earlier.

This year’s first installment was not an exception. It was about a strangely engrossing caper story involving the original Rizal manuscripts – the novels Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo and the poem Mi Ultimo Adios. On December 8, 1961, they were stolen from the National Library.

HCA - ambeth ocampo2

How these were recovered a few months later is even stranger. The official accounts state that no ransom was paid, thanks to the efforts of Alejandro Roces, the Secretary of Education at that time.

These manuscripts and anything Rizal left behind for that matter, are especially significant to Prof. Ocampo. A few decades after that infamous manuscript-nap, he had the chance of holding the originals and through rather unorthodox circumstances as well. He shared that by some stroke of serendipity, he also stumbled upon Rizal’s unfinished third novel, Makamisa. It was one of the many documents at the vault of the National Library, which ironically secured the Rizal manuscripts after the 1961 heist.

Ocampo started the TED-like lecture by telling the audience that he always learn something different about the Philippines’ National Hero, every time. He then wrapped it up by reminding the audience that while the original Rizal manuscripts may not be readily accessed by the public these days, there will still be something new that can be discovered about Rizal, our other dead heroes and in our history as a whole.

You can still catch the other lectures of this year’s History Comes Alive! series:
July 20 | Forgery & Nation: the interesting career of Jose E. Marco
August 31 | Bonifacio in Love

Tickets for each lecture of the series cost Php350 for adults and Php200 for students. This also comes with a free book and a full access to all galleries at the Ayala Museum. When you do the math, the ticket cost is quite a bargain already.

For more inquiries please email education@ayalamuseum.org or call them at +63 2 757-7117 to 21 local 24/25/35. You can also follow Dr. Ocampo in his official FB page for other announcements.

  1. Reply


    July 1, 2013

    Interesting! I wish naa sad ing-ani na talks sa Cebu!

    • Reply


      July 12, 2013

      Yeah. You must listen to him speak. That should be in your bucket list. 🙂

  2. Reply


    July 1, 2013

    This is really interesting! I like this kind of topic. 🙂

  3. Reply


    December 7, 2013

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Brennan Mercado
The Philippines

Brennan is an electronics engineer by profession. From time to time, he gets to travel beyond his office cubicle, try new restaurants or catch up with his terribly long list of unread books. He likes museums, spicy food and talking with habal-habal drivers. For now, he's still deciding on whether to play Pokémon GO or not.

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