Abiera Museum of Arts: A museum for the people

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013


THE Abiera Museum of Arts in Barangay Tunga-Tunga in Maasin City is every Maasinhon’s pride, something that the locals would willingly “brag” or share to any history buff, visitor, or acquaintance.

In the fast-paced Maasin City life, the museum not only stands as a premier place for people who may have lost grip of their sense of history but also serves as a solid reminder of the dedication, diligence and desire of one Maasinhon luminary: Salvador “Boy” Abiera.

The lavish works

“Definitely, a time machine!” one British visitor commented rather exaggeratedly, moments after experiencing the enormous charm of the Abiera museum.

Displayed across some 60 square meters of the modest residence of Boy Abiera are considerable number of art collections and artifacts, literally occupying every nook of the house -- from the walls, bed rooms, living room, kitchen and the ceiling.

Some displays were on ancient artifacts like stone oil lamp from Jerusalem presumably dated back into the time of Jesus, fossils from Cenozoic era, a 12th century burial jar, Chinese porcelains, and even old bladed weapons like the kris and a sword believed to be brought by Ferdinand Magellan’s men when they landed in Limasawa island in Southern Leyte in 1521.

Also showcased are a cornucopia of extraordinary personal collections, from keys, amulets, old coins, religious icons, shells, stones, crystals, embroidered works, early musical instruments, sketches, drawings, paintings, war memorabilia to awesome display of stuffed exotic wildlife (preserved by the owner himself) like the civet cat, piranha, and large migratory birds like the albatross and great brown herons from Japan and Australia.

In 1994, curator S. Van Dyck of the Australian museum recognized and applauded his vertebrae collection, particularly of a humpback whale excavated from the town of Libagon.

Interestingly, Abiera also keeps live birds and other exotic animals around his museum perhaps to encourage curious onlookers outside to marvel more of its kinds inside.

Portrait of an artist

The museum is a brainchild of Salvador “Boy” Abiera, a former three-term town councilor (1988-1998), taxidermist and painter. An architect by profession, Abiera said he started buying and collecting artifacts way back in 1946.

He was 22 years old when he got his first hand training in taxidermy -- the art of preparing and stuffing skin of animals ready for exhibition -- from a friend who was an embalmer so he could also “preserve” his dead pet bird. Since then, he was able to preserve more than a hundred birds and other animals.

He started painting in 1966, with his masterpiece in oil canvas: Col. Ruperto K. Kangleon, World War II guerrilla hero and Southern Leyte’s foremost son.

Though his passion is expensive, his dedication for the museum and of the generations of Maasinhons and Southern Leyteños is exceptional that he had turned down invitations from museum owners in countries like Brazil, Germany and Japan (to include declining a large sum of money in exchange of his collections), saying: “I cannot turn my back to my dream of bringing back the history and treasures of the past, and to preserve the richness of our natural and cultural treasures for enjoyment and appreciation of my fellow Southern Leyteños.”

For more than 40 years since he first opened the museum to the public for free, thousands of patrons, both local and foreign, have already visited it, also receiving firsthand lecture from the owner himself.

With his selfless works, the local government lauded him with numerous awards and recognitions, particularly when his museum represented Maasin (then a town) and won award in the country’s Centennial decor contest for the 1st to 3rd class municipality level in June 12, 1998.

The Provincial Government cited him as one of the Outstanding Southern Leyteños for 2010.

With his museum as additional entry, Abiera also envisioned Maasin as one of the frontrunners in Eastern Visayas’s tourism industry. (Leyte Samar Daily Express)

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