Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cavite Rex Museum: Finding the Treasures of Giants in Tanza

Anthromorphic stone sculptures from the island of giants
Hard to believe it's been two years since we made a visit to the Rex Group's Book and Ethnology Museum in Marikina where we found one of the smallest books in the world as well as waded through a treasure trove of arts and relics from Mountain Province.  Here we are in mid-2015, invited once again to see a second museum location for the group (Rex calls it a Display Area but I personally prefer the simple, straightforward 'museum' tag), this time outside Metro Manila, all the way in Tanza, Cavite, some 2 1/2 - 3 hours drive away.

The Cavite museum is supposed to carry an angels and devils/good and evil theme, the ground floor housing collections representing the denizens of the underworld and the upper floor, which also houses the chapel, devoted to angels, saints, apostles, even a life-sized Superman.  The second floor, incidentally, shares space with a lot of stuff that Rex owner, Atty. Dominador Buhain, has amassed in five decades of traveling to 215 sites all over the world, a crazy hodgepodge of items from hotel door signs, toiletries, miniature liquor bottles, to room slippers and robes.  Far from finished (IMHO, the museum is a work in progress), it is already bursting at the seams with stuff, a lot of which resist the confines of the angels and devils theme.

What piqued my curiosity are some of the things that, in the surfeit of collectibles, seemed to have been relegated to the background, literally and figuratively.

Small tops, big tops
TOPS OF THE POP.  The authentic shrunken head from Java (I hope I remembered it correctly) is intriguing though I have admittedly outgrown my penchant for the macabre.  Instead, I find the tops collection on the ground floor, looking out of place in the 'underworld' section, very interesting.  The shelves showcase toy tops of an amazing variety -- from vibrantly-colored ones that look more like sculptures to humongous ones from China, almost a foot across and very heavy.  I felt that in the context of the rapidly vanishing 'physical games' landscape, the tops could be an interesting focal point for the current generation of kids to appreciate the fact that playing 'turumpo' is (was?) a pastime enjoyed by people around the world.
Stone masks
THE GIGANTIC COLLECTION.  The other collection I found especially newsworthy was one relegated far back to an un-air-conditioned outhouse on the edge of the 3,000 square meter property.  The huge industrial blower notwithstanding, the area is stiflingly-hot.  What we found inside, however, kept us riveted enough to stay for the good part of an hour.  I've yet to step into the Islas de Gigantes in Iloilo but here in Tanza, we stumbled upon the treasures of the giants.  Past the carosa and the angel heads, we espied shelves and shelves of rocks.  Not just any rock mind you but rock sculptures/art/relics from Gigantes, a heady raft of small and big stones, carved, etched, hewed, and transmogrified to resemble creatures of our animist past.  There are even some anthromorphic figures/human forms that wouldn't look out of place in an "Ancient Aliens" Episodes on the History Channel. 
Intriguing animal figures
The archeological finds have yet to be carbon-dated though according to Edwin Bautista, former president of the Oriental Ceramic Society of the Philippines, the clay and stone objects maybe pre-10th century.  Owing to the high proportions of Indo Pacific beads and the absence of Chinese pottery, Bautista thinks the relics may belong to the Dvaravati culture which spanned from Thailand to Burma from the 7th to 10th century.   How the stone sculptures got to Gigantes is a mystery to me.   Anyway, considering the importance and priceless value of the artifacts, it made me wonder why a collection that could well stand on its own and merit its own museum is sitting at the back of the property where most visitors may not even wander to.
The 'glasshouse' ready for filling out
Coming back to the main house, we passed by the Rex Book Archive.  I just thought that this area, overlooking a large part of the garden, could be a great place to host a cafe cum reading nook.  The glasshouse on the left side of the property has yet to be filled out, mainly with books to resemble the earlier iteration of the Book Museum in Marikina.  On the rooftop of the main house, there's a small observatory (too bad, we came during daytime and missed the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus by more than a month).  In any case, I personally think the museum is worth a visit even if only for the Gigantes artifacts alone, especially for visitors to and residents in the General Trias, Tanza, and Tagaytay areas. 

Info on the Rex Museum Cavite Museum:  Location: Lot 6, Block 5, Cityview 4, Brgy, Tanuan, Tanza, Cavite (about 5 kms from Naic City Hall)  • To reserve: call (02) 570-4449 or email adb.bookmuseum@yahoo.com • Entrance fee: P100/pax (P80/pax for groups of 10) • Museum hours: 9am-12nn, 1-4pm, Tue-Sun

Read the related post:
Marikina Book and Ethnology Museum: Reading the Smallest Book and Travelling Around the World Without Leaving the City


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