Museo Sugbo: Restoring links to a time gone by
It is said that nothing lasts forever because at some point, things change through time.
In the endless loop of the old being replaced by the new, of fading traditions replaced by emerging trends, of dying practices and forgotten lore, what do we have to remind us of a time etched in the memories of the past generation?
And what do we have left of the glory that was?
With modernization and the current direction toward new technology, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) finds it all the more important to restore and preserve remnants of the past that had shaped us to become who we are today as a people – uniquely Filipino, distinctly Cebuano.
Toward this end, the NHCP spearheaded several restoration projects of old architectures around the country, including those damaged in October 2013 when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Visayas region.
Museo Sugbo was among those that suffered substantial damage during the tremor.
Carcel de Cebu
Housed in what was once called Carcel de Cebu or the provincial jail of Cebu, Museo Sugbo was originally the main prison for the Visayas region in the 1800s.
During the American colonial period, the prison housed not only criminals but also horses competing in the nearby Hipodromo racetrack.
Museo Sugbo witnessed its fair share of history – from the incarceration of Katipuneros during the Philippine revolution to the imprisonment of guerillas at the hands of the Japanese secret police, Kempeitai, to the detention of Natalio “Talyux” Bacalso, a well-known Cebuano writer, director, radio commentator and member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa who made waves on- and off-air during Martial Law.
The carcel changed its name twice, first during the post-war period when it was called the Cebu Provincial Jail to the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the 1980s.
The structure was designed in 1869 by Domingo de Escondrillas, who was the lone architect in Cebu at the time, while actual construction works started two years later in 1871. It is located four blocks away from Plaza Independencia, another Cebuano historical landmark.
Ending its chapter as a place of confinement in 2004, records show that at the height of its era as a jail facility, Cebu’s prison had more than a thousand detainees.
In 2008, rebranded as Museo Sugbo, the former prison finally opened its doors to the public as a repository of historical artifacts, vintage displays and priceless artworks and masterpieces under the administration of former Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.
An old Spanish-era well, discovered during the landscaping of the back portion of the jail in 2009, was also reopened and christened the “Well of Wisdom, Love, and Good Fortune.”
As a repository of historical artifacts, Museo Sugbo houses twelve galleries with four permanent exhibitions that showcase the four major historical eras of the country – the pre-colonial times, Spanish occupation, American occupation and the war memorial gallery during the Japanese occupation.
There are also three special exhibits composed of the Vicente Rama memorabilia, the Jovito Gregorio Abellana memorabilia and an exhibit by the Cebu Citizen’s Press Council, which is a media gallery.
Two exhibition galleries, commissioned by the National Archives, are referred to as the Cebu Branch of the National Museum. Another section is called the Museum of Visayan Political History.
For artists who want to exhibit their portfolio, Museo Sugbo has one gallery set for special exhibitions where artists can display their works.
Fast forward to early morning of October 15, 2013 when the whole of Cebu and its neighboring provinces were jolted by an earthquake that toppled buildings, bell towers and churches causing damage to centuries-old infrastructure.
Museo Sugbo, though fortunate that none of its displays were damaged, had to close down after the earthquake, given that the building has aged for more than a century.
(To be concluded. Next, the painstaking restoration of the heritage structure.)
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