Museums reopen on Rizal’s birthday

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Museums reopen on Rizalâs birthday
Visitors use the stairs near the bust of Jose Rizal as the National Museum of the Philippines reopened in time for the national hero’s 160th birthday yesterday.
Krizjohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — The National Museum of the Philippines at Rizal Park and the Jose Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago opened yesterday after months of lockdown in time for the commemoration of the 160th birthday of national hero Jose Rizal.

The National Museum of Anthropology, Natural History and Fine Arts opened yesterday.

It was temporarily closed in April, just weeks after it was opened on a limited capacity in March, due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in the country.

National Museum director Jeremy Barns told The STAR yesterday that?only 100 guests each for the morning and afternoon shifts are allowed in the museums, which is operating on a limited capacity.

The Museo ni Jose Rizal in Fort Santiago also reopened yesterday as the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in the Philippines unveiled a historical marker of the German translation of Rizal’s farewell poem Mi Ultimo Adios in Fort Santiago.

The Mi Ultimo Adios was Rizal’s farewell poem he wrote before his execution on Dec 30, 1896. Rizal hid it in an alcohol stove and gave it to his sister Trinidad during his family’s visit before he was executed.

German ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel said the German translation of Rizal’s poem highlighted the good relations between the two countries as she noted that the reopening of museums in pandemic time will make history accessible to the public again.

“Museums are important places ... (that) bring heroes closer and more approachable and understandable,” Reiffenstuel said.

Rizal’s descendants attended yesterday’s commemoration, which also saw the opening of a new exhibit featuring the pieces of furniture Rizal used when he was in Germany for his ophthalmology studies.

Rizal, as a 25-year-old in 1886, stayed with the family of Pastor Karl Ullmer in Wilhemsfeld while he was studying at the University of Heidelberg.

Ullmer’s family donated the furniture, including the bed where Rizal slept in and the mahogany table where he played chess with Pastor Ullmer.

Rizal’s descendants said the reopening of the museums on the martyr’s birthday remind them of his dedication for the education of the youth.

“Not only did the pandemic affect learning in general... but also with regards to learning about Jose Rizal in school,” said Jeremiah Villamoran, who is related to the national hero through his sister Saturnina.

Bea Bantug, Rizal’s descendant through sister Trinidad, added that the pandemic has made it difficult for the youth to remember Rizal’s role in history.

“The millennials today seem to not know a lot about Rizal. They should acquaint themselves (again),” she told The STAR.

NHCP chairman Rene Escalante said the country’s museums are reopening on a reduced capacity to comply with minimum health protocols.

Museum personnel have also started getting their COVID-19 jabs through their local government units, he added.

The museums under the NHCP have boosted their online presence to be more accessible to the public amid a pandemic, Escalante said.

“This is now the trend under the new normal. We really have to restrict the number of visitors. The problem is most of the museums are designed to be air-conditioned. We don’t have that many windows to allow fresh air to come in,” Escalante said of the challenges in the reopening of the museums.

Role model

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo joined the country in commemorating Rizal’s birth anniversary yesterday.

“May Rizal serve as a role model to the new generation of Filipinos so that they can fight for what is right and proper, and serve as a hero who reflects the highest principles and aspirations of our people,” Robredo said in Filipino.

She recalled a statement attributed to Rizal, in which he said: “Let the Filipino people, without losing trust in men, place their confidence on something higher, on one with better memory, on one who knows better the value of justice and a sacred promise.”

“The spirit of this statement is still alive today. We are called to be a source of hope, and to respond to the challenges of the times – to end the pandemic, to rise above poverty, to uphold our dignity and rights,” said the Vice President.

“We are called to be strong and valiant in our faith,” she added. – Janvic Mateo



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