The National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) formally opened its 16th branch in the city.

Dumaguete Presidencia has been officially converted as a regional museum of the NMP after its opening on Nov. 25.

National Museum Director-General Jeremy Barns, together with other NMP officials including  the Chairman of its Board of Trustees Luli Arroyo-Bernas and Director for Visayas National Museum Atty. Cecille Tirol, joined Mayor Felipe Remollo and other city government officials  in welcoming the guests and prominent personalities in the city inside the museum as soon as it opened its doors to visitors.

Another highlight during the opening ceremony was the unveiling of a cultural marker declaring the Dumaguete Presidencia as an Important Cultural Property.

The National Museum Dumaguete Branch houses important cultural artifacts such as the Bacong Burial Jars, species of flora and fauna that are found in Negros Island, scale models of heritage churches in Negros Oriental, rocks and geological items in Negros, and many more.

Barns said the proposal to restore the Old Dumaguete Presidencia and convert it into a regional museum hit a soft spot among the NMP officials as the building was designed by Juan Arellano, the same architect who designed the old Legislative Building in Manila which is now the National Museum of Fine Arts.

“We know very well the architecture or Arellano and we were really delighted that we had the opportunity to work on this and bring out its original glory, beauty, and design which is a hybrid of various architectural styles,” Barns said.

Barns also thanked their partners for their dedication in making sure the project will be successful.

“We rejoice in the re-opening of this building which will now house the tangible proof of the rich and diverse cultural and natural heritage of Central Visayas. Negros Island alone is already blessed to be one of the cradles of indigenous culture and we at the National Museum are very proud to have our very kind and generous Negrense friends to collaborate with us in this endeavor,” Barns added.

Mayor Felipe Remollo recalled that the establishment of a National Museum branch in the city has been a main culture and heritage project of the city government under his administration since 2016.

“My dream is not just a repository of artifacts that would date back as 700 B.C. but to add more to this would be the repository of the history of our city and the province of Negros Oriental,” Remollo said.

“With this, Dumaguete and Negros Oriental, we have a lasting gift for heritage and for the future of our city and our province,” he added.

The city government has invited all local chief executives in Negros Oriental and some mayors and officials from the neighboring provinces of Negros Occidental, Bohol, and Siquijor to witness the activity.

National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Commissioner for Visayas and local historian Dr. Earl Jude Cleope of the Silliman University said having a museum helps people connect to the past and at the same time serve as bridge for the future.

“Negros, Siquijor has a lot to offer and for sure if this will be managed well and there will be a proper program certainly, it will enlighten and at the same time inculcate the value of pride of place at the same time connection to the past,” Cleope said.

On the other hand, Msgr. Julius Heruela, chair of the Commission on Church Heritage, hopes that the opening of the museum would motivate community stakeholders in preserving heritage structure and important cultural properties in the city.

“Kung kita aware ta ani na kinahanglan gud na mag-preservation sa mga property and then we start the cultural mapping. Daghan ang atong i-preserve gud (If we are aware of the importance to preserve these properties then we start the cultural mapping. There’s a lot that we can preserve),” Heruela said.

The National Museum Dumaguete Branch is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.