by: Ish Fabicon

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A visit to the National Museum of the Philippines at the old congress building in Manila was worth the trip - despite a hot late morning day last April. Although heavy reconstruction and refurbishing were going on when I visited, the museum - minus Banton's ancient ikat cloth - is indeed a "showcase of the Filipino heritage." One of its main attractions is the Filipino Master's Hall which has the biggest collection of Juan Luna paintings. The "Spoliarium", an elegy to human courage, won the First Gold Medal in the National Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid, Spain in 1884. Other paintings of Pinoy masters Felix Resurrection Hidalgo, Fernando Amorsolo, Carlos Francsico and Vicente Manansala grace the hall with artistic aplomb and exquisite display of light and shadow.


The Filipino Architectural Heritage displays photographic and architectural drawings and floor plans of Spanish-built churches, historical landmarks, towns and structures from the 16th to the 19th century. Nostalgia won over the inquiring mind as visions of Banton's old church and her facade loomed as a buried relic, a memory of Romblon province's oldest town.


Dioramas of mounted specimens of Philippine terrestial and marine animals invited memories of childhood. A mounted coconut crab captioned as "one of the biggest ever caught" did not impress the expat. He had seen bigger specimen of tatos before caught by amateur hunters in Guyangan caves. The tatos a large terrestial crab - igod in Romblon island - might be on the road to extinction according to German Feudo a tatos hunter from Barangay Toctoc. "Nowadays," according to German, " it's rare as looking for a needle in a haystack to catch a big tatos much less the smaller ones."


One exhibit that caught the writer's eye was the lizard fish or tambor. The tambor, also a game fish that preys on anchovies (lambiyong or rilag); is like a chameleon that changes its body pigmentation to synchronize with coral and moss. The pasil in Hipit at the foot of Point Matagar was a haven for the tambor. Aguinaldo Fietas and our Bo-oy buddies, used to hunt the tambor with the native pana with ease. Perhaps, like the tatos the tambor might not be as prolific in its coral realm - not with El Niņo/Niņa or the follies of man tampering nature's balance.


The gallery on maritime activities of early Filipinos displays an excavated 13th century "Butuan Boat" billed as the "earliest wooden watercraft made in the Philippines". An interesting highlight traces the Chinese junk trade routes from the 14th to the 16th century. Banton island ran into one of these routes possibly explaining why Chinese ancient ceramics were unearthed in the Guyangan burial caves.


Earlier in this column, the ikat burial cloth was mentioned. I asked one of the Museum tour guides where it was exhibited. Unfortunately, it seemed the treasure was already crated on its way to a new location just across the old congress building. It is an undescribable experience to visit the National Museum of the Philippines. Perhaps Silak can sponsor a guided tour among young Bantoanons in Manila - especially elementary and high school students when they come to visit the city. It is a must. How much more if the young Bant visits the Ayala Museum in Makati? But that is another story.


The killing in Columbine High School at Littleton, Colorado brought back a scary incident that happened one April night on our way to Romblon on board the ferryboat, Salve Juliana. A man armed with a handgun had, it seemed, a heated argument with his buddies while drinking San Migs in the ship's cafeteria. This author and Lyndon, apparently disturbed by the scene, hurriedly took leave for their cabin. A few seconds later, a burst of gunfire rang that scared the daylights of the passengers in their "deluxe bunkbeds" - some of them European and American tourists. Luckily, the guy fired downwards* on the floor - and the bullet did not ricochet to fatally injure the diners. What a close shave! What a callous display of "macho" mentality at the expense of passenger safety and peace of mind.


The month of June marks the one-year anniversary of the Romblon Discussion List. The spunky one-year old Net discussion list did the talking for the first three months - spoonfed with ideas coming from the fifty original subscribers.

The RDL-CLEAR was baptized and confirmed in the opening of the Yagting Cyberstation in Banton last April - no grandstanding, no pomposity nor one-upmanship.

Its mission is to help; to make a difference; to rattle that old ego boasting of si ako with ato kali. It might work. RDL-ClEAR has its second project targetted for inauguration sometime in July or August - in Calatrava. The shakers and movers are bent in putting a computer lab all over the islands of Romblon province! They deserve everyone's support and encouragement.


RDL-CLEAR has a joint cyberspace venture with the Bicol Discussion list: The Mahogany Tree Planting Project. (BicRom) The drive has garnered the support and enthusiasm of tree lovers in both lists. Currently, pledges from Bicol for 1,500 mahogany seedlings have been inventoried and we are now close to $350.00 and counting in monetary donations. What makes mahogany tree click? It's resiliency is legend. It's a hardwood specie that grows 30 to 40 meters tall with a trunk diameter of one and a half to two meters! It can attain a maximum height of 60 meters - a majestic giant of a tree splendid in its smooth bark when young; its maturity apronned to light reddish or yellowish brown to rich dark red wood.


BicRom (Bicol/Romblon) mahogany tree planting project perhaps is an incorrigible romantic's dream; a wild stretch of an imagination; a novelty started by dreamers long time ago. In Romblon province, we are warned that an idea is doomed because there is such a thing as kanya-kanya mentality coupled with si ako arrogance to find a limelight. Thus, a noble project like tree planting may not necessarily bode well for local participation. RDL-CLEAR hopes to give the mahogany tree a chance to grow in harmony with nature. There are challenges. In Banton for instance, NGO's can spearhead the planting or the Boy Scouts can trek to Mt. Ampongo and plant a tree - any specie of a tree for that matter!

Hala bira!






RDL-CLEAR and the Bantaonons would like to thank the folllowing additional donors of the Yagting Cyberstation:




Volume II No 3