13 Bicolanos help build Quincentennial gallery

By Paulo DS. Papa


DESPITE limited knowledge about pre-colonial Bicol history, 13 Bicolanos have helped established the country’s Quincentennial Gallery at the Museo Sugbo in Cebu City.


The new built gallery is part of the Quincentennial Anniversary, which celebrated the 500th year of Spanish voyage in the Philippines last month.


Naga-based GPriela Architecture and Design (GPAD) studio team, composed of 10 persons, together with Bicolano historian Danny Gerona, researcher Victor Dennis Nierva, and artist Boyet Abrenica, were assigned by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to establish the gallery.


In an interview, Gian Paolo Priela, principal architect of the GPAD studio told Bicol Mail that the team was commissioned by the NHCP to create a permanent historical exhibit in Cebu after qualifying during the bidding in November last year. He said the basis of the bidding was their creative skills.

THE Museo Sugbo (left photo) served as the provincial jailhouse of Cebu which was converted into a museum about ten years ago. The Quincentennial gallery (right photo) shows the narrative of Magellan’s voyage in Cebu island. The gallery was designed by Bicolano experts commissioned by the NHCP to accomplish the project.PHOTO COURTESY: GPAD Studio


Rochelle, Priela’s wife confirmed that the NHCP recognized GPAD’s past designs and creations such as the Jesse M. Robredo and University de Santa Isabel museums.


The NHCP was impressed by the way we worked and created those museums. So they awarded the project to my company last Dec. 30. They liked our works in collaborations with experts Gerona, Nierva and Abrenica. We were able to mobilize from here to Cebu last March and opened the museum in the evening of April 26, hours before the victory in Mactan happened, Priela said.


When asked about the cost of the project, he replied that the NHCP allotted about P2.9 million. He clarified that the original project was a traveling museum but the NHCP, due to the pandemic, changed the objective into a permanent gallery at the Museo Sugbo, a Spanish-made building, which was formerly the provincial jail of Cebu.


He said about ten years ago, the jailhouse was converted by the provincial government of Cebu into a museum.


Rochelle explained that the gallery has two parts and located inside the museum.


She said the purpose of the gallery is to change the dominating narrative saying that the natives were discovered by a Portuguese voyager Ferdinand Magellan.


We would like to re-claim that the natives during the time of discovery, were already civilized and their societal structure was already established. These accounts were evident in the historical findings of Gerona, she said.


She bared that according to Nierva, amidst the absence of historical accounts about pre-colonial Bicol, the creation of the museum is the biggest contribution of the Bicolanos in the celebration of 500 year celebration of Spanish discovery of Cebu and Christianization of the Philippines.


Nierva, in an interview, clarified that studies on the pre-colonial Bicolandia are existent in the academe, although details have yet to be completed due to lack of researches and continuous archeological findings.


Nierva, a writer and Bicol linguistic and cultural preservation advocate, told Bicol Mail that in the academic perspective, the province of Cebu became the center of heritage and historical studies due to Magellan.


He said history classes were centralized in Cebu and Manila, causing the Bicolano heritage and historical studies to be ignored.


Based on our geographical location, we are at the middle of a divided archipelago. Visayas in the south and the mainland Luzon in the north. Prominence of Manila is another thing, the reason why our history is not popular. If we have more active studies, we will be able to discover the way our ancestors live and what they established, he said.


Nierva added that in terms of historical studies, Bicol region is yet to be investigated deeply amidst existing studies on indigenous people, volcanoes, mountains, even past storms.


“It’s not all about how we live in the past. An pag-adal kan mga kabukidan asin kadagatan kan Bicol, parte na iyan kan historical studies. We have our ancient writing system called ‘basahan’ so it’s not absurd sa satuya alagad kulang an studies”, he said.