Museums in Cebu Light up the Night | Gabii sa Kabilin

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Cebuanos flocked to the museums of Cebu for the yearly heritage walk known as Gabii sa Kabilin.

Gabii sa Kabilin is the perfect way to learn more about the history of Cebu. Every year, this heritage walk promotes some of the top landmarks and museums in Cebu by giving participants full access to their exhibits.

Also known as GSK, this is the one night when heritage sites open simultaneously for history buffs, antiquarians, and museum enthusiasts alike.

The GSK gave participants full access to museums and ancestral houses from the colonial era.

The 2022 iteration of the event had the theme “Padayon,” which is a Bisaya word that means “keep going.” The theme seemed fitting as the city began its transition to the new normal.

This is the first face-to-face iteration of the Gabii sa Kabilin in two years, since several museums in Cebu closed during the pandemic, while others offered digital tours online.

As more establishments reopened, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) revived the famous museum-hopping tour, with 20 historical sites participating.

HISTORY OF GABII SA KABILIN

RAFI started the GSK in 2007, granting participants of the event full access to museums and historical sites way past their typical closing hours.

The inaugural event only had four sites participating, namely the Casa Gorordo Museum, the Cathedral Museum of Cebu, Basilica del Sto. Niño Museum, and Fort San Pedro.

The event was inspired by the Long Night of Museums, a cultural event in Berlin, Germany. Once a year, museums remain open late at night for ticket holders. Transportation is also provided to and from the museums.

Along with about 120 cities around the world, Cebu adopted this concept, eventually becoming the Gabii sa Kabilin that we know today.

PARTICIPATING MUSEUMS IN CEBU

Most of the museums in Cebu participated in the GSK, but RAFI also included schools, government buildings, and ancestral houses for the event.

Here is a complete list of museums that participated:

  • Archdiocesan Museum of Cebu
  • Archdiocesan Shrine of San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish
  • Archdiocesan Shrine of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
  • Basilica Minore del Santo Niño Museum 
  • Casa Gorordo Museum 
  • Cebu Archdiocesan Shrine of Jesus Nazareno Heritage of Faith Museum
  • Cebu City Museum 
  • Fort San Pedro 
  • Fo Guang Shan Chu Un Temple 
  • Mandaue City Presidencia 
  • Museo Parian sa Sugbo – 1730 Jesuit House 
  • Museo Sugbo 
  • Museo de Talisay 
  • Palm Grass Cebu the Heritage Hotel
  • RAFI – The Kabilin Center
  • St. Theresa’s College – Sr. Ma. Delia Coronel Folklife Museum 
  • Sugbu Chinese Heritage Museum 
  • University of the Philippines – Cebu
  • University of San Carlos Museum 
  • University of Southern Philippines Foundation Rizaliana Museum 

Here are a few highlights from the different museums in Cebu that participated in the GSK: 

FORT SAN PEDRO

Some museum hoppers made their first stop at Fort San Pedro, known to be the country’s smallest fort. Its stone walls, centuries-old bunkers, and canons gave visitors a glimpse of the wartime in Cebu.

Inside the fort are several historical exhibits, one showcasing the evolution of bicycles, and another featuring paintings of significant figures in history made by Cebuanos. 

Participants could also board a tartanilla, the historic horse-drawn carriage that was the primary public transport in Cebu.

Tartanilla at the Sugbu Chinese Heritage Museum

Passengers were allowed only one ride to another site for the event, the Sugbu Chinese Heritage Museum.

SUGBU CHINESE HERITAGE MUSEUM

It may be closed for now, but this historical museum finally welcomed enthusiasts to learn more about the history of the Chinese-Cebuano community.

The museum houses vintage items and artifacts owned by the earliest Chinese people in Cebu. These include books, documents, as well as furniture from their Sugbu-Chinese office.

The museum’s centerpiece is the Chinese Junk. The Balanghai boat is an iconic vehicle used to travel along canals and rivers and eventually adapted to long-distance travel along open seas.

China played an essential part in the history of Cebu, with migrants becoming businessmen and transporters of essential products. Today, many of the biggest establishments in Cebu are owned by Chinese-Cebuanos.

ARCHDIOCESAN MUSEUM OF CEBU

The Archdiocesan Museum of Cebu, also known as the Cathedral Museum, offered tours of its exhibits, like the Chapel of Relics and the Cuna del Cristiano.

Kids could also leave with some toys, as the main quadrangle was used for recreational activities.

Participants watch the UV Chorale perform
Participants watch the UV Chorale perform

In the garden area, participants were able to witness a concert from the University of Visayas (UV) Chorale, one of the most prestigious choirs in Cebu.

CASA GORORDO MUSEUM

Another museum that joined the original lineup of GSK recently reopened, this time with a new, interesting paint job.

Because the museum opened a few days before the GSK, many museum enthusiasts were giddy to see the new look of this iconic ancestral house. The yellow and green facade was a far cry from its original stone and wooden design.

The lines outside of the museum were quite long, with hundreds of participants wanting to see what was inside, like a one-of-a-kind fashion show.

The museum collaborated with Hinablon sa Cebu to bring hablon products to the city. The museum showcased several habloneras weaving clothes for guests to see.

JESUIT HOUSE

One of the oldest ancestral houses in Cebu, the 1730 Jesuit House also opened its exhibits to let guests take a look at the vintage items on display.

Dozens of guests visited the traditional bedrooms, where several pieces of vintage furniture that have been preserved for centuries were stored inside.

One room had old-school film cameras, a music box, and appliances used by the former residents of the house. The centuries-old GE electric fan is the only appliance that still works.

KABILIN CENTER

One of the more unique exhibits of the event was held at RAFI’s Kabilin Center – an art exhibit that discussed the history of the COVID-19 virus in Cebu.

The Pagsagubang Exhibit showcased how Cebu rose from the pandemic and adapted to the new normal. The exhibit featured artwork inspired by events that happened throughout the two years since the start of the lockdown.

This included photos from Cebuano photojournalist Aldo Banaynal, giving guests a view of what it was like to live in the city during the start of the pandemic.

Another part of the exhibit featured digital artwork from online sensation Bastinuod, designing Cebuano front liners as superheroes.

The most noticeable piece of the event was Roy Tristan Ingente’s installation sculpture shaped like the coronavirus cell. Ingente used second hand clothes bought from ukay-ukay stores to create the amazing sculpture.

It was great to see the Gabii sa Kabilin back in full swing. Hundreds of Cebuanos flocked to the many museums in Cebu to witness and appreciate the mesmerizing cultural galleries. It was a night that they will never forget.

With Cebu transitioning to the new normal, we can expect this anticipated event to be back on track in the years to come. So, what do you want to see at next year’s Gabii sa Kabilin?

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