I have loved going to museums since grade school. But what I will cherish always until the rest of my life was the ‘kilig moment’ I met my idol Mr. George Tapan, the awarded veteran travel photographer at the National Museum of the Philippines-Ilocos Regional Museum Complex in Vigan City in March 2018, during the launching of “Craft as Women’s Art” to celebrate Women’s Month. I never imagined that I would meet him, attend a press con with him and his photography workshop at the museum.
Before that, I’ve had many important moments since the opening of the Father Jose Burgos House as Ayala Museum-Vigan in the 1970s. That was many years ago in my younger years, that I have forgotten details of the museum then, but I certainly remember how surprised I was, and getting mesmerized by the various artifacts and the dioramas showing life in the past and important historical events that transpired in the Ilocos, my region.
In the ensuing years, before and after the renovation of the house when it was already under the management of the NMP, I have always loved going back for visits because of the centuries-old architecture shown in this brick-lime masonry and timber structure. I particularly imagined the presence of the people who lived in it.
In the pursuit of my career later, the old library of the Father Burgos House, moreover, has helped me a lot in writing my feature stories on the life of Ilocano heroes. I thank my good friend, Ms. Fran Quitoriano, founder of Tawid ti Ilocos Foundation, for inviting me to the library in the early 2000s, where I was lost in the shelves of books that I wanted to borrow or read one by one.
Years later, the Old Carcel (Provincial Jail) immediately adjacent to the Burgos House also became a museum, making the NMP in Vigan the NMP-Ilocos Regional Museum Complex.
The tell-tale smell of the presence of imprisoned people in many years at the Old Carcel always pushed me to, again and again, imagine the life of everyone behind the heavy, antique steel bars since my first visit of this part of the museum when it was newly opened to the public in 2015. My every visit always pushes me to see that single prison cell that does not fail to nudge me towards visualizing how dark prison life was, and is. Each time I step on this old jail’s floors, touch its heavy wooden doors and its enormous iron window grills, and smell that ancient prison scent, I enter those days in Ilocano history when the Spanish soldiers guarded indios, our forebears, or Gabriela Silang, at the Carcel.
Although there’s the Basi Revolt Gallery of paintings and related materials, the memorabilia of the first Ilocano president of the Philippines, Elpidio Quirino of Vigan, and the changing exhibitions, the Old Carcel building with its untold stories remains to me a rich, gigantic heritage structure of the Ilocanos that I will keep on discovering anew at every visit.