Love Cebu!

Instead of hauling in the wrecking ball to demolish the Aduana, a heritage custom house, the local government converted it into the National Museum of Cebu, disbursing close to 250 million pesos for adaptive reuse. That was tax payers money well spent on the 16th regional site of the National Museum of the Philippines.

From a distance, my grandchildren and I saw the Batanes Area Museum, a strategic white blot on the windswept coastline of our northernmost territory. In another life, it was a Long Range Navigation Station of the US Coast Guard. Abandoned after the war, it was restored in 2012. It is the custodian of valuable Ivatan artifacts. There is a library, a laboratory and a dormitory for museum staff and visiting researchers.

The Cagayan Valley Regional Museum is renowned for the Homo Luzonensis, an archaeological discovery that pushed our history back by 70,000 years before present time. Debunked is that specious theory that these islands were uninhabited before outsiders sailed in. There were humans, cave dwellers who hunted elephants, rhinoceros and pigs with stone tools. Remains of reptiles and tortoises now extinct were found with fossilized flora and fauna.

During the excavation rush of the 1980’s, a museum satellite office was set up in Cagayan Valley including the Madrigal and Espinosa ranches in Tuao, Cagayan and Rizal, Kalinga. Today, the field museum is near the Callao caves in Peñablanca.

The nucleus of the Ilocos Regional Museum Complex is the Padre Burgos Museum, ancestral home of the martyred priest constructed in 1788. The old Carcel or jail house, circa 1657, was the Vigan jail that became the Carcel Provincial when Ylocos was divided into Norte and Sur in 1818, a decade after the sanguinary Basi Revolt 0f 1807. Former Pres. Elpidio Quirino was born in that jailhouse in 1890, simply because his father was the warden.

As Secretary of Tourism, I visited the Ifugao Museum founded in 1984 by the PANAMIN ( Presidential Assistant on National Minorities). Responding to indigenous community demands, the National Museum of Cordillera was set up. Among its treasures are a hagabi, the Ifugao social status bench, a variety of bulul, the granary god and artifacts excavated in the old Kiyyangan village, the earliest settlement of the Ifugao. In the making are exhibits about the incredible construction and irrigation system of the rice terraces, one of the wonders of the world, built by the Ifugaos of the Cordillera mountain range.

Between Angono and Binangonan in Rizal province, there are rock shelters carved out of volcanic tuff. About 179 zoomorphic and geometric figures were etched on its porous walls, discovered by Carlos Franciso, a.k.a Botong, posthumous National Artist. It was the talk of archaeological circles when I was hired by the National Museum in 1963.

The Tabon Caves site museum remains on my bucket list. Archaeological discoveries were the rage of culture vultures, aspiring archaeologists ( like I was) and all manner of historians. The finds demolished colonial thinking that no one lived in these islands. A human skull, the top down to the brow, was excavated by the National Museum team headed by the late Dr. Robert Fox. They called it Tabon Man, could it be a woman? Our history was pushed back by 20,000 years; that was before Homo Luzonensis shoved to the dawn of time.

Another spectacular find was the enormous Manunggul Jar, a secondary burial artifact of clay carbon dated at 890 to 710 B.C. The handle of the cover is a glimpse of our pre-colonial beliefs in the afterlife: Two figures in a boat are rowing to the Great Beyond.

In Tagbilaran, Bohol, the National Museum occupies the former provincial capitol which, according to meticulous colonial documents, took ten years to build (1855 to 1866). Beams were made of banaba, molave and bangkal; 27,300 bricks and 4,325 cavans of lime were used. The capitolio was damaged during the 7.2 earthquake that hit Bohol, but it was restored and declared an Important Cultural Treasure. One of its galleries, the Pagpauli, is a shrine to eminent sculptor Napoleon Abueva, son of Bohol and National Artist. I was happy to bump into a group of students spending their free time there instead of in a mall.

The Balanghai Site Museum in Butuan was established in 1980, after city engineers unearthed a number of balanghai while draining a water system by the river. You must see the remains of those fascinating seacraft that our ancestors sailed to as distant as Mauritius and Easter Islands, the limits of their world.

When last I looked, Fort Pilar was called Fort del Pilar, in honor of Nuestra Señora del Pilar. Constructed in 1635 by intrepid Jesuit missionary Melchor de Vera and Capitan Juan de Chavez, a Spanish engineer, it housed a thousand Visayan recruits and 300 Spanish troops ordered to repel Moros, Portuguese and British marauders. In her time, Mayor Ma. Clara Lobregat rescued Fort del Pilar from total disrepair. Now there are dioramas of Zamboanga’s marine biodiversity as well as the 18th century wreckage of the Griffen, a ship that sank near Basilan in 1761.

The 16th branch of the National Museum of the Philippines was inaugurated by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr and First Lady, Lisa A Marcos. Cebu, here I come.