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A Clue about My Ancestors at Museo Sugbo

Backpacking with a Book

Museo Sugbo, Cebu City, Philippines 

“Ate, ikaw lay kuyog sa Rainforest Adventure bi,” texted Virhenia. She was running a fever, and her team won a free pass at Rainforest Adventure for the Halloween picture contest at work .

But I had another plan in mind. I intended to visit Museo Sugbo, which is a ten-minute jeepney ride from my place—but so is Rainforest Adventure. The offer was tempting.  Yet, I declined.

I chose to be reminded by the past. Although I’ve been living in the city for seven years now, I’m still quite ignorant of its  streets and  history. I even asked the driver where could I find Casa Gorordo from Museo Sugbo.  

The security guard reminded me  picture taking is prohibited inside. I simply nodded. Fragments of celadons, cauldrons, and other earthenware were neatly arranged in glass showcases.

Vietnamese celadons, poor copies of their Chinese counterparts, are common only in Cebu. Their profuse presence here and not elsewhere in the archipelago has not been adequately explained.

It is one of our family jokes that Mama found me hanging in the branch of bayabas. My face, many have noticed, is similar to that of a Vietnamese. And perhaps that celadon is a clue about my ancestry—or this discovery might be a good germ for a story.

Museo Sugbo was the then-Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, known for its orange-uniformed dancing inmates. It is quite spacious for a museum. Space. Space.

Cebu is the home of the Abellanas—the artists and the Osmeñas and the Ramas—the politicians. There is a room for the Abellanas, another for the Ramas; I might have overlooked the room for the Osmeñas ’cause I didn’t notice it.

I remembered reading a letter of a soldier documenting his pursuit of insurgents in Balamban ranges. His handwriting was that of perfect loops and womanly tails, belying the rough adventure he had earlier that day.

Another letter had a word stretching across the whole paper width. The sender consumed two sheets in telling he owed the recipient a chicken and a few pesos. I found it truly pleasing. Personal letters always are.

It’s his break. He’s not sleeping.  

Artifacts excavated from the country’s first subway, which is under Plaza Independencia, are displayed in the biggest room. Perhaps it was just me, but the undertones of the tarpaulined statement suggested that the tunnel should not have been constructed.

A museum is the home of neatly arranged fragments. They  mirror our personal, collective histories—what we really have are fragments, and we arrange them as we see fit.

I walked my way to work. No, I didn’t regret declining Virhenia’s offer.


Entrance Fee – P30.00

A Carpenter


YOUR HELP REACHES PLACES. A DOLLAR CAN GO A MILE. LITERALLY. 🙂 “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things,” says Henry Miller. But a dollar can go places. 😉

Help BWAB weave more narratives, encounter more interesting characters, and frame more places and memories. Thank you.

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona! I’m in my early 30s and is currently based in Ha Noi, Vietnam.I primarily write poetry and short stories in Cebuano and lengthy travel essays in English. Blogging has become an outlet to think out loud. I live the life I set for myself. I try to live an unapologetic life. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at Find me somewhere else!

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  1. EDMARATION says:

    hmm. really nice to know about it 🙂

  2. Sony Fugaban says:

    30 Pesos for snapped pictures. Sounds very very inviting. I think, I should visit a museum one time too.


    I admire the emphasis you gave for that sleeping … let’s just call him GUY.

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