GSK 2024: Honoring the past, embracing ‘Bisaya’ identity

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THE Visayan people, also called the “Bisaya,” are beloved for their ability to make others feel cherished.

This was how Novem Lao, a 24-year-old officer-in-charge of the Argao Youth for Heritage Society reflected on this year’s Gabii sa Kabilin (GSK) theme, “Beloved Bisaya.” His organization participated in the GSK for the first time on Friday, May 10, 2024.

“As a Cebuano, we are naturally hospitable to people. We let them feel the profundity of our love, care and, of course, support and that hospitality separates us from many,” Lao told SunStar Cebu on Friday night.

Model for Argao

She said that being a “beloved” Bisaya also entails experiencing the richness of its culture, learning its roots and heritage, and feeling the passion of the Visayans towards arts and crafts.

Lao expressed support for the GSK, saying it served as a model for Argao’s own night of heritage, expected to debut this September.

This year’s GSK theme, “Beloved Bisaya,” draws inspiration from a Jesuit missionary, Fr. Francisco Ignacio Alcina, a 17th-century historian and ethnographer, who fondly referred to the Visayan people as “my beloved Bisaya.”

His works documented everything from the flora and fauna to the lifestyle of the Visayans.

On Alcina’s 350th death anniversary, which falls on July 30 this year, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (Rafi), the initiator of the GSK since 2007, aims to highlight a lesser-known aspect of Cebuano culture: the Visayan hospitality that draws people back time and again.

Amaya Cristina Aboitiz-Fansler, in a statement during the opening ceremony of the GSK, expressed hope that the exhibit and performances would allow participants to reconnect with the essence of being a Bisaya and take pride in various aspects of the Bisaya culture.

The 2024 edition of GSK drew over a thousand participants who toured 22 sites, including 11 museums and other historic locations throughout the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay.

New site

Among the new additions to the GSK sites was the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Museum.

Maximo Eleccion, BPI area business director for South Cebu and Bohol, said the museum has been existing since 2011. He added that the bank’s participation in this year’s GSK was part of the celebration of their 100th year of serving the Cebuano community.

“It is a way of giving back to the Cebuanos (by) showing what is (in our) museum, as in the coin collection that was kept for the last 100 years,” he said, noting that they are planning to open the BPI museum to the public soon.

Claire Marie Sanchez and Heart Quicho, students from the University of Cebu-Banilad, were among those who visited the BPI Museum as their first stop during their first GSK experience.

They said they gained insights from the vintage machines and historical narratives about BPI.

Other participating museums and sites included the National Museum of the Philippines Cebu, the Kabilin Center, Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, Cebu City Museum, University of San Carlos Museum, Fort San Pedro, Fo Guang Shan Chu Un Temple and the Museo de Talisay.

Comeback

The Cebu Normal University (CNU) also made its return to GSK 2024 after the Covid-19 pandemic, showcasing its building constructed in 1902, and its educational collections, including a World War II section.

Inside the Cebu Heritage Museum, formerly CNU Museum, visitors could admire items, such as paintings, sculptures uniforms and books.

Aside from the celebration of culture and heritage, the GSK also served as a backdrop for volunteerism.

Ted Antoine Cirujales, a fourth-year Bachelor of Secondary Education student majoring in social studies at CNU, saw volunteering at GSK as an opportunity to showcase CNU and its history to others.

“Gabii sa Kabilin serves as a medium nga maka-encourage sa ubang mga tawo (to encourage other people) to visit a museum because as a social studies major I believe that historical learning is important to have a critical reflection of the things that are happening now,” he said.

“If we can learn and draw reflections from the past, we can realize how we can reach this far in the present,” he added. / CDF, CAV

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