The Concepcion Mansion: The Pasig City Museum

Introduction

The history of museum in the Philippines goes all the way back with the foundation of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Santo Tomas. “It had to comply with the prerequisite that it included a Gabinete de Fisica. The Gabinete was to contain that were called material medica-mineral; plant and animal specimens possessing medical properties. Thus, the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine in 1871 may also be considered the beginning of the UST Museum.[1]

Since then, laws and regulations in organizing Philippine Library and Museums come and go, depends on the need of the time.

In 1916, the Philippine legislature passed Act No. 2572 organizing the Philippine Library and Museum. In 1926, Act No. 3437 passed by the Philippine Legislature recreated the National Museum of the Philippines being of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources and consisted of the Ethnology Division and Division of History and Fine Arts. The Division of Natural Sciences was not included in the organization.

And in 1933, the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 4007 abolishing the National Museum and distributing its activities, functions and materials to the following:

– The Division of Fine Arts and History with the National Library;

– The Ethnology Division to remain with the Bureau of Science;
– TheDivision of Anthropology which included archeology, ethnography and physical anthropology and other sections in natural history of the Bureau of Science
were organized into National Museum Division.

In 1939,an administrative order renamed the division as the Natural History Museum Division. Then Commonwealth Act No. 453 made the Division an independent unit directly under the office of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce.

This period of moving legacy attempted to define the organization of a fledgling national museum. The collection literally moved from one edifice to another. And the museum’s organizational structure transferred to innumerable government departments- a tedious bureaucratic process of merging, detaching, and consolidating. The end of the period witnessed the gradual autonomy of the museum with a very rich collection of Philippine material culture. (Zerrudo, 2002)

Museum plays a big role in molding a community. It’s presence in a modern community is inevitable. Its purpose and importance are based on the nature of the collections of a museum. But generally every museum “makes objects accessible to the public, to researchers, and to other institutions; and ensures the long-term safety and preservation of the collections.[2]

Pasig City, though far from the center of development during the Spanish period, is not lacking in historical events, sites and personality. The first Marian Parish in the Philippines and perhaps Asia was established by the Augustinian priest in the plains of what is now called Pasig. The Augustinian Missionaries founded the parish in 1572. The present stone church of the Immaculate Concepcion Parish was built between the years 1722 to 1762. The original patroness of the church was the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1573) whose feast falls on July 2. The title of Immaculate Conception was only recognized on 25 April 1587.

Bahay na Tisa, the oldest standing house in Pasig located in barangay San Jose built by Don Cecilio Tech y Cabrera in the early 1850s. The direct descendants of Don Cecilio are still in residence. Every year, on the Sunday after Easter (Domingo in Albis) the sick people of the town gather inside the spacious house to receive the Holy Communion and the benediction of the Parish Priest.

Another notable house architecture in Pasig is the Concepcion Mansion, which houses the present day Pasig City Museum. Pasig City is fortunate to have an architectural heritage as its museum. The old and historical building formerly called the Concepcion Mansion is a great work of art itself that houses valuable historical materials and artworks.

This paper intends to connect the history of museums of the country to the history of a local museum of a known city in the National Capital Region, Pasig City; it also intends to discuss the present effort of the government of Pasig in its effort at preserving an architectural heritage by using it as the city’s official museum, thus connecting the local people including the youth with its past and present; the paper will also enumerate some of the activities and efforts of the museum that give meaning to the existence of the Pasig City Museum, such as contributions to the local art and culture scene, and preservations of valuable art and historical materials; the paper will also discuss some of the problems that the center experienced that is common to all museum in the Philippines.

History of the Concepcion Mansion

The three storey historical Concepcion Mansion which houses now the present day Pasig City Museum was formerly owned by the first registered pharmacist of Pasig, Don Fortunato Concepcion , a successful businessman and also a former mayor of the municipality (1918-1921). The mansion, built on 1937 and designed by Architect Felizardo Dimanlig is situated on one end of Plaza Rizal. The mansion, regally at the heart of the city, presently side by side with a famous fast-food chain, diagonally facing another historical site of the Immaculate Conception Parish Church, and just meters away is the oldest standing house in Pasig City, the Bahay na Tisa.

During the World War II the mansion was used by the Japanese Imperial army as their kempeitai headquarter, and detention center. A statement from former Senate President Jovito Salonga regarding his experience during the WWII says: “I was detained in the Pasig municipal jail and investigated day and night at the nearby Kempeitai[3] headquarters (house of well-known contractor Fortunato Concepcion) in the presence of my father. I was slapped, beaten up, and made to carry a heavy load of water atop my head while under interrogation.[4]” On 19 February 1945, the American flag was hoisted atop the tower of this mansion, symbolizing the end of the Japanese occupation of Pasig.

The mansion (floor area of about 800 sqm.), was bought by the government of Pasig from the heirs of Dr. Jose Concepcion, a son of Fortunato, in 1970’s under the administration of the late Mayor Emiliano Caruncho for 3 million pesos. Later, the mansion was transformed into the Pasig Library and Museum in 1984.

The Pasig Library and Museum which was headed by Ms. Pilar Perez didn’t start their operation in the mansion; they were located before in a building at the back of the present city hall. The library and museum only transferred there in 1984. Upon the retirement of Ms. Perez in 1992, her assistant Ms. Mercedes Francisco took over the post but for a few months. The administration of the library was transferred to Mr. Reynaldo Jocson, a history professor; his term ended in March 1997. Since then, the administration of the Pasig library and Museum passed into the hands of Ms. Theresita Dela Paz Osorio, the former chief librarian of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, a registered librarian, and also a graduate of Information and Library Science from the University of the Philippines (Osorio, 2003).

During the term of the former mayor of Pasig, Vicente Eusebio (2001) the Library was transferred to a new building at the back of the Pasig City elementary school, and the plan for renovating the old mansion was implemented in October, 2000. After the renovation museum had a soft opening on December, 2000. Additional interior works were made in June, 2001 and was formally inaugurated as The Pasig City Museum last July 2, 2001 (Pasig City Day) by Mayor Soledad C. Eusebio.

The Mansion as a Historical Site

The mansion is not yet in the list of the Shrine and Heritage site of the National Historical Institute. In their official website, there are only 11 heritage shrine that is considered now as National Shrine. The sites are: “Rizal Shrine For Santiago, President Ramon Magsaysay House, Mabini Shrine Tanaun, Barasoain Church Historical Landmark, Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine, Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, Juan Luna Shrine, Marcella Agoncillo, Historical Landmark, Miguel Malvar Historical Landmark, Museum of Philippine Political History, and the Mabini Shrine in Pandacan Manila.[5]

According to the National Historical Institute guidelines for Classification of Historic Sites and Structures number 4 which say: “4. Heritage Houses – houses of ancestry with notable historical and cultural significance, e.g.: Syquia Mansion, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur; Houses in Silay City, Negros Occidental.[6]” The mansion falls under this provision in the guidelines, as it is formerly a house, a Heritage House. The guidelines also state that before a structure could fall within the NHI criteria for Identification of Historic Sites and Structures, the site should be at least 50 years old, and display a high degree of authenticity to qualify for consideration.

The Pasig City Museum

Categorically, The Pasig City Museum is a both a Historical Museum and an Art Museum. Since its soft opening and inauguration in 2000 and 2001 respectively, The Pasig City Museum was the site for many exhibits and hosted many events that is particular to the City’s functions.

The Pasig City Museum is very rich in resources in terms of arts, culture and history. At the museum lobby, the museum have in its care a three-relief mural depicting the Asemblea Magna[7], the Nagsabado ng Pasig[8], and the progress of Pasig from the Spanish time to present time. The three-relief mural was made by Sajid Imao (TOYM awardee 2002), son of the latest National Artist for Sculpture “Abdulmari Imao.”

“Tagpuan,” an exhibit participated by Pasig visual artists from the earliest works and visual artists to the youngest generation of visual artist. Current well known artist joined the exhibit like Fred Baldemor, Fred Carillo, Manuel Carillo and Manolo Lozada. The exhibit occupied two floors of the museum, and was held during the soft opening of the museum.

On Aug. 29, 2001, the launching of the Araw ng Pasig 2001 book was held at the museum after which Nagsabado reenactment was performed in front of the museumas one of the first project of the newly organized Kalipunan ng Sining at Kultura ng Pasig. October, 2001, the museum initiated a nude exhibit titled “Wangis” was implemented by the Kalipunan ng Sining at Kultura ng Pasig and other neighboring towns and cities.

“A Marian exhibit was launched on the first day of the novena of the Immaculate Conception from November 29 to December 16, 2001. The exhibit featured the icons from the Marian Mission of the Philippines foundation, Inc. and the works of local visual artists. Many exhibits and events were held inside the museum since then.”

“These events at the Pasig City Museum have helped to promote the city governments thrust into cultural activities, an effective tool of the city government in the promotion of arts and culture as well as tourism. The museum became a venue of musical performances, theatrical performances, seminars and lectures, art exhibits, religious exhibits, historical and cultural exhibits.”

Aside from the Sajid Imao relieves at the first floor; the history of Pasig is in exhibit. The history is a textual display of the history of Pasig paralleled to history of the entire archipelago and the history of the world. Photos and sketches of old landmarks of Pasig donated by the oldest art grouping Pasig – the Pasig Art Club. Old artifacts from the collection of Gregorio Coching, which comprises vintage World War I and II relics, original Dr. Jose Rizal photo, a Katipunero bolo, old newspapers and many articles.

“On the second floor we have the memorabilia collection of Valentin Cruz, a Katipunan general who led the first victory of the Philippine Revolution in 1896 in Pasig. A collection of old dresses from a prominent family of Pasig. Also the evolution of the Pasig City logo. On long term exhibit at the second floor also are the 22 original sculptures of the first National artist for Sculpture – Guillermo Tolentino. The sculptures were loaned from the daughter of Guillermo Tolentino. Original furniture of the former mansion such as the dining table, wooden chairs, side tables and cabinets are on display in the museum.

The Pasig City Museum’s primary source of financial support for its operation is the Pasig City Government. Annually, the basic operational support is around P2.1 million where 94% goes to salaries and wages of personnel that maintains the building and its collection. Other projects of the museum such as special exhibits, acquisitions, research programs are on top of the basic financial support given by the local government. Currently the museum is close for renovation, it will have a grand opening on June of this year. Also in its agenda for the year is the launching of a “Cultural Tourism packages for the City of Pasig.”

Conclusion

The Pasig City Museum is a good example of an effort of a local government in using an old facility such as museum in its promotion of local history and culture to its constituent. Along with it, it is also a notable effort of the local government in preserving an architectural heritage, by using it as the community’s official museum. Connecting both the past and the present; the old and the young people; promoting significance of the local history and local culture; exhibiting man and his creation; and setting an example of a good museum.

Bibliography

Managing the Museum Environment. http://www.palimpsest.stanford.edu

National Historical Institute. http://www.nhi.gov.ph

Noel Rivera. Director. The Pasig City Museum

Wikipedia. http://www.wikipedia.org

The Philippine Government Blogspot. http://www.philippine-government.blogspot.com

Victoria Joson. The Pasig That I Love. http://www.babaylan.dk

Zerrudo, Eric B. Making Museums: The Development of Philippine Museums from 1901- 1998. www.ncca.gov.ph

End Notes
[1] Making Museums: The Development of Philippine Museums from 1901-1998. Eric B. Zerrudo. http://www.ncca.gov.ph/about_cultarts/comarticles.php?artcl_Id=204

[2] Managing the Museum Environment. http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byorg/chicora/chicenv.html

[3] The Kempeitai pronounced roughly “kem-pay-tie”was the military police arm of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1881 to 1945.

[4] World-War-Two-Matters. http://philippine-government.blogspot.com/2007/09/

[5] List of Shrines and Landmarks. http://www.nhi.gov.ph/

[6] Classification of Historic Sites and Structures. http://www.nhi.gov.ph/

[7] The Asemblea Magna of the Katipunan, a significant historical event was held by the banks of the Bitukang Manok on May 1896. It was a call to arms against the colonizers, the deliberations went on for two days in seventeen bancas. Without Rizal’s sanction, Bonifacio went ahead with the armed revolt.

[8] The first revolutionary battle victory against the Spanish, known as Nagsabado On August 29, 1896, took place in the town center of Pasig.

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