No this is not a third sequel to Ben Stiller’s smashing hit the “Night at the Museums” rather this refers to the program initiated by the Cultural Heritage Program of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. in celebration of International museum day and the National heritage month.
Dubbed as “Gabii sa Kabilin” or translated as “Night of heritage” the one night affair aims to immerse local Cebuanos and visitors both foreign and domestic in the rich cultural heritage of Cebu. Participating in the event are 6 museums and heritage sites in the oldest part of Cebu City, Philippines.
For only P 150.00, participants in the Gabii sa Kabilin get free entrance to spend a night at the musuems. Particiapting museums are The Casa Gorordo, Cathedral museum the Sto. Nino Museum and the Museo sa Sugbo and two other heritage sites, the Yap-San Diego Ancestral house and Fort San Pedro. With that you also get a free unlimited tartanilla ride (horse drawn carriage) to and from the museums.
We started this exciting night by going to the Casa Gorordo museum which we consider as our starting point. However traffic was so heavy in that area as the Cebu City traffic management office has closed down some streets in order to accommodate the walking tours for this special event, so we decided to go to the Museo sa Sugbu instead and park there. We than got a tartanilla ride to Casa Gorordo Museum.
When we arrived at the Casa Gorordo museum some of the shows have already started. A “Fiesta” atmosphere filled the place. We tried to get in the Museum itself, but we have to line up as the museum can accommodate only a number of people. While we were waiting in line, we just had fun watching the music and drama being presented in the garden. Featured performers were our very own Cebuana home grown mezzo-soprano singing traditional Visayan and Cebuano songs. A local string orchestra also played some folk songs. Some plays were presented one of those plays being the conversation between Josephine Bracken and the wife of Andres Bonifacio. The most interesting presentation we saw there was the performance of some old folks from the south of Cebu who performed the “Balitaw” or “Balak-awit-sayaw” (A combination of poem-song and dance) a long forgotten original Cebuano literary art form. I remember years ago that somebody told me that my great grandmother was one of the best “mag ba-ba-Balitaw” performers in Cebu. I jokingly told some of my friends that “Balitaw” is the forerunner of the “yo-mama jokes” and rap music.
Finally it came our turn to get inside the museum. We snapped up some pictures of the old place. It was interesting to look inside what a typical old Filipino “middle class” house looks like during the Spanish era. Well the Casa Gorordo museum is basically an old house built during the Spanish period sometime in the 1863. Four generations of the Gorordo family lived in this house. Today the Casa Gorordo Museum is owned and operated by the Ramon Aboitiz foundation.
Inside the museum one can have a glimpse of how a middle class family lived during the Spanish times. Old furniture, books, kitchen utensils and other home stuff filled the place. I can’t just imagine people living without the conveniences of life such as faucets. It’s like getting off a time machine and traveling back to the 18th century. A copy of Dr. Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere can be found in one of the book shelves.
Going back in time and seeing the old kitchen and dinning table in the Casa Gorordo Museum does certainly fire up our imagination on what tasty treats the middle class Filipinos living in the Spanish era have to enjoy. So when we went out of the museum we were all certainly eager to satisfy our gastronomic cravings so we had our dinner at the garden while watching some of the presentations. Shang-rila hotel was selling packed dinner for less than P 100.00.
Since the next stop was just several meters away, we decided to go by foot to the Yap-San Diego ancestral house. The Yap-San Diego house is situated in a place called “Parian” which in the olden times is widely considered as Cebu’s mini-China Town. Parian intersects with the oldest street in Cebu City, Colon street.
This ancestral home was built in the 17th century and is considered as one of the oldest in the country. The San Diego family which up to this day owns the place is doing their best to preserve it in it’s original form. The San Diego Family is one of the prime movers among a silent group of Cebuanos who are actively promoting the preservation of Cebuano arts and culture. So passionate are the San Diego’s about their cause that members of the family themselves were the ones who welcomed us to their ancestral house and toured visitors around the place. As we toured the house music whose lyrics extol the importance of restoring the old glory of parian was played.
The next museum, the Cathedral museum was also just a few meters away so we just walked all the way there. I just learned that this old place was just recently restored. Most of the relics found in this museum are religious artifacts although there are several cultural pieces like pieces of broken pottery and plates. What interest me most in this museum is the exhibit that revealed four layers of foundation underneath the place which reveals the building’s transition from the Spanish period to the modern times.
Next in line is the nearby Sto. Nino. museum. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside the place. Anyway, we weren’t really interested much in the place considering that all of the exhibits are religious artifacts.
Our second to the last stop is Fort San Pedro. Since it is quite far from the Sto Nino Museum, we waited for our tartanilla ride. After a few minutes of waiting, we decided to just make it by foot despite the distance since there were no Tartanillas that passed by.
After a long exhausting walk we finally made it to the Plaza independencia area where Fort San Pedro was located. Fort San Pedro is the country’s smallest, oldest triangular bastion fort in the country. It was built in 1738 by Miguel López de Legazpi and the Spanish Government in Cebu.
I thought at first that the Fort San Pedro museum would be open. I was saddened that it was close and that only the Fort itself is open. The reason for this is because the museum is under the administration of the National government and probably the organizers of Gabii sa kabiliin did not obtain permission from the National government to have the museum opened.
After catching our breath and imagining what might have crossed the mind of the Spanish soldiers when they were guarding the fort, we caught a Tartanilla ride to our last stop, the Museo sa Sugbo.
The Museo sa Sugbo used to house the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC). The prison was transferred to a more modern facility in another part of the city. The provincial government then decided to convert CPDRC into a museum. At first I thought that probably the reason why they converted the old prison to a museum is that they ran out ideas on what to do with the place. Later on I discovered an entirely different reason.
Unknown to most Cebuanos the former CPDRC was already a prison even during the Spanish period. Hundreds of our revolutionary leaders known as “Katipuneros” was jailed there. Later on the placed was continued to be utilized as a prison during the Japanese and American periods and until the modern times when finally the Cebu provincial government transferred the prison to another place.
The Museo sa Sugbo houses artifacts and exhibits that tells the story of Cebu itself. Since the place itself is as old as history, one can again say that going there is like stepping back in time. The history of Cebu since the pre-spanish era, the Spanish period, the Japanese period and the American period are displayed on exhibits.
In the Pre-spanish exhibits you can find old potteries, plates, tools and other artifacts used by the Cebuanos of old. An old coffin is even exhibited to show how the ancient Cebuanos buried their dead.
Moving to the Spanish period, letters from the Spanish governor general were exhibited as well as some artifacts from this era. I was amazed at the very nice penmanship of the governor general. It seems like the letter was being printed off a computer. In the olden times, people were really taught how to write properly. The Japanese and American era was quite interesting. Several vintage remnants of World War II were placed on display. What interest me most were the documents exhibited. Old copies of Cebu’s oldest newspaper, the Freeman were placed on display with several headlines reporting on the great Leon Kilat whose original name was is Pantaleón Villegas. For most Cebuanos, Leon Kilat is just a street but in history the great Leon Kilat whose name means Leon of the lightning was one of Cebu’s greatest revolutionary leaders during the Spanish era and was widely credited as having led the victory of the now forgotten “Battle of Tres De Abril.” (The name of another street today) The result of this battle is that Leon Kilat drove the Spanish back to Fort San Pedro and took control of the city for 3 days until Spanish reinforcement came.
Other stuff that roused my curiosity was old pictures of places and streets that we cross in Cebu everyday. If only all Cebuanos would know the history behind those places I guess they would appreciate more the privilege and beauty of living in Cebu. Most notable of these places was “Mango avenue.” It wasn’t called Mango avenue for nothing, an old picture revealed that the street used to be filled with mango trees. Today Mango avenue has been renamed “Gen. Maxilom Avenue” in honor of the great general who took over the command of the revolutionary forces in Cebu after the assassination of Leon Kilat.
Our night at the museums was certainly better than Ben Stiller’s experience. It not only brought history to life, it made us realize that to live life to the fullest we must learn the lesson’s that history has to offer.
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