Writer: Air Bourne
Published: 19 November 2016
If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. – Michael Crichton
If my memory serves me right, the name is the maker of a box-office hit movie Jurassic Park sometime in the 90s. So I tried to search for the name Michael Crichton on the internet. Gotcha! Indeed, my memory is still good. I agree to the quoted phrase as uttered by him. The movie had a touch of history not of the human race but of the Dinosaurs. Even the dinosaurs have had the history of their existence so do a certain place and its people.
I am a Cebuana because I was born in the City of Cebu. My adolescent years up to 2014 have been spent in this beautiful and progressing city. Young as I was, nothing caught my interest more about Cebu than the lures of the shopping malls like the Gaisano Main, the then GAW, Gazini Plaza, and the clean and cold movie theatres along Mango Avenue and Colon Street—Belvic, Century 21 and Oriente, Seven Arts and Ultravistarama.
People of my age now will commiserate with me when I say our interests and tastes will also grow with us as time passes by. As I age, I yearn to trace the roots or history, so to speak, of my native land, Cebu. This is made possible with the aid of memory tools as in this case, we have the Museo Sugbo or Cebu Museum which is just around the corner, waiting to be explored and discovered by its own locals.
So, on one rainy day, I went to Museo Sugbo to unveil Cebu’s past because I want to know the story of Cebu.
As a local tourist, I paid P30 only as entrance fee that is for the adults and P10 for the kids (though I do not have my own). The notice displays the regular rates for foreign tourists as P75 for adults and P50 for kids. With such a minimal amount, you can enjoy the glimpse of Cebu’s past during the Pre-Colonial Era and Spanish Era.
Since it was raining when I entered the lobby of the Museum, I was welcomed by a staff with an umbrella. How hospitable, isn’t it! And a tour guide told me which way to go first to have an organized exploration of the place.
The facade of the Museo Sugbo are fortified by two vintage Spanish cannons. A Philippine flag is also hoisted above the signage of Museo Sugbo to symbolize that it is a property of the Philippine local government unit.
The stone tablet displayed on the entrance of the building introduces a background of the building written in the dialect which, in gist, tells the guests that the building used to be a provincial jail way back in 1869.
A fellow Cebuano may be able to decipher what is written in that tablet. But, a narrative statement about the building is found inside the hallway posted on the wall such as you can see here:
For better understanding of the minute text, I’d rather duplicate what that piece of document is all about and it goes:
About This Building
Museo Sugbo is housed at what was once called Carcel de Cebu, the provincial jail of Cebu.
Designed in 1869 by Domingo de Escondrillas, the lone architect in Cebu at the time, the Carcel de Cebu was originally proposed as the Carcel del Distrito, the main prison for the Visayan District. This accounts for its relatively large size at the time it was built. After a flurry of endorsements and independent review in Manila, the project was approved and construction commenced in 1870. It is believed that most of the coral stone blocks from the Parian Church—which was ordered closed by the Bishop after winning a long-drawn court case against its parishioners in the 1850s—were used to build part of the Carcel. After over twenty years of use, a renovation was ordered in 1892.
Records are not clear as to when the second storey of the main building was added. But the architectural design suggests this to be during the American colonial period.
The Carcel de Cebu housed not only criminals in its 135-year history. During the early years of the American period, the Carcel served as a stable for horses competing in the Hippodromo nearby. But it was eventually used once again as a prison. After liberation, all of the Cebuano collaborators and spies for the Japanese were incarcerated here.
The Carcel changed names twice, first during the American to the post-War periods when it was called the Cebu Provincial Jail. Between 1945 and 1976, the buildings on its frontage were used as Cebu City Jail. With the departure of the city jail, the Cebu Provincial Jail changed its name to the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC).
The transfer of CPDRC to a more spacious and modern prison complex on December 27, 2004 has occasioned the conversion of Carcel de Cebu by Gwendolyn F. Garcia fittingly into Museo Sugbo, the repository of Cebuano heritage.
The museum indeed is rich in meaning of what it used to be.
After doing all the repairs, renovation and restoration of the building, former Gov. Gwendolyn F. Garcia inaugurated the museum on August 5, 2008, the birth of Museo Sugbo.
Just a gist, the museum has five buildings consisting of galleries. All galleries are fully-airconditioned and well-maintained so that you will find it comfortable doing your rounds in the room to view each and every display. First, the Pre-Colonial and Spanish Galleries own the frontage of the building.
[taken from the Second Storey of the Center Bldg. Inside Museo Sugbo]
Second, to the back portion of the Spanish Colonial Gallery is a chamber which displays an array of photos of War in Cebu that it has had.
Third, the National Archives of the Philippines which exhibits the civil works of lighthouses and records in Region VII.
Fourth, the National Commission Heritage of the Philippines shows the portraits of the past Presidents of the Philippines from Emilio Aguinaldo down to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. However, the visual rendering of the recently concluded term of Former President Benigno Aquino III is not among those in the gallery as of yet. Maybe, it is still in the making process and let’s leave it up the artist.
And, fifth, the center building of the museum where the photo exhibits of the Language of Flowers is showcased in the second storey, while the Crafted Trails and the cafeteria on the ground floor are set.
As you flung open the door, the artifacts used by the earlier Cebuanos during the Pre-Colonial era are preserved in this room. Prior to Spaniards colonization, Cebu is trading products with the Arabs, Chinese and Siamese (Thai) such as gold, rice, millets (Kabog), sugarcane, palm brew, cotton and even pigs.
You can also find some of Chinese celadonwares noted for their luscious greenish glaze from the Ming Dynasty that originated from the burials in Argao and Liloan.
Model houses of the early Cebuanos whose main source of living is fishing thus constructing their houses along the seashores. The house is made of light materials like coconut palms or nipa in Cebuano. The whole house stands on support legs to protect them from seawater during high tide.
The most interesting part for me in this gallery is the boat-shaped coffin of the olden times that is made of wood.
With that, I am reminded of the simplicity of living and uncomplicated lifestyle of our ancestors. I didn’t know Cebu had an abundance of gold findings and were even made as barters by the early traders. This looks like an opportunity to treasure hunt in Cebu. If only treasure hunters would come in this museum, perhaps this will give them an idea on where to find these treasures in the provinces of Cebu.
SPANISH COLONIAL GALLERY
After my tour from the Pre-Colonial gallery, the guide told me to get inside the Spanish Colonial Gallery. This is where I felt goosebumps for reasons I do not know. Or, maybe because it was only a day or two after the commemoration of the Filipino tradition of remembering our departed loved ones that the strange feeling was only apt for that day, so I thought.
Anyway, as I stepped forward, these are what I saw—ploughing tool for tilling the land; a rice mill used for milling glutinous rice for use in rice cakes [left round object]; and rectangular Lusong, rectangular wooden mortar used for pounding rice [right rectangular object].
Despite the strange feeling, I still pushed myself to go up on the Second Floor. Goosebumps worsened. But I was determined to take photos to entice readers to have a visit to this historical place in Cebu City. There, I learned that Leon Kilat, one of Cebu’s revolutionary leaders, wore an amulet or an anting-anting. It is a vest said to contain Latin inscriptions and Catholic religious texts which served as protection against bullets. I wonder now how Leon Kilat died. It shouldn’t be bullets, I suppose.
On the same floor, Japanese paraphernalia during World War II are kept here. I felt eerie seeing the weapons used by the Japanese soldiers because this brought me back to the time of hardships suffered by our fellow Filipinos under the Japanese occupation in the country. These weapons were used to behead guerrillas as what the old films had imparted on the big screens.
The figure below eased me up a bit from that horrible feeling after seeing those photos. A pedal equipment used for exercise. It’s kinda funny to think though that during the war, war veterans still managed to find time to exercise. Is running away from the enemies every now and then not a form of exercise then? I wonder if there were weighty people during the war. Or maybe, this equipment strengthens the footwork and legwork for running. Well, I can only surmise.
Then, it was time to leave and move on to the next building.
In this room, a gallery of pictures depicting several wars that the province of Cebu underwent. As soon as I entered the room, I heard a voice narrating a story. I thought someone was talking to someone. But as I inched inside, I saw a TV screen and two war veterans being interviewed on account of their experience during the war in Cebu. It was not a live interview though rather it was a recorded one that is being repeatedly played all day long. Here are some of the photos taken:
This chamber is an added feature of the museum because the last time I checked in here, this was not there yet.
On to the archives section of the museum.
Here the literary works of the Abellana clan are preserved like the books written by Jovito S. Abellana, his famous being the “My Moments of War to Remember” written by him during his incarceration at Kempei-Tai Headquarters now the Cebu Normal University along Osmena Boulevard. His handiwork made of crayon in the middle is his appearance after he was released from prison. On the left photo is another book entitled “Gogma sa Kataw.
Literary works of Abellana
My Moments of War to Remember
Gogma sa Kataw
Some records of the late Senator Vicente Rama are safekept in this gallery too.
Another room in this building contains the documentation of the civil works of lighthouses in Cebu such as:
Documentation of lighthouses in Cebu
Miniature of Punta Bagacay Lighthouse
Who says that the museum is only made of coral stones and hard concrete buildings? At the back grows the garden of Museo Sugbo adorned with plants and a well.
At the opposite site of this building stand the NATIONAL HERITAGE COMMISSION OF THE PHILIPPINES. In this site, the prints of the Philippine past Presidents are stored. Beside their photos is a short description about them. The diagram of the Rama lineage is viewed.
This portion of the museum is very helpful to elementary pupils as part of their history subject because they will get the chance to know heartily the past Presidents of the Philippines and its political history.
Let’s now move to the last but not the least building. This is where my heart belongs. For me, I call this as the Art building. There’s one door that caught my attention because the post says 'crafted trails'.
It is a small room though but converts to a big room for your imagination to entertain wild thoughts. There are two tables and on each table are painter’s brushes, a set of water colors and a special kind of paper for painting. I saw a collage of paintings wherein the works of every guests are hung. The woman in-charge was so accommodating and entertaining that by her prodding, I was made to paint but the product turned into a doodle because I admit I do not have the hands of a painter. Just judge for yourself if it can pass for a painting item.
And here is the work of an instant painter-for-a-day ... Honestly, I do not an iota of idea what I was doing. In fact, the woman-in-charge told me, “that’s good enough to get rid of depression.” And I gave a hearty laugh because that’s what I felt like doing at that time.
This is the most amusing and funny part of my tour inside. The author of this Celda Cafe is just too creative to have thought of naming this cafe as such.
Here’s another one that is too amusing to ignore taking photos of.
Too bad for me that I have not had the chance to dine in any of those sandwiches because the cafe was closed. That really sounds unique and by its name alone, tastes palatable.
So that ends my tour at the Museo Sugbo. By now, I can say, through this fruitful tour, I came to know my history about Cebu. I am indeed a leaf and I belong to a tree.