Preserving the way of life-A A +A
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
The Story of the Ethnohistory Museum at Xavier University
LAST Friday, I attended the soft opening of Xavier University’s Museo de Oro-Ethnohistory exhibit.
The said museum would open itself to the public to showcase the ethnohistory of Cagayan de Oro City.
According to social literatures, ethnohistory studies everything pertaining to culture, including ethnic groups, by examining historical records. As such, ethnohistory uses historical and ethnographic data that go beyond the standard use of documents and manuscripts. Instead, practitioners or social scientists, mostly anthropologists, use materials such as maps, music, paintings, photography, folklore, site exploration, archeological materials, languages and the likes.
In the welcome address given by Dr. Erlinda Burton, an anthropologist and the curator of Museo de Oro, she shared that they had been waiting for the ethnohistory project for a time.
Historically, Museo de Oro was the dream of the late Fr. Francisco Radaza Demetrio, S.J. during the 80’s.
After being ordained as a Jesuit in 1951, Fr. Demetrio spent some years in Fordham University in New York to earn his Master’s degree in Classics. By 1959, he was transferred to Ateneo de Manila University and was appointed as the chairperson of the department of Classics.
In 1962, Fr. Demetrio flew to California to study his Doctor of Classics degree major in comparative religion and folklore at the University of California , Los Angeles as a an academic grantee. Upon graduating, he was assigned at Xavier University in 1967 and began to conceptualize a folkloric museum in the Philippines.
Fr. Demetrio was popular for his advocate to preserve the cultural heritage of Mindanao.
In 1987, Museo de Oro was inaugurated by the late President Corazon Aquino.
With Fr. Demetrio as its Curator, Museo de Oro was the first and only Folkloric museum in the Philippines.
Among the other works of Fr. Demetrio were his published books on folklore such as “Myths and Symbols in the Philippines,” “Encyclopedia of Philippine Folk Belief and Customs (Two volumes),” “Dialogue for Development,” “Christianity in Context” and “The Soul Book.”
In an interview with Pennessencio Estarte, assistant curator and a resident artist of Museo de Oro for the past 30 years, he shares that for some time, the museum had partially relied on donations and the trust funds left by the late Fr. Demetrio to sustain its operations.
“We are happy that we managed to keep with the demands of the museum over the past decades to arrive at where we are today,” he said.
The museum is dedicated to the appreciation, preservation and enrichment of the Filipino heritage.
It also contains collections of ethnological and archaeological materials and other artifacts illustrating the cultural anthropology and folk traditions of Northern Mindanao.
The museum also aims to continue further research and studies primarily on local history and folkloristic and comparative religion in Mindanao as well as in the entire country.
In the words of a graduate student of sociology, “If you want to learn history, visit the museum.”
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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 25, 2012.