Visiting the new National Museum Western Visayas in Iloilo City

Photo Credit: Panay News
There are many new museums and art galleries popping up here and there in Iloilo City. It’s amazing to live in a time when more and more people are getting into culture and arts here. I have written about Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art a.k.a ILOMOCA in this blog, a private museum owned by Megaworld. There are also interesting places dedicated to art such as Book Latté (featured several times here) and MAMUSA Art Bistro.

Years ago, there were news that the old Prison of Iloilo in La Paz (built in 1911) will be renovated for a National Museum: Western Visayas Regional Museum. I was young when the building was used as an actual prison, but due to overpopulation of prisoners, they had to be transferred to a bigger place. The Old Prison was left abandoned for awhile, until it was fixed to make way for the Museum. The Museum officially opened last December 15, 2018.

As of now, only one out of five galleries are open, the permanent exhibit of textiles from the region: Habol Panay: The Woven Artistry of Western Visayas”. In the future, more exhibits will be opened featuring art, natural science, and other subjects.

A park in front of the museum is still under construction as of this writing, and I would love to go back to see the place again after the work is done and more exhibits will be added.

As for the structure, I’m amazed how they kept the original features of the Prison intact, and also added improvements like the glass dome and a garden on the second floor. 

Museum Entrance

A view of the dome

The 2nd Floor Garden
Even if only one gallery is open as of this time, I’m impressed with how informative and well-curated it is. The display had different textiles produced in different provinces of the region. There was a variety of clothing, patadyong, scarves, and other materials made of cloth such as handkerchiefs, doilies, and accessories. There was a traditional loom where the cloth is made. 

My favorite part is the traditional clothing of the Panay Bukidnon and the binukot. It was not an actual sample, but the museum commissioned the original makers to create them to best showcase the unique embroidered patterns that they use to decorate their clothes. It’s amazing that they don’t even draw the patterns or have diagrams for reference, but they use the designs from memory from the things in nature - ferns, fish bones, birds’ eyes, and others.

Aside from traditional costumes, there is also more modern fashion like a wedding gown made of piña cloth, barongs, and women’s clothing. 

Handcrafted doilies
Clothing made in Antique
A wedding dress made of piña cloth
Binukot traditional clothes
One of the National Museum's recent advocacies is to return the region's cultural treasures back to where they came from. I was glad when I heard that the original Gold Mask which was in the National Museum in Manila for a long time, will be housed in the National Museum branch here. Though, they still have to improve the facilities to better keep these artifacts.

National Museum Western Visayas has a Facebook profile you can follow for updates and news about the museum. For sure, this is not the last time I will visit!

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