June 24, 2024

The Baguio Museum has its own rich stories of struggles and  travails but thanks to the enduring spirit of one particular director, Leonora San Agustin, many of the collections can still be seen from its humble beginnings on Aug.4, 1977 as the Baguio Museum, Inc. by then Tourism Minister Jose Aspiras, then Mayor Luis Lardizabal, Philippine Tourism Authority General ManagerRodolfo Cacdac, and then provincial governors: Benguet – Ben Palispis, Mountain Province – Jaime Gomez, Ifugao – Zosimo Paredes, Kalinga-Apayao – Tanding Odiem, Cagayan – Teresa Dupaya, and 11 board of trustees from the community and heads of the universities.

Among them were former Baguio Midland Courier Editor Cecile Afable, Reinaldo Bautista, Sr., Olga Brady, Sophie Catbagan, Victor de Guia, Luis Lardizabal, Geraldine Wilson-Muller, Jules de Raedt, Jesus Salvosa, Bruno Santos, and Rev. Fr. Ghisleen de Vos.

This was because of the July 16, 1990 earthquake that saw the old structure ruined and until 1998 returned to the present site. In between the time span, the collection travelled from the old Camp John Hay Library to the basement of the Baguio Convention Center.

This new or renovated Baguio Museum will be inaugurated in July 2022 after the three years of improvements from a grant of the United States Embassy Manila. This is a short tour of the new features that are part of what you can enjoy when you visit the museum now.

As a visitor of the museum for decades, the literature that goes with the displays is important to me. Much better than the vertical or captioned pieces, there is a cylindrical information source of the profile of the ethnolinguistic tribe. This is a tactile engagement of the person of any age and encourages the scanning of the data. The vertical literature gives an old photograph of the typical family and the source of the photo. At the base of the glass cased display is the horizontal literature of each item inside with photo and description. This series of facts and figures is a smooth logical flow that answers all the questions that you might have about what you are looking at.  To me, this is the better psychological engagement of the individual minus the high technology audio-visual approaches of the modern museums. This involves everyone at their own pace.

There is a diorama of a typical festival or important event for each ethnic people’s group. The beauty of this art is an entire scene that has individual pieces to depict what members of the community do on that occasion. One gets a chance to participate in what is happening in the community, in some, one gets to dance or prepare the meal, even make the music. This brings to mind the movie that presented a night at the museum when each piece came to life.

The woodcarvings are the bigger editions of the dancers and the gong players or the drum beaters in the Ifugao corner. The dance movements in each ethnolinguistic group are varied and the musical instruments different too. The typical wear and weaving patterns have their own charms.

The glass cased Kabayan mummy in its wooden casket is the most unique collection in this museum. Minus the environment controls that should preserve this artifact for all time, there are changes in this real or actual corpse that is more than a  century old with each visit that I make. Thanks to better phone photography technology, the flash that used to affect the mummy’s preservation is no more. But if one should appreciate this part of Benguet history a little more, the markings or tattoos are important questions that need answers too. What was seen three decades ago have changed and some disappeared. There are better photographs on the wall of other mummies from different parts of Benguet.

Architecture of the different ethnic groups are the latest additions to the museum done in miniatures. Unknown to many, some homes are octagonal and raised from the ground. Some square homes have posts that have a circular plank to keep the mice out and retractable ladders. The indoor hearth and the dryers suspended above this are additional details that should be interesting to engineers and architects.

Ifugao bulols or rice granary figurines are in the collection too. Arm beads from Abra or carnelian necklaces of Kalinga are details that are interesting about some cultural practices. The Ikat weaving pattern or the baskets for catching the eel are other details of the lifeways that can be appreciated at the Museum.

This is only the main floor of the museum, the upper floor with specific historical details of Baguio City and the lower visual exhibit and activity area are also part of the Baguio Museum. This closes on Mondays now, like all museums in most parts of the world.

There you have it. A quick tour of the museum that should interest many citizens of thiscity who would like to visit it even once.