“Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

- Pope Francis

The museum of religion and culture in Guiuan (Part 1)

By Lope C. Robredillo, SThD

AT last, the dream of a number of Guiuananons, especially those who love its history and items of cultural importance, has become true—the town can now boast of being the only one in Eastern Samar that has a museum.

The museum, owned by the Roman Catholic Church, is located behind the parish priest’s office at the ground floor of the rectory (convento) of the Immaculate Conception parish. (To go to the museum, one has to get inside the parish priest’s office.)  Constructed from late 2014 to early 2015 by Msgr Lope Robredillo, then Moderator of the Team Ministry (2009-2015) of the Guiuan parish, it was formally opened on May 25, 2015 after it was blessed by the Most Rev. Crispin B. Varquez, Bishop of Borongan.

This is not to say, though, that one cannot find any other museum in the whole province.  For one thing, the Eastern Samar State University (ESSU) in Borongan campus has a mini-museum, just like the Bishop’s Residence in Borongan City that houses the Ibabao Museum of History and Culture, founded in 2007 also by Msgr Robredillo.  But the museum in Guiuan, known as Our Lady of the Rosary Museum of Religion and Culture, is relatively a spacious one.

For those who have not yet seen a museum, however, the question that comes to mind is: What is a museum, in the first place?  For the sake of convenience, the definition by Webster’s is sufficient enough—it “is an institution devoted to the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value; also, a place where objects are exhibited.”

In the Philippines, the finest and the best museum is the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Museum of Arts and Sciences, which is probably the oldest in existence.  In my student days, I loved to visit the Ayala Museum in Makati City, and bring friends there.  But the most well-known, because it is easily visible to commuters, is the National Museum of the Philippines on Taft Avenue, Ermita, Manila. In Samar island, it would not be complete to speaks of museums without the mention of the Samar Archeological Museum at Christ the King College, Calbayog City, founded by the famed historian of Samar, Father Cantius Kobak, OFM.

But museums are of different kinds.  Depending on the types of collection an institution displays, it can be categorized as museum of history, science, technology, archeology, aviation, anthropology, fine arts, applied arts, ethnology, etc.  A museum can even exhibit a more specialized category.  A museum of history, for example, can be classified as museum of local history, military history, folk history, modern history, etc.  

The collection displayed at the Guiuan museum can be determined from its name.  It features objects related to the Catholic faith and to the cultural life of the people of Guiuan.  Hence, the name Our Lady of the Rosary Museum of Religion and Culture.  It uses a title of the Blessed Virgin to recall that it was established in honor of the patroness of the town.

A number of people have wrong impressions on these institutions.  Speaking of museums of history and culture, for instance, many think that they are only for those who cannot move on to the present and who like to dwell in the past.  For others, they are a preoccupation of the rich and the elite who have nothing else to do but glory in items that do not have relevance to the daily needs of people, like food and work.  No wonder, when one asks for support to put up a museum, the usual question is—what is its relevance to the current problems of the people?  Why collect, still less conserve, items that are usually discarded by many because they find them useless?  Why bother about old things?  Instead of constructing a museum, why not spend the money on food for the hungry?

With reference to Our Lady of the Rosary Museum of Religion and Culture in Guiuan, the purpose of its founding can be gleaned from the marker unveiled near its entrance: “Our Lady of the Rosary Museum of Religion and Culture, built under the direction of Msgr Lope C Robredillo, Vicar General and Parish Priest, to care for, preserve and display shared religious and cultural heritage of the Immaculate Conception Parish of Guiuan, was blessed by the Most Rev Crispin B Varquez, DD, Bishop of Borongan, on 25 May 2015.”

According to this marker, the museum has three functions: custody, preservation and display.  In other words, the museum has collected objects of religion and culture with the end of view of preserving and caring for them for the future, preventing them from damage and deterioration, and exhibiting them for knowledge, education and entertainment.

This bring us to the question: what items are set out in Our Lady of the Rosary Museum of Religion and Culture?  That would be the content of the second part of this essay that will appear in the next issue of Este.

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