THERE is a new cultural institution in Baguio that visitors should pay a visit to and Baguio residents should appreciate – Museo Kordilyera at the University of the Philippines, Baguio. Just over a year old, the Museo Kordilyera is supported and sheltered in the UP Baguio campus as part and parcel of the university. Museo Kordilyera highlights the culture of the Cordilleras giving it scholarly focus and providing an educational dimension about it for visitors.
Aside from its permanent exhibit which is a complete spectrum of Cordillera arts, crafts and research, Museo Kordilyera embarks on special exhibits which is the mark of a dynamic museum.
Last week, it inaugurated a new exhibit, “Feasts of Merit,” showing the rituals and feasting of three Cordillera tribes – the Ifugao, the Bontoc and the Ibaloi. There was much to see, among them a collection of singular bulul (rice gods) which showed how varied they could be, a traditional Ifugao house that stored grain, woven materials of the different tribes, photographs, artifacts, ritual furniture, as well as a collection of books, articles, documents of anthropological research regarding the Cordillera.
Indeed, it was an event which started with a program featuring the UP Baguio Corps of Cadets parading the flag (all of them women) followed by welcome remarks by UP Baguio Chancellor Raymundo Rovillos and a short talk about the exhibit by Dr. Analyn (Ikin) Salvador-Amores), the director of the Museo Kordilyera.
A cultural performance was ably presented by the Ifugao Intangible Heritage and Performing Arts Society based in Kiangan, Ifugao province. It was a thrill to see this group of authentic tribes people led by a chief performing their traditional dances in traditional handwoven costumes that they themselves made from cotton they planted, natural dyes they used and cloth they made with handlooms. Gongs were the music that accompanied the performance and it was generally commented that somehow the gongs had many sounds like an orchestra although they were one instrument beaten in rhyme. As is customary at the end of the dance, the public was invited to join and we marveled as UP students, many of them from the North, joined in enthusiastically. Another marvel was Chancellor Rovillos gamely doing the one-foot dance maneuver that takes an utter balancing act. He confessed that he practiced.
Marlon Martin of the Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (chief operating officer) was the manager of the Ifugao performance. He is an Ifugao cultural worker based in Kiangan, involved in conserving the traditions of the Ifugao from the rice terraces, to weaving, ritual practices as well as documenting and interpreting them for the world. He is part of the new book on the Ifugao, People of the Earth published recently by the Aboitiz Foundation.
One of the supporters of the Museo Kordilyera is the Museum Foundation of the Philippines represented that day by Albert Avellana, its president, and board members Deanna Ongpin Recto and Phyllis Zaballero. They funded the construction of the Ifugao House.
Indeed, it was a festive day at UP Baguio with the exhibit opening. Baguio community members were there in full force, including congressman Mark Go, University of the Cordillera president, Ray Dean Salvosa, Department of Tourism Regional Director Venus Tan, academics, students, alumni. Professor Emeritus Delfin Tolentino who has contributed much to the Museo was there. He is a well-known anthropologist of the North and a legend. I was happy to meet him in person at long last. He actually looked too young to be a legend but he is.
Another facet of the Museo Kordilyera is its large collection of books and research work. It has an up-to-date bookstore that has a supply of anthropological books on the Cordilleras as well as a large trove of photographs, vintage and current.
All in all, Museo Kordilyera is now a Baguio destination that opens the Cordillera culture to the public for it to understand, appreciate and marvel.
For all that, we salute UP Baguio, Chancellor Rovillos, Dr. Amores and her excellent curatorial staff, Professor Delfin Tolentino, the students and faculty of UP Baguio, with special thanks to the Ifugao Intangible Heritage and Performing Arts Society.