Recreating Heritage-A A +A
Saturday, August 4, 2012
THE word “history” does not necessarily mean something old or past happenings. For Florencio Moreño II, new curator of the Casa Gorordo Museum of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi), history is something still present among us.
“What I want to see is a healthy discourse, a dialogue between the old and the new and how the old is not really old and [how] it continues to be active,” he said.
He makes use of his time as a curator doing just that, above everything else, hoping to make people understand and appreciate the importance of Cebuano history.
As curator, Moreño takes care of the museum and looks after its daily operations.
He organizes exhibits and maintains the valuable collections of the museum, and ensures that the house traditions of the Gorordo family, former owners of the house, run without fail every year. These traditions include Sinug sa Casa Gorordo in January, Semana Santa during Holy Week, Pista ni San Juan in June and the displaying of the Belen in December.
“Curatorship is more based on experience rather than professional training. It does not mean that a person must be a history or archaeology graduate to be a curator. A background on cultural work is enough since there is no institution that provides formal training for curatorship,” he said.
Moreño was a former college instructor before he became a museum curator. His love for all things historical and cultural stemmed from his childhood when he would spend hours reading rather than joining other kids playing outdoor games.
Coming from a traditional Catholic family, his parents wanted their children to grow up as readers and were worried that they would not do so.
In high school, he lived away from his family in a boarding house that had no television sets. So he dedicated his free time reading about the past, which became his passion. Never for a moment did he think of becoming a museum curator.
“I always wanted to be involved in studying the past. I like to take care of old things,” Moreño said, citing his father as his greatest influence who, being a reader himself, owns a lot of books in their house. Aside from reading, Moreño also likes to watch period films, dabble in archaeology and try his hand in art.
Starting as a political science student in the University of the Philippines Cebu College, Moreño later shifted to history as major at the University of San Carlos (USC). Here, he was introduced to public history and heritage conservation, which are about practical applications of history, making it more understandable to common people.
While taking up his master’s degree in history, he met Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, an instructor at USC and the executive director of the Culture and Heritage unit of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi). Through Gerra, he got his firsthand experience in organizing museum exhibits when he was asked to co-exhibit “100 Years of Bishop Gorordo,” commemorating the centenary of the ordination of Bishop Juan Gorordo in 2009.
Rafi acquired Casa Gorordo in 1980, turned it into a museum and committed to continue the time-honored traditions of the Gorordo family. Casa Gorordo was the home of Juan Gorordo, the first Filipino bishop of Cebu. Four generations of the Gorordo family have passed through the walls of Casa Gorordo.
When he became a history professor at USC, he further got involved in research, and culture and heritage, mapping in different towns and attending seminars on conservation.
When Rafi was looking for a curator, Moreño applied for the position. Taking a chance, he eventually landed the job due to his extensive background on history and culture.
In his one year as curator, his works include “Mga Bayani sa Sugbo,” a yearly exhibit that depicts the unsung heroes of Cebu, who have become icons, with streets named after them.
His team also came up with two exhibits that will be done annually for the next five to seven years.
From the “Heroes Revolution in the Early 1900s” exhibit last year and this year, they are trying to come up with “Heroes of World War II.” Casa Gorordo Museum is also eyeing traveling exhibits “since an exhibit is a very good method in making the public aware of their cultural identity.” Dispersing knowledge at different locations in the province is what Moreño’s team aims to do with traveling exhibits.
Another accomplishment of his team was an exhibit held last February, which featured local artists in different fields including dance, painting, literature, sculpture, architecture, and music.
Moreño said that history is both science and humanities. He sees the trend in which young people do not really see the point in studying the humanities. What he wants to encourage is a culture of curatorship, which means a sense of responsibility toward one’s heritage and culture, and being involved in its protection and promotion.
“My training in history tells me that nothing is constant in this world except change. We need to have that sense of responsibility before we destroy anything or before we even embrace a new perspective. We also need to understand that we are also losing a different way of life, a different view of the world,” he added.
He pointed out that the “younger” generation is now impoverished in terms of the sense of wonder and social imagination. Thus he wants to encourage people to understand that material wealth will not necessarily contradict with both culture and heritage.
“What I would like to happen is a healthy discourse between history and culture in different humanities to make it interesting and relevant. Heritage is merely seen as a display. That’s what I want to change,” Moreño expressed. (Michellaine Ong / Allyne Gale Maasin)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 05, 2012.