Cebu, Philippines — Every last Friday of May, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc [RAFI] organizes the Gabii Sa Kabilin, in time for the Philippine National Heritage Month and International Museum Day. Now on its 11th year, the activity focuses on our heritage as Cebuanos and as Filipinos. The other years focused on how we had risen to be the Queen City and how we had been forged as a people who had the unique character that stands out. On my part as a Lumad Cebuana [born and raised here in Cebu], the GSK is a trip down to my Chinese-Spanish Roots.
How It Came About
Gabii Sa Kabilin (GSK) or Night of Heritage is a special annual event, where people visit museums and heritage sites in one night. From 6 pm to midnight, guests enjoy cultural shows, exhibits, children’s activities, contests, food fairs and other activities. To get to participating sites, guests walk or ride buses and tartanillas (horse-drawn carriages) and present their tickets.
GSK is an adaptation of Germany’s Lange Nacht der Museen or Long Night of the Museums, which has become an anticipated event in more than 120 cities in Europe and South America, Cebu launched the first Gabii Sa Kabilin in 2007 and has remained the only metropolis in the Asia-Pacific Region to hold such an event.
The event is initiated by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc [RAFI] Cultural and Heritage Unit. It is made possible through the cooperation of participating museums and heritage sites, government agents, local communities and private organizations.
The Gang and the Route We Take
This year, I joined Gabii Sa Kabilin together with new friends Christian, Sir Kenneth and Sir Hope. Last year, I had enjoyed the tour with fellow bloggers as well as the other year. The routes were exciting and very educational. This year, we did the Casa Gorordo – Museo Parian – JRG Halad Museum – Elicon House for Museum of Bicycling and UCCP Bradford Church.
First Stop: Casa Gorordo Museum
The First Stop was the famous House in the Parian, Casa Gorordo Museum. This house was built by Alejandro Reynes Y Rosales in the mid-19th century and was acquired by Juan Isidro de Gorordo, a Spanish Merchant. Since 1863, Four Generations of the Gorordo Family including the first Filipino Bishop of Cebu, Juan Gorordo [1910-1932] lived in this house. The house is a typical Balay Na Bato, where coral blocks and hardwood comprised the foundations. The house had adequate ventilation due to balustrades and big windows that open for most of the time during the day. Its hardwood floors are still in use to this very day. The house opens into the Silong, or the Zaguan, storage area where crops like cotton, camote, corn, and millet are stored. In the olden days, rice was not a staple crop due to the natural terrain and location of our island. The Taas or Upper Floor of the house starts with the small receiving area or Vestibulo at the foot of the Escalera or the grand staircase, leading to the Caida, or Foyer. The house prided itself of collections that are still on display today, and Casa Gorordo Museum is a glimpse of the Ilustrado way of living. Entrance will be at PHP 120 including a CGM primer, ear phones, and a souvenir key chain.
**Photos Courtesy of Sir Kenneth Rivera of Sir Ken Photography and Christian Cayobit**
Second Stop: Museo Parian / 1730 Jesuit House
Museo Parian or the 1730 Jesuit House was our next stop. This intricately adorned Chinese Balay Na Bato is actually inside current day Ho Tong Hardware and was built in the 18th century. Owned by Jaime Sy, this house was actually bought from the Alvarez Family [who happens to own Costabella Tropical Beach Resort and Montebello Villa Hotel] who owned it from 19th Century. The house had some unique features like the stone wall, the Tugas hardwood posts that seemed to float from the ground, the wooden “bridge” that hangs above the Parian River leading to the other part of the house, and the Chinese artifacts being unearthed by Architect Arch. Tony Abelgas together with the restoration work spearheaded by Arch Juan Ramón Jimenez, University of Shiga Prefecture gave the depth of an individual’s experience. It was a site worth the visit. And they have free ice cream too! 🙂 On normal days, entrance is around PHP 30.00.
Third Stop: Jose R. Gullas Halad Museum
Founded by Jose “Dodong” R. Gullas, the younger brother of Cong. Eduardo “Eddie” R. Gullas, the Jose R. Gullas Halad Museum was dedicated to the late Don Vicente and Inday Josefina “Pining” Gullas. Halad, in Cebuano, means tribute or offering. The museum pays tribute to the enduring legacies of Cebuano cultural heritage as expressed through music. It also housed the music sheets and old musical instruments that the Gullas family had curated over the years. The museum is housed in the old The Freeman news building, and it is accessible by V. Gullas Street and D. Jakosalem Street, a stone’s throw away from Colon Street, probably the oldest street in the Philippines with a span of two kilometers. In the museum, I and the gang reconnected with our artistic selves and admired how the family was able to maintain the legacy of music.
Fourth Stop: Museum of Bicycling at Elicon House
This year, The Elicon House had participated in the Gabii Sa Kabilin Route by showcasing the Museum of Bicycling, a first in Cebu. The museum showcased the curated and collective effort of Tindak Sugbo Bike Coalition that advocates biking as a means of healthy living and road equality. The forerunners of the Tindak Sugbo Bike Coalition are Edna and Joel Lee, siblings who owned the Elicon House, Mayflower Inn and West Gorordo Hotel. They are permaculturists as well who transformed all properties into Eco Hotels. The Bicycling Museum not only showed the collected memorabilia of all the biking groups in Cebu who supported the social good cause but also bike powered machines like a washing machine, water pump, and blenders. Elicon House also provides FREE Porridge during the event, a simple yet meaningful meal that is meant to be shared with everyone from all walks of life.
Last Stop: UCCP Bradford Church
The last stop was the UCCP [United Church of Christ in the Philippines] Bradford Church. The edifice was actually 104 years today and this was erected as a memorial of a Christian Mother, Matilda Bradford of New York City. The church was a symbol of evangelization of the Presbyterian Order in 1902. The missionaries had started the movement by doing socio-civic works, like building the Visayas Community Medical Center that caters to the less fortunate sectors of the society for their healthcare needs. The building itself is a testament to how strong and influential the Americans were back in the day.
After the tour, I asked my friends on how they felt and what was their favorite spot during the entire tour. Here are some of the collated thoughts of my friends during the Gabii Sa Kabilin 2017.
The most favorite spot was the Museo Parian because of its innovation. They had showcased new artifacts this year predating the Spanish period and also, the new participating museum [Musum of Bicycling at Elicon House] that had championed the bike lane cause. On top of that, the FREE Porridge rocks!
Cebu’s past, present, and future are about adaptability. In the past, we were able to adopt to the culture of our conquerors and adapt to the changing time, and we were able to adapt to the changing time as well as the changes of the war. Our adaptability as Cebuanos stemmed from our being resilient, always in consonance to future sustainability.
Casa Gorordo caught my eye. It has almost all the major information on the history of Cebu, particularly Catholicism brought by the Spanish Regime. It almost had a complete package that most adults and children can enjoy. It had a lot of twists in terms of using new technology to amplify the whole experience.
JL [Viajera Cebuana]:
On my own, the Gabii Sa Kabilin experience was again one for the books. I experienced having goosebumps in Casa Gorordo that I normally don’t experience when visiting museums and heritage houses. I am a heritage enthusiast and I admire how RAFI was able to convene and convince the museums in the vicinity to participate in such big cultural event. This year drives the participants to seek their own heritage. It drives us to be more investigative and more yearning on our own roots. It is both heart-warming and enjoyable to revisit where we all came from.
How was your Gabii Sa Kabilin experience so far? Hope it was great! Wanted to share your own thoughts? Let’s talk! Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or share this blog post! 🙂
Follow me on Twitter and Instagram, too! (@viajeracebuana)