History is in the process of constantly recreating itself. Today becomes yesterday. Clothes and homes we deem beautifully elegant now becomes a testament of past lives we no longer know tomorrow. Countless outfits, works and lives suddenly become priceless artifacts. Someone’s well-preserved house becomes a silent reminder of families who once lived and roamed its rooms. Ancient kitchen utensils become treasured gold, bathrooms become a source of awe, and family traditions, once long-lived, become esoteric myths.
One celebration where the ghosts of Cebu’s past return to life is Gabii sa Kabilin. Started in 2007 with Germany’s Long Night of the Museums (Lange Nacht der Museen) as its inspiration, the annual event is celebrated on every last Friday of May to continue celebrating the Philippines’ National Heritage Month and the International Museum Day of May 18. Gabii sa Kabilin is an event in which all 35 museums across the four major cities in Cebu — Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Talisay and Cebu — can be toured for only P150 as a registration fee. The buses,tartanillas, shows, native Filipino delicacies and tour magazine with itinerary are all included in the payment.
Appropriately, yesterday night’s theme was “Rise of the Queen”, as Cebu is hailed the Queen of the South. In the event, it was as if the souls of Cebu’s deceased elites and ordinary citizens came back to haunt those who were left in the world of the living.
The tour started in Casa Gorordo, where registration and the giving of the tour magazine took place. Participants were given the choice to ride buses, to drive their cars or to simply walk. Inside the museum, tour guides in formal Filipino attire greeted the visitors. These guides talked endlessly about the mansion and the people who lived in it. Pictures of the Gorordos’ past lives were exhibited along with the description of the utensils used in their times. There was a tour of the hanging bathroom where the people from the past sprinkle dust or ashes from the kitchen to insure that their waste would not smell. It was also the reason why the kitchen and bathroom were situated near each other. In the other part of the house, a living room had a semi-partition whose threshold could only be entered by a close friend of the Gorodos. Of course, one could not go to their mansion and not be awed by the beautifully maintained terrace and garden, especially when it was lit by hanging lanterns and fairy-lights. In the garden, a group of musically adept old men sang folk songs written by our fathers. One man performed a declamation in vernacular.
The venue of the Cebu Heritage Monument was decorated with colorful bannerettes and fairy-lights. The city, though not bustling, was kept alive.
Casa Yap San Diego held a performance about the pre-Hispanic times, when our culture flourished with all its dazzling uniqueness, and then about how the Spanish conquered us with religion. Whether the subjugation of our ancestors to the Spanish was helpful to us Filipinos in any way is subject to much debate. Nevertheless, our history was shaped by the faith they’ve shared as well as the pain they inflicted.
Museo Parian captured the feeling of being in the 17th century precisely. One walked in and was immediately met by wooden houses and red-clay roofs. It could make anyone feel displaced by the pervading presence of the past. Inside, the 1730 Jesuit house was brought back to its former glory. The participants walked around to the entrance and then through an old wooden staircase. Inside the house were descriptions and artifacts of Spanish conquests and colonization. Also inside was the history of our trade with the Chinese. Though the place had the astonishing touch of modernity — with red Chinese lanterns hanging on the ceilings, the recent descendants of the owners beckoning from the wall, and one part of the house now being used as a modern bathroom for the guests — it still brought nostalgia for a past we have not known fully. In addition to the artifacts, in one of the rooms was a harp-player named JR Costanos serenading the participants. Apparently, harp-playing was his family’s legacy.
Fort San Pedro, known as the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines, also opened its door with its recurring act: a two-show play by our very own University of San Carlos Theatre Guild. The place was full of eager people taking photos and anticipating the night’s activities. Aside from this, there was a long line oftartanillas awaiting the eager passengers near the entrance to the fort. The route took them to Sugbu Chinese Heritage Museum.
One of the highlights of the night was the presentation of the internationally acclaimed University of Visayas (UV) Chorale at Jose R. Gullas Halad Museum. Inside the museum was a place fully dedicated to the musical heritage of Cebu. Pilita Corrales, a former Cebuana singer, had her clothes exhibited at the center of the room. An old piano, whose hood had been put up, sat on the side attracting people to try pressing a key. An assortment of stringed instruments, like banjos, ukuleles and guitars, was carefully perched on stands. Old music sheets were encased and put on display. This night and this museum would not have been complete without the cultural musical entertainment. On the third floor, the UV Chorale and UV Filipiniana Dance Group wowed the crowd with a variety of folk songs dances. At the end, when the viewers asked for an encore, the UV Chorale performed I’m Yours by Jason Mraz while the UV Filipiniana Dance Group performed the Idudo dance.
There was more to this night than just the museums with their timeless exhibits. These were stories of our ancestors: stories in which their artifacts, utensils, old houses remain to tell the tale. History is indeed in the process of recreating itself. Today becomes yesterday. The clothes we wear, the words we speak, the houses we own are on their way to becoming extinct or destroyed in the next hundred years. However, these are the only things that can testify that we lived. In respect for this, we must pay homage to our ancestors for their way of life and to those who have the responsibility to keep these Filipinos’ historical possessions preserved.