It’s so heartening to hear the Department of Education secretary, Leonor Briones, calling for “the creation of local museums to provide the public, particularly the students, with more opportunities to learn about the country’s history and culture.”
With this call, the Marcelo H. del Pilar National High School (MHPNHS) community in the city of Malolos are encouraged with greater reason to build its Museo Marcelo or the school history museum inside the very same PTA-Alumni Hall built by its alumni and parents more than three decades ago.
MHPNHS is the oldest secondary school in Bulacan, and among the first public high schools in the country organized during the early years of American occupation. Its history is not just the narrative of the school but the history of education in the province as well, including its prominent alumni who became top government officials, national scientists, nationals artists, educators, and other prominent leaders of the country.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the National Museum is not only special to me as Secretary of Education, but also in a very personal way. For many of us, the National Museum is part of the arsenal, or the tools, the weapons that we visit often so that we can survive the rigors and the challenges of life in the urban cities like Manila. For me, it’s from the province. And also the demands of public service. It’s places like these which give us refuge, which inspire us, which tell us that we are proud to be Filipino, that we know where we come from, what we are made of, and remind us that everything – all the service, all the sacrifice, whether one is from the public sector or private sector – is worth is because it is for our country.
The vision and overall scheme of the National Museum…has already been shared with us by Chairman Ramon Del Rosario, Jr. First time I visited this site was sometime, it was in August or July, but all the things were still sticking out, and he personally pulled me toured me to the former Finance Building, and then we moved over here (former Tourism Building), and I did not realize it will be so beautiful, and so impressive. At that time, I shared with him, because that was what I was taught when I was a student at university, that when you go to visit a country or a city, first place you should go to is the museum because it tells you history of a country, it tells you what it is made of physically, and it shares with you what is the soul of this country. And more and more, the National Museum is reflecting all of these beautiful things that are in the Philippines, that are in the people.
And so we are now inaugurating the National Museum of Natural History. I’m not the best expert in natural history because my field is something else. But when we were students, we’re taught that whatever we were to read, whatever we were learning, whether in Mathematics or Engineering, or Trigonometry or Finance, we should know our country. And it is true…
My only wish, and I suppose it will be a very difficult thing, is that all our 57 million learners somehow have an opportunity to visit this set of magnificent edifices. Sabi nga ni Brother [Armin Luistro], this is the perfect field trip for our learners to get to know their country. For the balikbayans to be reacquainted with the country which they left. And for visitors to get to know us better beyond the dramatic stories, beyond the debates, beyond all that, you know, keep us worried and angry, but at the same time hopeful.
The Department of Education is just one of the many institutional stakeholders of the National Museum, especially natural, Museum of Natural History. Since I am already 77 years old, I cannot forget when as a graduate student, we used to go to the office of the National Museum with their Director… working as chairman, Ms. (Gemma Cruz) Araneta was there in the National Museum. We went there not only to see her, but also to study about many things about the Philippines. And it was in the corner of… very, very small, humble structure. Nothing at all compared to what we are now celebrating, to what we are now launching. So much has happened since then.
Also, I cannot forget the time when I was Treasurer of the Philippines. And we thought, we decided to build, to rebuild the Ayuntamiento of… which was established during the time of Spanish Administration. And I requested that the regional map of the Ayuntamiento should be from here, from Spain. And we identified the place, and I said I will not allow any construction to start without digging, without anthropological studies to be done on the very site itself. And so that was one reason why we did not build immediately. And the National Museum did it for us – they sent their archaeologist, and so on, for the very measly sum of fifty thousand pesos. So before we started digging and they also uncovered a lot of articles…which told us not only the life of the Philippines during the Spanish period, but even earlier. And I believe that the diggings, the objects which were found are now also with the National Museum because that is where these should be.
So we really have got a long way, but we have the continuing challenge… How do we make our learners, our 57 million learners, our 700 thousand teachers teach about the Philippines? Since not all of them can go to the museum. In the metropolitan area, we’re very, very happy that we are not charging fees anymore, the museum is not charging fees anymore. And it’s a wonderful thing that children can come and marvel at the paintings of Juan Luna, look at the sculptures, and now, see physical evidences of what we are and what we were in this structure. Maybe we have to think in terms of other ways of reaching out, not only through… but other means as well. I noticed that the National Museum is helping local governments, and I hope some of our friends and benefactors will think about it, set up their own local museums.
Silliman University’s museum was set up with the help of this National Museum. Now it is helping a number of local governments set up not only the museum of this country, but the museum of their locality so we could celebrate our heroes, our clothing, and of course, marvel at our jewelry. And these are part of our culture.
So there are many challenges aside from the physical structure. Teaching not only tourists, not only the children in Metro Manila, but the rest of us learners and our children as well, so that our pride, our country, our joy, and these paintings, art, and sculpture will be shared by everyone. I know that there are museums in Mindanao, and other parts of the Philippines, and there are linkages which helped to set them up. I hope that this will also be supported. And I’m very, very sure that with our director and our people in the National Museum, as well as the Board of Trustees, we can go further. We’re an island, we’re a country of islands and there are people who have never heard of… there are people who don’t even know that they are Filipinos, who have never been beyond five or ten kilometers of their homes, of who they are.
And I believe in the saying, one fine day, what is in this museum and the other two buildings will travel. My first exposure to the National Museum was when I was maybe I was 15 or 17 years old because I entered college at 13. National Museum sponsored a tour of the leading painters of the country. That’s how I got acquainted with the paintings of Juan Luna, his son Andres, and I got to know Joya, Ang Kiukok, Hernando Ocampo, these were part of travelling tours to various parts of the country, so that if they cannot come here and see all these wonderful things in the museum, at least they can see part of this beauty, part of this sculpture, part of this history.
So again, thank you very much. I’d like to give special mention to Chairman Del Rosario who has been such a generous Chairman and loyal supporter of the National Museum. I did not realize it would really be finished. I came in sometime in August and they said, “September, tapos na ito” and I looked at all those steel things jutting out and broken pieces of cement, and I think I will pray every day. So thank you, Mon, thank you… thank you donors, thank you, Filipino people, friends of Filipino people for this great gift not only to us, but to our learners as well. Thank you very much.”
Note: Speech copied from the Facebook account of the National Museum of the Philippines.