Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Little Known Way to Appreciate Philippine History

Philippine history from 750,000 BC until 1946 in 60 beautiful dioramas, what a bargain! Anyone who goes to Makati has no excuse for not visiting the Ayala Museum.

(Take note of my earlier post on how to be a better Filipino!)

Philippine history is interesting. It tells us who we are and who we are not. It tells us of our struggles and explains to us that all that we see around us now did not come from the clouds, but from the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors. Anyone who asks, "Who am I?" should go see the Ayala Museum. It won't cost you much to go there and it's absolutely easy to go there. It's between Greenbelt 4 and Greenbelt 5. You wouldn't miss it.
There's a certain spirit in that Museum that makes you feel absolutely at home. I have gone to the Ayala Museum twice, and will be coming back again soon. The first visit was when my son was about three. The second visit was two years later, early this afternoon to be specific. I came out of both visits having learned something new and interesting about our country. For instance, today, I learned that San Juan de Dios Hospital in Pasay City has its roots in the makeshift hospital established by Franciscan Fray Juan Clemente in 1578 and its present name dates back to 1656.

The dioramas cast a spell on you. The figurines, the backdrops and the props were done very very professionally. The scene depicted in the diorama looked so real and captured the mood and spirit of those times. You actually get sucked into a time warp such that it wasn't difficult to imagine that you were actually there. One diorama that struck me the most was Diorama #2 that depicted the Tabon Caves, circa 50,000 to 6,000 BC. The people, the cave, the cliff, the plants wove together perfectly that you would actually feel in your skin how life was for people way back then. Fast forward to succeeding dioramas, your skin would feel the pain in Antonio Luna's face when he was assassinated by fellow Katipuneros, thus aggravating the demoralization that was already plaguing the revolutionary movement against Spain and the United States at that time.

The historical snapshots were cleverly selected. The continuity was there. You would see gaps, enough to invoke questions into your mind and awaken your curiosity; enough to lead you into a quest of your own as to what transpired in the corridors of time in our country. The diorama illustrated scenes from pre-colonial times, the Spanish occupation, the revolts that occured during the occupation, the brief occupation of Intramuros by the British, the end of Spanish rule, the entry of Americans, the birth and death of the republic established by Aguinaldo, the wars during the American occupation, the Japanese occupation, the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese rule and the eventual recognition of Philippine Independence.

"Over a million museum visitors" since 1974. I bought the Diorama guide sold at the counter and in its Foreword, I learned how the Diorama was conceptualized in 1967 (I wasn't born then) and how it was meticulously studied and executed. It was inaugurated in 1974 by Imelda Marcos and since then, "the dioramas have been seen by over a million museum visitors, including thousands from other countries."

What are we thinking about the Ayala Museum? Honestly I find the figure "over a million" a bit sad. The Ayala Museum is underrated. What in the world do over 14 million people of Metro Manila think of this Museum? A haven of the elite? Let's just think then of the millions of Filipinos flocking to Makati and the figure "over a million" since 1974 is still pathetic.

Someday I'll understand why so few people go to Ayala Museum. But I don't think the reason would interest me. Anyone who goes to Makati has no excuse for not going to the Ayala Museum.

In the meantime, to you who happen to be reading this blog, I urge you to go there and revisit our country's past, beautifully depicted in dioramas that make you feel like you were actually there. As Rizal says, ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay di makararating sa paroroonan.

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