Provincial museum yields to new Museo Sorsogon
By Henry S. Totanes
The Sorsogon Museum and Heritage Center, inaugurated on June 26, 2008, was the first museum organized in the province. It was the brainchild of the late Reynaldo “Tootsie” Jamoralin, then President of the Sorsogon Arts Council, Inc. and editor/publisher of Tracing: From Solsogon to Sorsogon (1994) to commemorate the province’s centennial founding anniversary in October 1894.
The site of this first museum was the restored old Sorsogon Provincial Hospital, inside the provincial capitol compound. In February 2005, the building was turned over by the Governor’s Office of Raul R. Lee, to the Sorsogon Museum and Heritage Center, Inc. (SMHCI) chaired by Mr. Fernando “Jun” Duran, Jr., former Mayor of Sorsogon. Interestingly, the first Director of the Provincial Hospital was his father, Dr. Fernando Duran, Sr., who was also a Congressman of the first district of Sorsogon in the 1930s. The current provincial hospital has been named after him.
The drive towards building a Museum was a collaborative effort of five non-profit organizations in Sorsogon: the Kasanggayahan Foundation Inc., led by Monsignor Francisco Monje; the Sorsogon Provincial Tourism Council chaired by Ms.Cecilia Duran; the Sorsogon Arts Council, Inc. chaired by Tootsie Jamoralin; the Balik-Sorsogon Association in America, chaired by prominent businesswoman and philanthropist, Ms. Loida Nicolas-Lewis and the Sorsogon Heritage Society, chaired by the prominent journalist/freedom fighter Ms. Eugenia “Eggie” Duran-Apostol.
When it was inaugurated in 2008, the Museum became the repository of artifacts, burial jars, photographs, texts, displays, book collections, journals and magazines which would help the people of Sorsogon “rediscover their rich history, heritage and identity.” The main galleries housed collections from the pre-Hispanic, Spanish and American colonial periods, and bringing it up to the present. In the last gallery, a scale model of the world famous Whale Shark, the “Butanding” of Donsol was on display.
The Museum also had a library containing issues of Mr. and Ms. Magazine and the earliest issues of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), donated by its founder, Ms. Eugenia Duran-Apostol, fondly called “Tita Eggie.” Tita Eggie was a prominent anti-Marcos journalist and publisher, who challenged the so-called “crony press” of the late dictator by publishing articles and later an entire newspaper, on the Ninoy Aquino assassination in August 1983 and its aftermath.
Dr. Totanes visits the old Sorsogon Provincial Museum with his graduate students from Sorsogon State University.
The Museum also put on display published works on Sorsogon such as Sarabihon: A Journal of Sorsogon Studies, the seven volumes published by the Sorsogon Heritage Society, chaired also byTita Eggie and included among its Board of Trustees, the late Bishop of Sorsogon, his Eminence Jesus Y. Varela, D.D.
Sarabihon: A Journal of Sorsogon Studies was very “interdisciplinary,” and featured articles on Sorsogon by writers such as the novelist, Ms. Azucena “Sinang” Uranza from Juban, the anthropologist Francisco “Kiko” Datar of Magallanes, the literary writers, Dr. Teresita Erestain of Gubat who was the journal’s editor and Dr. Elmer Ordonez of Juban; linguist Ricardo D. Nolasco, of Sorsogon, former Chair of the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF); and historian Dr. Stephen Henry S. Totanes of Gubat.
With the advent of a new provincial administration in 2019, the old Museum was closed and renovated to house the provincial office of the Department of Tourism. Although the old museum was closed the reorganized Sorsogon Museum and Heritage Center (SMHCI) under the leadership of its Chair Monsignor Francisco Monje, will continue to explore venues for Sorsoganons to enjoy their “museum experience.”
On March 12, 2021, a new “Museo Sorsogon” was inaugurated under the leadership of Governor Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Dr. Rene Escalante, Director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), who traces his roots to Bacon. Also in attendance was Dr. Jeremy Barns, Director of the National Museum of the Philippines. This new Museo is housed in the old Provincial jail just behind the Capitol building.
(See related stories in Bicol Mail, March 18 and March 25, 2021).
Indeed, Sorsoganons should feel pride in the fact that their province now has a museum which can be considered as world class and this generation can continue to “rediscover the history, heritage and identity of the province of Sorsogon.”