A Gift to the Philippines

It is a special day for Barb as she is returning to the people of the Philippines a historic artifact that rightfully belongs in the National Museum of History, as part of a donation that was made to the Museum in 2000 by Grafton and Barbara Cook and Southwesten Michigan College. At the time of the original donation, the artifact (silver medallion) was missing, and it wasn’t until years later that it was rediscovered among Grafton Cook’s files. When Barb learned she was going to be in Manila as part of our 2013 World Cruise, she contacted the Philippine Consulate in Chicago who forwarded the information onto the National Museum of History in Manila.
Today, March 9th, is the day she returns the medallion of the Philippines. Here is her story:

Mary Jane and I were outside the Cruise Terminal a little before nine AM and were transported to the National Museum by museum personnel. The museum is housed in a building comparable to our Congressional Building in Washington, within a complex of former governmental buildings that will all be used for museums of history, anthropology and natural history in the future.

National Museum of History in Manila

After a brief visit and introduction to the people involved with the day’s program, we adjourned to the room that had been used in the past by their house of representatives.

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The program went very well. I gave some background on how the medallion I was returning to the Philippines had come into my possession, the previous donation in 2000 of Philippine artifacts, and the military career and life of Harry Hill Bandholtz.

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After I spoke, Dr. Ana Labrador told of the importance of the donation to the national collection and conservation of the artifacts.

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Museum Director Jeremy Barns then presented a slide show of the Bandholtz exhibit, which had just been disassembled for a renovation project.

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Then Director Barns, Augusto Villalon (a Trustee of the National Museum Board), an official from the Philippines Foreign Affairs Department, and I unveiled the Bandholtz Medallion and formally presented it to the National Museum and the People of the Philippines.

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The morning’s activities concluded with a response on behalf of the National Museum from Trustee Augusto Villalon, who surprisingly is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

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Considering that the program was presented on a lovely Saturday morning, a nice number of people were in attendance. Afterwards, we enjoyed a very delicious and congenial luncheon and at that time I was given a lovely book entitled Treasures of the San Diego that provides pictures and text about the wreckage of an early Spanish galleon sunk in Manila harbor.

On our Queen Mary 2 cruise in 2011, we met one of the ship’s photographers, Egan Jimmez. He and a friend were in attendance taking pictures of us, the medallion, and, during the program, for a proposed documentary he and his cousin are considering producing.

During lunch Dr. Augusto Villalon asked what Mary Jane and I had planned for the afternoon and offered to take us on a guided historic tour of Intramuros, the oldest colonial district of the sprawling city that is a mixture of many different cultures and nationalities. We agreed and arranged to have a car from the museum pick us up later in the afternoon to transport us back to the ship.

After expressing our heartfelt gratitude for all the arrangements made by the Museum staff to organize the program for the return of the Bandholtz medallion we paused for a few quick photos with new friends. And Mary Jane made a detour to snap a few shots of the gorgeous lobby staircase and the parquet flooring and then we were off to explore the city.

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As we left the museum in Augusto’s car we drove down the edge of Rizal Park and into the walled city of Intramuros. The Spanish constructed the wall and Fort Sebastian in the 16th century, as the last of seven forts completed across the Spanish empire and trading area. The area had been a Chinese settlement before the Spanish fortified it and encircled their defenses within a stonewall – very similar in appearance and construction to the forts in Cartagena, Columbia.

Intramuros is historic and tourism has been encouraged in this area. The traffic was terrific and parking non-existent. Three universities presently reside in this area also. The moat that surrounded the complex was largely filled in by the Americans to prevent malaria and now is a lovely golf course. Augusto took us to the top of The Bayleaf Hotel for a bird’s eye view of the area. The view was spectacular, but the air was smoggy so pictures did not turn out well. The hotel is a laboratory experience offered by one of the local universities
for hotel and restaurant management students.

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Our next stop was Fort Santiago and we walked around inside the grounds, saw the stairs to the dungeons and footsteps embedded in the pavement of where Dr. Jose Rizal was incarcerated and then marched to his execution outside the wall (now Rizal Park) for his participation in the Philippine Insurrection against the Spanish in the late 1800s.

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We had forgone dessert at the luncheon and we stopped a one of Augusto’s favorite little restaurants inside Intramuros where we sat in the ice cream section of the establishment. He ordered for us. First we were served tall glasses of fresh coconut water over ice with thin strips of fresh coconut in it – that kept clogging my straw. The two big bowls of Halo-Halo were delivered and Augusto insisted that each bowl contained half of a full order. We were sure we could not consume it all, but in the end we did admirably and only a few chunks of crushed ice remained. A number of candied fruits and yams and a scoop of ice cream sat on top of a bed of crushed ice. It was suggested that we mix everything up with a spoon and enjoy eating it. We did just that and felt very refreshed from the experience.

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Augusto had an appointment so he had to leave us, but called the Museum, who sent a car with a driver for us along with three lovely young ladies who agreed to show us some more sites.

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Off we went again, our first destination was the Manila House, which is a “colonial lifestyle” museum. At Casa Manila, there are shops on the first floor, where we could buy antiques, art objects and souvenir items. The walls on the ground floors are made of adobe stones. The uppermost floor, the living quarters, was made of wood. Since wood is lighter than stone, it is less hazardous during earthquakes. The uppermost floor extends outwards, helping shade the pedestrians during the day.

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We entered the house through an entrance corridor that carriages entered to drop off passengers. The area is paved with granite stone, originally used by the Chinese as ballast for their junks and later sold in Manila for paving lane, patios, and streets. The fountain in the center of the courtyard appeared after running water came to Manila in 1832.

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The interior of the house was lovely, unusual, and beautifully maintained. Each room was decorated in period furniture and represented various functions and included, in modern day vernacular, an entry way, an office, a spare bedroom, day room, formal living room, chapel area, central hallway that could be used as a bedroom, master bedroom suite), toilet room, bath room, laundry, kitchen, and pantry. Unfortunately, pictures of the interior of the house were not allowed.

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We walked across the street to the San Augustin (Saint Augustine) Church, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the nation’s oldest churches.

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As you entered the church complex that contains an extensive museum like collection of church artifacts, vestments, statues, altars, pictures, side chapels, and columbaria. In addition, a convent was part of the complex along with a lovely garden area all inside the church wall.

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The high vaulted ceilings in the multiple corridors were truly magnificent! How those ancient stonemasons assembled all those stone blocks to form the ceilings is truly an architectural feat worth noting.

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The interior of the church was breathtaking. It is a popular place for weddings and just in the time we were there three weddings took place or were taking place all in the main sanctuary. As one wedding party and guests filed out another took its place and another ceremony began.

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We bid our museum guides goodbye and boarded the ship hot and tired, but happy. It had been a wonderful day and one we will remember for years to come.

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2 Responses to “A Gift to the Philippines”

  1. I am privileged to be part of your Manila Tour Ms. Jane, thank you for sharing this beautiful pictures, I am delighted to see our picture with Ms. Barbara together with Ms. Salie and Ms. Felcy. We are glad that you enjoy your visit here at the National Museum.

  2. A really nice post. Beautiful pictures of you, Barbara, and interesting to follow your afternoon trip with the photos. John Eby had asked me where you kept the medallion all of these years and I said I had no idea, adding “probably in her drawer.” How interesting that it would be in one of Grif’s files. Did you ever determine the translation of the message on the back?

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