Of museums, new & upcoming

KRIPOTKIN - Alfred A. Yuson (The Philippine Star) - December 15, 2014 - 12:00am

Last Oct. 20, the UP Museum of the History of Ideas was launched, thence opened to the public on Dec. 2. 

Its dedication marker states:

“The establishment of the Museum was approved as a centennial project during the administration of Dr. Emerlinda R. Roman. The funding for Phase 1 and for the curatorial works were secured through the initiatives of Senator Edgardo J. Angara, former UP president and overall chair of the UP Centennial Celebration. The advisory committee for the museum is chaired by former regent Dr. Angelita T. Reyes. Lor Calma Design Associates Inc. donated the architectural design for the building renovation for adaptive reuse as a museum. Additional funds for its completion were provided by the UP System.

“On Dec. 16, 2006, Senator Edgardo J. Angara and Dr. Angelita T. Reyes laid the time capsule for the new museum. Fund-raising activities were launched.  Renovation started in June 2009 and was completed in October 2011.

“Chancellor Ramon L. Arcadio appointed Dr. Manuel B. Agulto as chair of the museum committee and vice chancellor Zorayda E. Leopando as chair of the technical working group for the construction of Phase 1.       







“… Phase 1 of the museum explores the ideas the university was associated with during the period of its establishment, from 1900 to 1920s. The curatorial concept was developed by TAO Management Corporation, whose president and lead curator is Marian Pastor Roces.”

The museum building formerly housed the College of Dentistry, which occupied it from 1959 to 2002. An annex was added at the back in 1961.

It took some time before the museum project came through, but now its first phase certainly adds to the luster of the State University.

An entire museum in a much larger building remains the desideratum, one that will have “adequate galleries, purpose-built to chronicle and explore the ideas the university endorsed, developed, tested, rescued, invented, outgrew, and regenerated — as well as rejected — in the subsequent decades of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, from the 1930’s to today.”

Meanwhile, what is considered as an inaugural section of the museum “is curated to reconnoiter six interlinked ideas the UP cultivated during the period of its establishment, in its first campuses. These ideas are: a modern UNIVERSITY as sanctuary, not only of learning, but of debate, dissent, and period forms of consensus-building; the MODERN as the then-current philosophy for deliberately re-ordering reality; the TROPICS as a geography of study and action; the SECULAR frame of national emergence; the NATION as a modern political entity; and the FILIPINO as the embodiment of all these ideas.”

This is what’s impressive with the first phase of the museum, that its displays hew to the museum’s rationale, which is the history of ideas.

Thus, in the Modern section, there’s a large photo of a landrace pig as an “introduction to a UP-driven modernization… expressed in the cross-breeding work of the College of Veterinary Sciences.”

There’s a similarly large photo of a virus, that of cholera, which was the biggest story in the early 20th century. Curator Marian Pastor Roces explains that “American quests against ‘tropical diseases’ in large measure drove the establishment of PGH.”  

The caption for this lightbox identifies the picture as that of “Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium causing the illness called cholera, (which) was among the most infectious of the tropical diseases that the colonizing Americans were determined to systematically wipe out.”

A dental chair and drill are also displayed, as among “the first units used by the students of UP College of Dentistry, which started as a department under the UP College of Medicine and Surgery in 1915.” 

Also in the Modern section, an indoor installation shot is of the Acacia confusa, with the following text: “(T)rees were an iconic marker of colonial American urban spaces. This magnificent specimen was planted around the time of the establishment of the University of the Philippines campus that it graces until the present, at the UP Los Baños Freedom Park.” 

Indeed, the thematic ideas are interlinked, all the way from University to Nation. After all, the focus on the period of the first 29 years of the 20th century, which the museum’s 2014 inaugural exhibition concentrates on, “facilitates the assertion that the university helped construct, for the Philippines, a concept of nation as a modern, secular project sustained by cutting-edge academic work to make life significantly better for the citizens of this country — from a Filipinized American perspective, in a challenging tropical environment.”  

Such ideas are the product of serious cerebration, which can only be expected from a seasoned cultural activist as curator Marian Pastor Roces.

Way back in 1992, she founded Tao Inc. as the only museum development and curatorial services corporation in the Philippines. Initially a single proprietorship, it became a corporation in 1998. 

Among its prideful projects have been the following: the Textile Gallery, National Museum of the Philippines (since dismantled); the National Shrine to Dr. Jose Rizal, Fort Santiago, Intramuros (dismantled and replaced); the National Shrine to the Exile of Dr. Jose Rizal, Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte; PANG-ULO: An exhibition on headgear and leadership, National Museum (temporary exhibition, dismantled); Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, College of St. Benilde, De La Salle University; Yuchengco Museum, RCBC Plaza (curatorial design altered);

Museo Marino, a museum to the Filipino seafarer, for the Association of Maritime Officers and Seafarers Union of the Philippines; Lamlifew Village Museum, Malungon, Sarangani (owned by the Lamlifew Tribal Women’s Association); Museo Puntong Batangan, for Batangas City; and Lumina Pandit: 400 Years of the UST Library (temporary exhibition, dismantled).

Tao Inc.’s work for the Philippine Pavilion in Japan World Expo 2006, earned the grand prix for best concept/design in the entire expo of more than 100 country participants, an award shared with architect Ed Calma. This same feat was replicated at the Spain World Expo 2008.

The efforts of creative individuals such as Marian Pastor Roces, John Silva who just mounted a wonderful exhibit of Philippine churches in Madrid, and indeed, Ed Calma who has lent his architectural expertise to international exhibits and museum projects, cannot remain unnoticed, especially in a country still somewhat inchoate owing to governance issues.

We can add Jeremy Barns, who’s been doing a wonderful job at our National Museum; Nina Lim-Yuson who established Museo Pambata where she still serves as president and CEO; Cora Alvina, esteemed anthropologist and past president and current trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila; Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, cultural historian and author, recently of The Foods of Dr. Jose Rizal; and Senator Loren Legarda, who has always espoused environmentalism, and continues to promote our outstanding cultural features, such as recently, the T’boli dreamweavers and the preservation of baybayin. She has also recently pushed for a provision on Heritage Sites Conservation under the 2015 budget.

To these selfless individuals with a vision do we owe the continuing preservation and enrichment of our inherent strengths and treasures.

Getting back to the Museum of a History of Ideas, it’s open only on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

As for Marian, she’s also involved with an exciting new museum to rise by the Mall of Asia. This is the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Museum, for which we may thank Hans Sy for the site. Sen. Ed Angara and the former Mexican Ambassador to the Philippines, Tomas Calvillo, are also to be credited for the idea, and for convincing the Sys to provide the venue. The museum will be up in the last quarter of 2015. 

Here’s a teaser:

“MAG will feature a gargantuan reproduction galleon that will be thoroughly based on an existing naval architecture plan, found in Mexico City, for an 18th century galleon designed by a Manila-based pilot of that period. The reproduction will be of the highest standards possible. The accurate, full-scale reproduction will be an impressive 50+ meters long.

“It will usher in a vivid understanding of today’s trade, commerce, banking, travel, and cultural exchange, as linked to the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade of the not-so-distant past.

“The exhibitions will be linear, following a time-line that begins with the 16th century beginnings of the trade, then the 17th century ascendance, followed by the 18th century climax or zenith, and the early 19th century ending. Each of the periods will be experienced by the visitor through the interaction of stunning images, sculptures, interactive experiences, graphics, videos, specially recorded period music, light-and-sound displays, miniature scenes, and so forth.

“The MAG will also be the first museum in Southeast Asia that is created by a fully bi-national collaboration, notably, a team of scholars, statesmen, businessmen and designers from the Philippines and Mexico. The architectural firm from Mexico is furthermore joined by a Florida- and Hong Kong-based international architectural practice.”

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