CITY OF MATI, Davao Oriental (MindaNews/10 January) — A year after grieving over the devastation wrought by super typhoon Pablo in three of its 10 towns, Davao Oriental is celebrating with the inauguration last Wednesday (January 8) of Subangan, an interactive, state of the art provincial museum that Tourism Assistant Secretary Art Boncato says “should set a trend” in museum development nationwide.
“What we see in Davao Oriental is great community involvement that to my mind would be very infectious, engaging others to contribute. This, to me, is nation building,” Boncato told MindaNews.
Subangan, Governor Corazon Malanyaon said, is a Dabawenyo word for “east” or “where the sun rises…. to rise, come out, bloom, begin to grow” and for a province that wakes up to a glorious sunrise ahead of the rest of the country (the country’s easternmost, Pusan Point, is located in Caraga, Davao Oriental), Boncato expects it will lead the way for other local governments in Mindanao and the rest of the country, to follow.
At the inauguration program on Wednesday afternoon, Boncato told the crowd gathered at the Museum Gardens, that it is “very seldom that we see a provincial government spend its time, effort, money, blood and tears if you will, in coming out with a very, very important museum program.”
“Having gone through great calamity a year ago, we’re all together now celebrating something different, celebrating something from our hearts. As the saying would go, a city with no museum is a city with no soul. I am happy that Davao Oriental is a province of great souls and of great people,” he said.
Malanyaon said Subangan speaks of “eternal hope, endless as the rising of the sun as it welcomes each new day” and “symbolizes the resiliency of the people of Davao Oriental and our determination to rise up to challenges and overcome trying times as what we have exhibited when, together, we fought to overcome the devastation brought by super typhoon Pablo.”
Located at the Provincial Tourism Complex in Barangay Datu Martin Marundan, Subangan has a floor area of 1,000 square meters on two levels and showcases themed exhibits of the province’s natural, cultural and historical heritage and a special memorial exhibit on Typhoon Pablo (Bopha).
The memorial is in a room on the ground floor, the walls filled with photographs on the impact of the typhoon on agriculture, infrastructure, lives, the rescue and relief operations, humanitarian aid and a summation of the reconstruction and development framework of “building back better.”
A window to a smaller room gives visitors a view of a mound of debris from the typhoon’s wrath.
Subangan, designed by Architect Edmundo Viacrucis, complemented by Architects Cesar Rey Gamalong and Lachelle Marie Ravelo, and interior design and exhibition concept executed by interior designer Charisse Puentespina, assisted by Architects Catherine Grace Kileste, Desiree Joy Cabiles and Mere Flor Alico, Engineer Mark Otero and Graphic Artist Borriz Caparuzo of CPuentespina Design and Architecture, Subangan is a visual and aural delight and offers visitors a different kind of experience.
The museum has blown-up photos, videos, interactive visuals (in some areas, there are tablets available for guests to scan a QR-coded picture to get additional information or video on the flora and fauna or on the skeletal installation of Davor, the sperm whale), dioramas, documents, a sampling of the Mandaya’s oral poetry, house, music, weapons of warfare, dresses, as well as the Kalagan’s dresses, and dances by the seaside, on video.
“Ako yan,” (That’s me), said one of the elderly Kalagan dancers, grinning as he pointed to the dance video on the wall.
Where are the IPs?
A number of out-of-town guests who expected a presentation or a speech from the province’s indigenous peoples – the Mandaya and Kalagan/Kaagan — during the inaugural program were disappointed. Even the music played while waiting for the program to start was neither Mandaya nor Kalagan.
But inside the museum, the Mandaya and Kalagan occupy a huge space on the ground floor for exhibits on their cultural heritage, a number of the artifacts donated by them. They came to the inauguration in their traditional dresses.
The design of the museum’s fence grillwork takes after the dominant image of the dagmay, the Mandaya’s handwoven fabric from abaca fiber.
Subangan also features in huge photographs and video, the provinces’ tourist destinations, including Aliwagwag Falls and other lesser known waterfalls, caves, beaches, rivers and lakes, a “forest walk” where one can walk over a tempered glass-topped video screen of insects crawling on the forest floor. There are also samplings of wood species from the forests.
Subangan also features a field view of the Pygmy Forest of Mt. Hamiguitan.
According to the website of the World Heritage Convention, the Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary belongs to the 15 biogeographic zones in the Philippines considered to have the highest land-based biological diversity in terms of flora and fauna per unit area and was nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List for its “outstanding universal significance.”
Davor the whale
The museum features as its centerpiece exhibit the skeletal installation of the 53-foot long, 20 metric ton Davor, the sperm whale which chose the shores of San Isidro and Governor Generoso towns as its final resting place in 2010.
Malanyaon said the installation is “the largest in the Philippines and the 7th largest in exhibition in the world.”
The museum would have been inaugurated on December 4, 2013, exactly a year after super typhoon Pablo battered the municipalities of Baganga, Cateel and Boston, supposedly to celebrate how the province has risen from the devastation, Malanyaon told MindaNews in November. But she said she did not deem it proper to celebrate, in deference to the victims of super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas.
The museum had a soft opening on November 19, but only for the blessing officiated by Bishop Patricio Alo, who was accompanied by the other priests of the Diocese.
Envisioned during her first term as governor (2007 to 2010), the museum had its groundbreaking rites during Malanyaon’s second term, on June 30, 2011 and was inaugurated during her third term.
Construction stopped when Pablo struck the province in December 2012 and resumed only in the latter part of 2013.
In his welcome address, Mati mayor Carlo Luis Rabat said Subangan is “a heritage for all of us” and adds “cultural, historical and educational reasons to visit our place.”
Mark Tadeo Lapid, chief operating officer of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), described the museum as a “symbol of strength of Davao Oriental.”
Tieza funded P10 million of the P25-million museum project. Aside from TIEZA and the provincial legislature, the two district representatives to Congress, Thelma Almario and Nelson Dayanghirang, as well as former Las Pinas Representative, now Senator Cynthia Villar, also helped fund the project through their Priority Development Assistance Fund coursed through the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Malanyaon told MindaNews the P25 million covers the building construction, interiors equipment, landscape, land development, road inside and outside the promenade, coffee shop, guardhouse and souvenir shop, fence and professional fees for research.
Museums as zones of peace
Boncato congratulated the province’s leaders for coming up with something “so sophisticated.”
“Creating a museum I think is an indication of a sophistication of leadership of the people in the community,” Boncato said, adding that the museum is a repository of things, a place for convergence, a zone of peace, a savior, an inanimate spokesperson
for visitors to “see the real Mindanao.”
“This is a repository of things that have been found in the past, that we have in the present and definitely will house what we will have in the future. What a wonderful gift to the Philippine Tourism Industry. Thank you very much Davao Oriental,” he said.
Museums, he added, create a lot of symbolism for communities as they are a place for convergence, a place where democracy is played and practiced.
“This is where people from all walks of life, rich or poor, come together and it is a place that we appreciate the diversity of culture and data, and artifacts displayed. So in effect, museums are also zones of peace because it is where we, in Davao Oriental — representation of a tri-people — can come together, talk about our history our present and our future in such amiable and friendly manner,” he said.
Museums are also “saviors,” citing as example how the province saved the sperm whale’s remains for the residents and visitors to see and understand the province’s rich biodiversity.
Boncato recalled that Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez urged Mindanawons during the Mindanao Business Conference in August 2013 “to not let the news dictate the image of Mindanao, the image that we will have.”
Boncato said they are confident that Subangan “will be in the forefront of changing that image of Mindanao out in the world.” The crowd applauded.
In Mindanao, he said, museums are part of the Mindanao Communication Plan.
“Do you know that in Mindanao, we have a total of around 90 museums? Would you believe that? This could be the 91st museum of Mindanao and this is a number greater than what we have in Manila,” he said, adding that the Tourism department wants to make the network of museums in Mindanao “to be our inanimate spokespersons. We would like to open our museums to all guests and visitors, to see the real Mindanao.”
Boncato later told MindaNews that in 2010, the number of museums in Mindanao was already 85 although most of these are small and privately owned, are housed in colleges and universities, or schools of living traditions of the indigenous peoples.
He promised to provide a list of the museums in Mindanao.
But only a few museums in Mindanao are government-owned. The National Museum has only two branches in Mindanao’s 26 provinces and 33 cities – in Butuan City (Butuan branch and Balanghai Shrine) and in Jolo, Sulu, while the National Historical Commission of the Philippines has the Rizal Shrine in Dapitan.
Only a few local government units in Mindanao operate their own museums. The now refurbished museum in Sulu (actually in Patikul town, very near the provincial capitol) was operated by the province starting1982 but was donated to the National Museum in 1994.
Among the city government-owned museums in Mindanao are the Museo Dabawenyo in Davao City, the Museo Panabo in Panabo City and the Cagayan de Oro City Museum.
Subangan Museum is intended to be an income-generating project to keep it sustainable. Lyrna Padohinog of the Bookings and Reservations unit of the museum said it is open Mondays to Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance fee is P100 for foreign nationals, P50 for locals, P30 for residents, P20 for senior citizens, P20 for students outside Davao Oriental and P10 for students and children within Davao Oriental.
Mati City is 162 kilometers from Davao City or a two-and-a-half hours ride away, and is 112 kilometers from Tagum City, or about an hour and 45 minutes away. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)
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