I WAS back in Manila recently and had a chance to revisit the National Museum of Fine Arts located strategically right across the historic Intramuros and just beside the city hall. It was indeed back to memory lane because I spent more than four years in the big city when I was a student taking up my Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Santo Tomas. The first artwork that truly captivated all the visitors including myself is the mural of the great Filipino Master Juan Luna “Spoliarium.”
As I paced towards the other galleries, I noted that the exhibit rooms and hallways were adorned with religious icons, artifacts including lifted arches and altars that reflect early Christianity and Hispanic influence in the country. There are works by masters such as Fernando Amorsolo, Felix, Resurrection Hidalgo, Guillermo Tolentino, Jose Joya, HR Ocampo and Carlos Botong Francisco among many others. That tour made my travel more fulfilling aside of course of my reinstatement as Executive Council member of the NCCA National Committee on Cinema when we had our election at the Bayleaf Hotel fronting the national Museum.
Back home, five groups of mass communication students of Saint Louis University stormed my media newseum and it is amazing to see almost all of them toting smart phones and constantly aiming at all my exhibit items including things I did not expect to be snapped like the rusting letter keys of a typewriter at one corner that I am yet to brush and clean.
Since that drowning incident in 2014 involving students from the Bulacan State University where the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) strictly banned the use waivers signed by parents as a legal shield to untoward incident that may happen during a field trip, I needed to explain that SLU is within a five minute walking distance from my place which is just within the university belt.
As an introduction to the media newseum, I briefed the students on how communications evolved from the time of the ancient cavemen who painted impressions on cave walls. I touched a bit of Jurassic items like the use of telegraphs, Morse Code, typewrites and old system printing and use of typewriters. After my talk, I let them walk around and I late saw the green beret that hung at one of my easel’s post being worn by a long haired student and I believe he wanted to portray himself through selfie as the iconic revolutionary warrior Che Guevara. My media newseum is an edutainment center and meant to be interactive and spectators can actually touch my items except those that are encased in glass cabinets. I almost taped the diamond needle of my phonographs so that curious visitors won’t damage the tip and scratch the surface of the vinyl disk that is already gathering dust. I asked them to listen carefully to a playing Elvis record if they can detect the noise caused by the unclean disk and told them about the feeling of listening to analog sounds of the 50s to the 70s. My library of arts and communication books was among the items most ‘ransacked’ by curious 1st and 2nd year MassComm students who were probably wondering if they could borrow but I responded to one girl saying that I do not have a staff like a librarian to catalog, issue borrower’s form and besides, the Newseum is just a prototype of a bigger and more spacious facility that caters to all interested visitors.
I mentioned to all five groups that as a member of NCCA National Committee member for the Arts particularly on cinema, the country is celebrating the centennial year of Filipino Cinema narrating the first public screening of a film by Jose Nepomuceno in 1918. I showed pictures that I detached from 2019 calendar of NCCA and asked the students to identify the persons shown. Only one of the 160 students recognized Bembol Roco of Lino Brocka’s “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag” and when I hinted that the character is now bald, about three thought that it was talkshow host Boy Abunda. I also flashed a hand-out image of Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon and asked the name of the leading character and nobody knew that Boyet de Leon is the same person as Christopher de Leon.
At the end of the five batches of student tour, I felt like I have handled five classes and the feeling is great looking at my disorganized lecture table with varied items touched by many hands. The students were given a take-away postcard as part of our advocacy to value letter-writing, postcard sending and recognition of the Baguio Post Office as a Heritage Site by the national Historical Commission and NCCA.
Unlike the Newseum of Washington DC that was bought by the John Hopkins University, the Media Newseum in Baguio City is still a prototype of a bigger concept of a Newseum and I look forward to partner with an institution or investor willing to provide a wider space as I have already accumulated more communications related items that are packed in boxes at my garage’s attic. For now, Newseum in Baguio is closed most of the time and opens on a per-appointment-basis especially during weekends.