Hernando Ocampo was a man whose name connotes excellence in the arts – be it in literature, news papering or painting, but especially in painting.
Ocampo was born on April 28, 1911 in Sta. Cruz, Manila. His parents were Emilio Ocampo and Delfina Ruiz, both ilustrados. He finished his high school at the YMCA, Manila in 1928, and then went to Letran College to take up pre-law at the instance of his father. Instead of concentrating on his studies, however, he devoted more time to creative writing. He was partial to poetry and short stories. In 1932, he joined Narciso G. Reyes, who was to become Philippine ambassador, in forming the veronica Writer’s Group.
Jose Garcia Villa’s choices for the best Filipino short stories for 1936 and 1937 included Ocampo’s “My Name is Mary,” “Street Scene in Maypajo,” and “We or They.”
The nationalism of Ocampo is strongly evident in his writings during the Japanese occupation, particularly in the story, “Ang Ikalawang Pagdalaw,” which was published in Sinagtala. This work earned the acclaim of literary critics. Another story, “Ang Kulay ng Lumbay,” was reprinted in Diwang Kayumanggi, an anthology edited by Juan C. Laya. Moreover, his works were among the 25 best short stories published in 1943.
As a journalist, Ocampo worked as associate editor of the Herald Midweek Magazine before he served as director of the National media Production Center from 1954 to 1958.
Although Ocampo excelled in journalism and short story writing, he was more eminent as a painter. A modernist, he painted brilliant canvases that bear a distinctive originality. His abstract paintings won in art compositions in the 40’s and 50’s.
In 1948, Ocampo represented the Philippines at the Sports art Exhibition in Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 1950, he was offered a scholarship to study French art in Paris. The following year, the Unite States government offered him a Smith-Mundt leader grant in communications. However, he declined both offers for personal reasons. In 1954, in recognition of his contributions towards the advancement of Filipino culture in the field of painting, the government bestowed on him the Republic Cultural Heritage Award.
Ocampo died of heart failure on December 28, 1978. Thirteen years later, in June 1991, he was posthumously named National Artist, thus securing his place of honor in Philippine art and culture.
CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Volume 3. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994 Quirino, Carlos. Who’s who in the Philippines. Manila: Tahanan books, 1995.