L-R: Ramon Sison Jr., Ogie Agaton, Julius Oligo, Rick Calizon, Thea Sulangi, Peter Natividad, Romeo Jalandoni, Ruby Atencio, Mark Manalili and Rodrigo EnanoHow do you move 600 years of arts and letters from Point A to Point B?
That’s how the Lopez Museum and Library’s collection of 19th century art and beyond, numerous artifacts, manuscripts and forgotten letters—the list goes on—were moved.
Riffling through the camera roll of the institution’s relocation documentation, one will find lots of photos of hands.
Hands holding up cabinets, vitrines, pedestals. Dusty hands pulling straps knotted on pallets supporting a mountain of library documents, hands pushing racks of fine art. Nineteen pairs of hands lifting a crate, drenched in sweat and reddened by the sharp edges of the wooden boxes. Vaguely seen hands holding up glass. Early in the morning, those hands can be heard ripping out nails, dismantling what they’ve built to make way for other structures to be created.
If one can believe it, those hands are the same ones that wrapped 19th century art, carried each individually packed work onto self-made shelves and crates. Those are the only hands trusted enough to handle Lunas and Hidalgos, Olmedos and Edadeses. The hands that have touched versos of frames, surfaces that many eyes cannot immediately envision as they are rarely seen by the public. They’ve brushed glass particles off prints of Lunas, whose original canvases might be destroyed or stowed where we cannot see.
They are easy to forget, so rarely are they seen in exhibition openings or public programs. It’s only when exhibitions are half-alive in galleries, when microphones do not amplify and when half-finished exhibition texts are plastered on walls, that these hands are seen. When they are recognized, they are bunched together under a banner of acknowledgments. And how many people actually pay attention to the credits?
For the hands that moved a library and the vastness that comes with it, the hands that packed thousands of news clippings, boxed a gargantuan number of periodicals, from shelf to shelf, bookend to bookend, Lopez Museum and Library thanks Jemmar Distarin, Billy Macario, Robert Molina and Ronnie Cabigon. Mountain after mountain of museum and library materials could not have been brought onto trucks and safely transferred out if not for the steady hands of Ogie Agaton, Ed Degorio and Jun Catambay.
For the hands that have known pages and pages of rare manuscripts and hard-to-find newspapers, and created the resource for the institution’s digital library, Lopez Museum and Library continues to thank Julius Oligo, Ramon Sison Jr. and Rochelle Barcelo.
For the hands that helped build the museum’s former home, Benpres Building, and therefore were able to take it apart with care, the institution thanks Domeng Magaling. From all the intricacies of the museum, the artful tables in the former museum cafe, the panels that create new spaces and realms, to the mundane such as stools, desks and shelves containing theses, his hands are the creator.
The museum would not be able to mount exhibitions, let alone boast of its collections management prowess if not for the pairs of hands that know the collection by heart, not only through tactile recognition but also through years of experience with the canvases tucked away in vaults. It is difficult to fully entrust national treasures to any person’s hands and in the Lopez Museum and Library the few hands trusted are those owned by Rodrigo Enano, Romeo Jalandoni and Ricardo Calizon.
Museums do not just happen. They are made, dismantled and moved by hands. Where would our histories be if not for those hands? (Story/Photos by: Yna Musico)
L-R: Jun Catambay, Robert Molina, Julius Oligo, Ronnie Cabigon, Jemmar Distarin and Billy Macario