Saturday, September 6, 2008

An afternoon at the Museo

"An afternoon at the Museo"
Sun.Star Davao, Sept. 9, 2008

As I first stepped on the doorsteps of Museo Dabawenyo, I could not help but smile and feel a sense of pride. It was the same feeling I had when I first visited the lovely People’s Park last year and when I saw the spanking new traffic lights installed all over the city.

Years ago, the dream of converting and rehabilitating the old Court of First Instance building into a museum seemed far-fetched.

But, thanks to the strong partnership of the City Government of Davao, the Culture and Arts Council and the private sector, the Museo Dabawenyo project was realized and finally inaugurated last March during the 71st Araw ng Dabaw celebration.

Davao Museum located in Insular Village, which is managed by a private foundation, is another long existing museum in the city.

Soledad Roa Duterte or more popularly known as ‘Nanay Soling’, the mother of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, was the dynamic person who conceived the whole idea of Museo Dabawenyo to showcase the cultural diversity and rich history of Davao as well as Mindanao.

Acting as the OIC Museum Director is the indefatigable Patricia Melizza “Patmei” Ruivivar, Mayor Duterte’s Chief of Staff.

An afternoon at the Museo

Touted as a “People’s Museum”, Museo Dabawenyo is a City Government of Davao facility being run in collaboration with the private sector. Its programs are geared towards “better historical and cultural awareness, understanding and integration”.

Museo Dabawenyo aptly declares its artistic foundation as reflecting the roots of Davao’s development – “diverse, indigenous and global”.

Last week, I was given a personal tour by my former Davao City Tourism officemate Orly Escarrilla who is the administration head of the museum. He explained to me the different features of Museo Dabawenyo.

The Bahaghari Art Space, the museum’s front yard, is especially dedicated to the children of Davao “in their conscious efforts to discover and chart their own potentials”.

Given the main task to facilitate this art space for kids is world-renowned The Kaliwat Theater Collective. The group is at the forefront of Davao’s cultural scene and has organized Davao’s and the country’s first ever hosting of “Tour de Paix” (Peace Tour).
On the ground floor are the Indigenous People’s (IP) Gallery, the Moro People’s Gallery and the Old Davao Landmarks Gallery.

The IP exhibit hall boasts of the five distinguished tribes indigenous to Davao City which are the Bagobo Tagabawa, the Jangan or Klata, the Obo, the Matigsalug and the Ata-Manobo. 

Fascinating weapons, native musical instruments, and handicrafts are on display in this hall.
On the other hand, the Islamized tribes of Mindanao who settled in Davao are given special attention at the Moro People’s Gallery. The highlight is on the five illustrious Muslim communities of Davao, namely the Kalagan, the Maguindanao, the Maranao, the Tausug and the Sama. Its centerpieces include remarkable brass thrones and Moro armor.

The Old Davao Landmarks Gallery shows interesting photos of the old schools, churches, houses, centers and buildings, as well as maps and some aerial shots of Davao City in the past.

Photographs and memories

At Museo Dabawenyo’s second level, one can view “bits and pieces of Davao’s historical mementos, tokens, icons, photos, illustrations, documents, costumes, furniture, among others” at the Davao Global Heritage Hall of The Memorabilia Gallery.

Dabawenyos such as fashion designer Garimon Roferos generously donated his “Wicker and Cane” one-of-a-kind gown made from a crazy weave of water hyacinth (lilies) and bago-bago vines to this hall. His unique creation received an incentive prize and placed 2nd at the prestigious 22nd International Young Fashion Designer’s Competition in 2004 held at Carousel de Louver in Paris, France.

Another Dabawenyo who contributed greatly to The Memorabilia Gallery is Enrica “Baby” Babao of the Davao Historical Society. She donated some of her family’s personal collections which include Chinese and Japanese historical artifacts to the museum.

Exemplifying the Dabawenyo spirit

The Contemporary Gallery featuring The Nanay Soling Duterte Hall is the “hall of changing exhibits showcasing Davao arts, culture, trade and industry”. It is the intention of the Museo Dabawenyo to support Davao’s budding artists whose works exemplify the Dabawenyo spirit.

During my short visit at the museum, I got to view the impressive artworks of my acquaintance Mariano Amor “Anoy” Catague from his “Colors of our Roots” Art Exhibit last August. His 6th solo art show consisted of 16 pieces of acrylic on canvas and 16 pen and ink and acrylic on paper which were all done within February 2007 and June 2008.

I wasn’t aware that there was another artistic side to funny man Anoy. He works as a cameraman and occasionally as an on-cam talent of ABS-CBN Davao.

It turns out that Anoy became a finalist of the esteemed Philip Morris Philippine Art Awards in 1999 and one of his avid collectors is Mayor Duterte.

He has also presented his works on the indigenous peoples of Mindanao at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Baguio, Iloilo, Dipolog, Zamboanga, Marawi, General Santos City, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, and in Canada, Australia, London, Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Other highlights of the second level are The Peace Counts Gallery which likewise functions as the Museo Library and Audio/Visual Room. In addition, it serves as its archival unit which “collects documents and the museum pieces on Davao’s history, arts and culture, including all the scholarly books and studies written by Dabawenyos”.

Lastly, The Remarkable Dabawenyo Gallery/The Datu Bago Hall showcases photos of prominent individuals and groups who shaped and reshaped Davao through its historic years which began in 1848.

Because my visit was just right after the Kadayawan Festival, a cornucopia of paintings, artworks, photographs and dresses from the various competitions of the celebration were on exhibit at the different areas of the museum.

People’s Museum

Although Museo Dabawenyo is still “a work in progress”, I salute the people behind the museum for taking that leap of faith in pushing through with the project in spite of the many challenges.

I was told by Orly that the Museo needs the Dabawenyos’ support. So, if you or your family members own artifacts which represent Davao’s history, you may wish to donate them to the museum.

I left Museo Dabawenyo that afternoon just like when I arrived...smiling, proud and at the same time, with high hopes that in a few years, the museum would evolve just as it was envisioned to be, a world-class “People’s Museum” that the present and future generations can visit again and again.

Museo Dabawenyo is located at corner A. Pichon and C.M. Recto Streets, right in front of the monument of Andres Bonifacio. It is open Tuesdays to Sundays, 9 am - 6 pm. The entrance is free. Telefax number (082)2245885 (City Mayor’s Office). E-mail address:

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