Aklan Hala Bira: Museum and Sampaguita Gardens in Kalibo


Painting depicts pre-colonial trading of native settlers in Panay Island. Aklan Museum.

Painting depicts pre-colonial trading of native settlers in Panay Island. Aklan Museum.

For mere want of breathing-in and breathing-out away from Manila’s election carnival, I grabbed my Deuter for her second trip this year (the first was in Cotabato) since my sister brought it from Japan. My heart is split between Zamboanga, Davao, Catanduanes, Aklan and Cagayan.

 

Alas, I touched down Aklan of Panay Island. So, what do I expect in April when Kalibo’s spectacle pride Ati-atihan is hosted by the capital only in January? Well, I prefer nature hike and walks. It’s not bad to embrace the sun’s heat then cool down somewhere with breathtaking waterfalls, cold springs and white beaches. Add to these, the natural and man-reforested mangroves. This was then my idea. Definitely, Boracay was not a choice because it’s out of the budget and that it is too crowded for me. As it happened, most visitors headed to Boracay.

I finalized my itinerary with the information desk staff at the airport where I got practical and tips for a solo backpacker with minimal budget (PHP500 – PHP1,000/day). Abu guid nga saeamat, Ate sa mga payo at mapa!

Talibong: The Art of Sword-Making in Aklan. Aklan Museum.

Talibong: The Art of Sword-Making in Aklan. Aklan Museum.

Once a part of Capiz until 1956, Aklan as a term is derived from the local ‘akean’ which refers to the music of running water courtesy of its warble activity with a boiling effect under great current. In Spanish chronicles, we find El Río de Aclán. Thus, the name has a close reference to the Aklan River known today.

19th century Butaka (Reclining Chair) and 20th century Bakulo (Cane). Courtesy of Cecile Motus and Pilar Conception. Aklan Museum.

19th century Butaka (Reclining Chair) and 20th century Bakulo (Cane). Courtesy of Cecile Motus and Pilar Conception. Aklan Museum.

I decided to spend the night in Kalibo just because I needed internet connection as I still have a writing gig deadline. Ack! Otherwise, I would be sleeping in the sand with crabs somewhere.

More photos here.

The Museo it Akean
Entrance: PHP10 (for students)

Rose for Freedom Fighters. Painting shows a mother and  child with sketches of 1896 Philippine Revolution led by the Katipunan. Aklan Museum.

Rose for Freedom Fighters. Painting shows a mother and child with sketches of 1896 Philippine Revolution led by the Katipunan. Aklan Museum.

The Aklan Museum is located in the town center of Kalibo. While it is housed in the oldest extant façade formerly the Eskuelahan it Hari (King’s School) built in 1882 in colonial honor of then King Philip of Spain, I think its interior and exterior parts have undergone much renovation.

Talibong: The Art of Sword-Making in Aklan. Aklan Museum.

Talibong: The Art of Sword-Making in Aklan. Aklan Museum.

The ground floor features some artifacts from private collections. Not much for a 23 year old museum but what struck me are the Chinese porcelains from the Ming Dynasty, the indigenous fishing and farming tools and most especially the traditional weaponry and the talibong art of sword-making. So far, the museum only has replicas of the talibong of Libacao made of wood, metal blade and carabao horn (the sword’s handle). I’d love one as a birthday gift for myself! Anyhow, I can only afford to take a picture.

Free Sculpture. Wood. Early 20th Century. Aklan Museum.

Free Sculpture. Wood. Early 20th Century. Aklan Museum.

There are a few nationalism-boosters like busts of Jose Rizal and Apolinario Mabini, a Freedom Sculpture and paintings all by unnamed artists. I did not notice portraits of regional martyrs and heroes only old photos of some elite officials which are just not my taste.

I don’t feel right about the display of natives as dolls. Is this a museum’s  best way to present portraits of the people of Aklan? Well generally, I am not a Barbie baby though I like those crying ones and battery-based toys that have spooky blue eyes and one-liner speech like, “Can we play, Mommy?” or the life-size mute ones who can move their eyes and fingers.

Natives as Dolls. Aklan Museum.

Natives as Dolls. Aklan Museum.

The second floor is too Roman Catholic for me though I quickly went around in due respect to the reformist founder of the museum Archbishop Gabriel M. Reyes (1892 – 1952) who is also known as the first Filipino Archbishop of Manila. Meanwhile, the museum shop offers wood furniture, accessories and crafts.

Massacre. I am not really sure whether this is a depiction of Spanish Colonization, American Colonization, Japanese Occupation or the present puppet government administration. Aklan Museum.

Massacre. I am not really sure whether this is a depiction of Spanish Colonization, American Colonization, Japanese Occupation or the present puppet government administration. Aklan Museum.

A suggestion to the Aklan Museum administrator: the museum needs a fix in curation so its collection can be best viewed and appreciated.

Sampaguita Gardens “where everyday is Christmas Day”
Entrance: PHP50 (you swim or not you swim)

Precious Moment character. Sampaguita Gardens.

Precious Moment character. Sampaguita Gardens Resort. Aklan.

Samuel John Butcher of Michigan and creator of Precious Moments biblical artworks purchased 2.6 hectares of land in New Washington, Aklan as a missionary and entrepreneur.  A commercial resort soon opened in 2003.

Visitors can explore Butcher’s oriental mansion at P10 donation. His private collection of accessories, sculptures and porcelains give visitors a hint that he is a well-travelled man and that he has such affinity with Asian articles. The master’s bedroom in the upper floor is carefully-planned to give the best view of the sea’s vastness. Ironically, not all Aklanon and all Filipinos in general enjoy the Philippines the way an American is privileged in our own land.

I appreciate though the Meditation Chapel which features his Salvation Murals. The chapel is a replica of his Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri. The paintings come in 12 tablets.  They are cool for children if you do not want to scare them with Christ and Mary and all the saints sculptures.

A Salvation Mural at the Meditation Chapel. Sampaguita Gardens Resort. Aklan.

A Salvation Mural at the Meditation Chapel. Sampaguita Gardens Resort. Aklan.

Besides the mansion, other attraction of the resort includes the Christmas Museum (P10 entrance) where Precious Moments purchases are showcased as well as natives as dolls (again, I don’t like this idea), a spa center (zen-like) and swimming pools (for children and adults).

Arts Center. Sampaguita Gardens Resort. Aklan.

Arts Center. Sampaguita Gardens Resort. Aklan.

There is an Art Center where his vinyl dolls and porcelain figurines find their birthing. There was no workshop though when I visited and actually the site was not open. I managed to sneak in out of curiosity and found an artist’s studio in orphaned state. Eventually, I learned that the Butcher family is in the U.S. for the godfather’s medication.

Precious Moments Aklan Native Doll. Sampaguita Gardens Resort. Aklan.

Precious Moments Aklan Native Doll. Sampaguita Gardens Resort. Aklan.

Function rooms and accommodation here ranges from PHP1,890 to PHP7,050. Ouch! I don’t need an air-conditioned room with 100 servers. I just want an internet line so I opted to stay at RB Lodge in G. Pastrana Street, Roxas Avenue for just PHP300/night, the cheapest I found in town proper. For travelling around, one can take a multi-cab (PHP10 – 300). Otherwise, you can walk and meditate. Anyway, Aklan is not a war zone like Cotabato where soldiers are sprawling around awaiting for their next tourist prey.#

Small frog in big pond. Sampaguita Gardens Resort. Aklan.

Small frog in big pond. Sampaguita Gardens Resort. Aklan.

More photos here.

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About Joanna Lerio

cultural journalist, multidisciplinary artist, educator, traveller, dreamer, yogini, vegetarian, advocate Facebook.com/JoannaLerioOfficial Youtube.com/juanalily Juanalily.wordpress.com/ Juanalilytravels.dreamtrips.com/refer Twitter.com/JoannaLerio Facebook.com/linanganng.kulturangpilipino Artistswelfare.org/join-us/
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