Written as part of the course requirements for AS 270, Philippine Arts and Society, First Semester 2010-2011 by Phillip N.A.L.Medina, MA Art Studies Major in Museum Studies.

In our broad study of the Philippine Arts and Society, where topics can be interestingly diverse and boundless uncovering wonders about our national identity, I choose to present my paper on a micro-level to gain insights on local identity. I aim to come up with a series that shall serve as my preliminary studies for my MA thesis in uncovering the possibilities of coming up a community museum for my hometown which can be an effective learning institution of history and heritage. As a course requirement, these papers shall focus on issues and concerns regarding three periods in our cultural history: the indigenous or pre-colonial period, the Spanish or colonial period and the American or neo-colonial period. On each, I have chosen topics related to arts and society which can be a useful material as I further explore the chronological narratives of my thesis or discuss the ways and processes of material collection for the proposed community museum.

Silang is a town with a history so rich yet possesses no heritage collection to prove its historically venerable existence. Such irony can be easily solved by constructing a museum to house, to preserve and to exhibit artifacts pertinent to its history. But it is not an easy task. Aside from the general problems of finances, political will and public support, in detail of the process, it can be very complex. It requires in-depth research and investment in scholarly investigation. It takes effort and time to gather individuals, organizations and institutions to cooperate in artifact identification, collection and preservation. Much more effort is required for the creation of a policy to properly discern a collection system. Overall, to authentically present a local heritage, one must carefully scrutinize and select details that will comprehensively cover the image and will highlight the uniqueness of a local culture.

Museum concepts have evolved over the years. Current trends in museology are very much influenced by the New Museology perspective. It started its roots as early as 1960s with the emergence of community-based initiatives and in the 1970s through the International Council of Museums’ (ICOM) assemblies and committee meetings and finally expressed in the Declaration of Quebec in 1984.

Before, local museums were traditionally focused on the collection and display of artifacts and memorabilia representing members of the upper strata. Following Bourdieu’s concept on the link between learning institutions and social order, institutions like museums and academies perpetuate the elite lifestyle with a ‘guaranteed infallibility’ (111) highlighting the high society’s lifestyle for general public learning and emulation. More so, members of high society have immense capability to produce, to keep and to preserve materials of cultural value, further cementing their high positions in the society. Much of these materials of cultural value are the ones displayed inside the museum.

However, museums nowadays of the new museology is now primarily concerned with community development or people-centered and social progress or action-oriented (Kreps 9) capturing the essence and soul of the community not just through tangible cultural materials but also through intangible ones such as oral traditions and unwritten folklores and tangible cultural materials that are shared by the community and not owned by a museum (Crozier 1). Current notions of a museum are now moving away from the traditional definition and function and its traditional character as an exclusive and elitist institution.

Christine Kreps noted that “the new museum of the new museology is a democratic, education institution in the service of social development” (9). Here, democratization is achieved in two-ways: [1] democratization through bottom-up, participatory approaches stressing on public involvement and [2] democratization of the learning venue making knowledge and culture accessible to the public.

The museum’s potential as an educational institution is geared towards making the people cognizant of their identity, strengthening of such identity and instilling pride to the people with the awareness of such identity. “Community and identity are central, organizing concepts in the new museology” (10). With this, museums have become a space that consolidates and builds the identity of a community (or a nation) through education (in terms of exhibition of collections) and through its potential as a social mover (in terms of the showcased representations and gained interpretations).

Hence, aiming to establish a Silang community museum will be instrumental in making people aware of their history and heritage. It can be a venue for further study of their own historical, anthropological, cultural and agricultural heritage strengthening the qualities of being a Silangueño. And hoping, that it will inspire a sense of pride and patriotism among its people, making them better citizens for active and effective community building.

However, the Silang’s heritage collection is still in the process of gathering the uncollected. Potential historical artifacts are still scattered among families and institutions waiting to be organized or valuable data left undiscovered by many as it is hidden in archives and libraries. It is still in the period of discovery and identification.

First part of this consolidated paper is a look on a pre-colonial treasure as a take on from R.M. Torrecampo’s Erihiya or the study on a folklore genre in Silang. By focusing on intangible social artifacts, one can gain insights on pre-colonial culture and beliefs manifested in the poetic form of folk speech and art of language and how this is present or fading in the sub-consciousness of the local society. Second part will explore the local colonial heritage, highlighting the only local structure that had witnessed the years of colonialism, the Church. Here, we will identify church collection treasures that are proofs of local artistry and architectural ingenuity as well as issues on preservation and theft . Lastly, we will review the contributions of the early years of the American period with its architectural manifestations in municipal infrastructure and local architecture.

Pre-colonial Treasure: Erihiya as Intangible Cultural Resource