IT WAS a rare treat as we were invited through buddy Kublai Millan to a simple birthday celebration at the house of Archt. Jose Racho. The pansit and the plate of lechon that welcomed us, however, was but the trimmings to the real reason we were there.
Archt. Racho collects artifacts and crafts, mostly brass but just as many wood, majority of Maranao origin, but many of long-gone days when the other tribes were also into brassworks; like the Blaan belt and bracelets that Leonardo Rey S. Carino said is no longer worn nor made.
A tiny sampling of Racho's collection can be found at the lobby of the Marco Polo Hotel Davao for the Kadayawan Festival. His home in Lanang, Davao City, is something else.
Racho's collection could put many a museum with Mindanao arts and artifacts to shame, we can only dream of the day when all these will be made available for the public to see, along with well-versed curators, of which I'm volunteering Carino, himself. Carino is artistic director of the Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Colleges in General Santos City who has made it his avocation to know the details of Mindanao arts and craft.
There were even B'laan and T'boli accessories that had the Kmagi gold chains, a craft of long-forgotten.
It's there when you are able to start to distinguish the different brassworks as well, like the nearly indistinguishable difference between Blaan and Tboli brass belts... until the bells are pointed out to you.
Tboli bells have lines because these are made of coiled brass. B'laan bells, on the other hand, have spaces that are spherical because they mold their bells without coiling.
There were a lot of other distinctions that Carino pointed out, but the brain was already overloaded from the vastness of the collection.
Here's to wishing that Archt. Racho could loan his collections for a few years in the new Museo Dabawenyo. Why not?
Things like these, when properly curated, brings better understanding of the tribes we only try to recognize and understand every Kadayawan sa Dabaw; and Kadayawan does not even cover all the tribes in Mindanao since Kadayawan is a Davao City celebration.
Archt Racho's collection, however, can give us an awe-inspiring walk-through for better appreciation of our indigenous peoples.