A GROUP of friends spent Friday night drinking beer inside a store near the heritage monument in Barangay Parian, Cebu City.
While one of them sang a standard American song from the 1950s, locals and foreign tourists were milling around in the vicinity.
Some entered Casa Gorordo to listen to Cebuano music and literature masterpieces performed by artists.
Some watched a stage play on the history of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
Others went inside the Museo Parian Sa Sugbo where a harp player serenaded them with classic Cebuano songs.
These were all part of the Gabii sa Kabilin (Night of Heritage), a night tour of museums and historical sites held every last Friday of May to commemorate National Heritage Month and the International Day of Museums.
The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi) initiated the event with three participating museums in 2007.
Organizers also got children to participate in different activities like storytelling and Filipino games.
Dr. Jocelyn B. Guerra, Rafi’s culture and heritage unit executive director, said the event has grown to more than 30 participating sites in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Talisay.
Celebrating the past
“Our goal here is to make heritage accessible to everyone,” she said.
National Commission of the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Chairman Felipe de Leon Jr. lauded the event, saying it helps public know their past and their identity as a Filipino.
“The more we open our museums and heritage centers to our people, the prouder we become of our identity because heritage is identity,” he said.
“Sense of nationhood always begins with local heritage... There’s nothing national to begin with.”
He said the event celebrates things--historical artifacts and centuries-old houses--that last.
Filipinos will be misguided in the future if they forget the past, he said.
“Our vision of the future is always rooted in the image of the past,” he said. “We cannot go beyond the present if we don’t know where we come from.”
National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, National Museum Director Jeremy Barns, and other guests also graced the event.
This year’s Gabii sa Kabilin, which bore the theme “Rise of the Queen,” retold the story of Cebu’s first boom--from the opening of Cebu’s ports to world trade in 1860 until the 1930s.
Anthill Fabric Gallery, St. Theresa’s College-Folklife Museum and Staypi’s Souvenirs, Arts and Collectibles joined the event for the first time.
In Casa Gorordo, a few meters from the heritage monument, members of Bathalad-Cebu (a group of writers) and other literature lovers performed an excerpt of Vicente Sotto’s play, “Ang Dila Sa Babaye (A Woman’s Tongue).”
Israel Ybañez, who was one of the performers, said it was the first time he joined an activity in Gabii sa Kabilin.
He said he was surprised to see young people in the audience. Ybañez, who is also a writer in the Cebuano language, said remembering the masterpieces of past writers will help young writers have a foundation in their literary endeavors.
After the play ended, he listened to the poetry recitals of Maning Pacaldo and Fred Cañete and to the performances of Cebuano classics like Max Surban’s “Pasayawa Ko, Day.”
“Nindot gyod ning atong kaugalingong kultura ug angay ning palamboon (Our culture is beautiful and it should be developed further),” he said.