by Mafelou C. Leagogo-Agriam
This can be quite a dilemma. You’ve completed the rounds of most vintage houses, heritage buildings and churches in Iloilo City, finished a well-planned food trip, went shopping for pasalubongs, so what else is there in store in the city that will make a savvy tourist friend exclaim Wow pa more!! Go see the JBLFMU Maritime Museum, Virginia!
Recently opened to the public is the spacious John B Lacson Foundation Maritime University (JBLFMU) Maritime Museum along M.H. del Pilar Street in Molo. Every corner presents an impressive and unique array of images of the past never before displayed in other museums. On exhibit are large collections of old maritime artifacts and devices, treasures from sunken ships in the deep blue seas thousands of years ago, rich archaelogical finds, antique religious acquisitions of the Lacson family, and other interesting rarities like an 1896 page from Harper’s Round Table magazine of New York.
The fully air-conditioned museum is a brainchild of JBLFMU President Emeritus Dr. Mary Lou Lacson-Arcelo. In a large sense it is the legacy of the Lacson family, dedicated to the maritime industry. The museum also exposes the history of JBLFMU (originally called Iloilo Maritime Academy) and its esteemed founder Captain Juan Bautista Lacson. The maritime university is now run by his grandson, Ronald Raymond Lacson Sebastian, Ph. D.
An excursion into the museum begins at the JBLFMU Mother Foundation Building, particularly on the whole, wide, second floor easily accessed through a stairway. First stop must be the Captain’s Wing, devoted to Captain Lacson’s legacy in the maritime profession and a prominent display of his personal effects while at sea. This area, like all the rest of the museum, is neatly, orderly and professionally arranged and laid-out.
The Maritime Wing is something else. It has an exceptional exhibit of machines and devices that made ships sail when computers were still non-existent. There are many kinds of vintage maritime equipment — some dating back to the 1900s — and in varying sizes. Several ones were acquired from auctions abroad.
Millennials will certainly get an enormous kick out of the old compasses, telescopes, a quaint voice box (giant hose looks to me), old steering wheels, barometers to measure the weather, terrestrial navigational devices, old and quaint ship lamps, fireman’s suits, and many more peculiar stuffs.
Another section of the museum is devoted to a number of specimens from marine ecology like huge conches and other mollusks, and (lordy-lordy!) sunken treasures from the deep Jolo Sea like plates, saucers, bottles, jars, and bowls still partly covered with barnacles. Extremely appealing, too, are the replicas of ancient seafaring vessels in a row found in another part of the maritime museum.
The evolution of ships depicted on a long glass panel starts with Noah’s Ark; followed by a Phoenician cargo boat; an Egyptian sea-vessel; the Santa Maria ship of Spain; a Spanish galleon (see this for our history’s sake); a ship of Genoa, Italy; the 1606 Mayflower from England (that brought the first pilgrims to America); a 1628 Viking ship; the 1660 Frigate of Netherlands; the Victory vessel of England. One ship that strongly brings a tug in one’s heart — because it is part of Philippine history — is the replica of Victoria, the galleon ship of Ferdinand Magellan that circumnavigated the earth and the only ship (out of ten) that returned to Spain.
A good portion of another wing will greatly appeal to lovers of archaeological diggings, old religious relics, and rare mementos from different parts of the country (and the world) and from other historical periods. This part features the personal collections of Dr. Arcelo. Among the items are antique jarlets, jars, vases, bowls, delicate ewers and teapots, plates, saucers, etc. dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, and the Ching, Sung and later-Ching dynasties. They are arranged in neat rows, briefly labeled, and authenticated by the National Museum. Numerous antique religious statues, statuettes and icons are also displayed inside glass panels; likewise, old keys and amulets, lamps, brasswares and bronzewares, helmets and cannons used during the past wars, old kitchen wares, and many, many more interesting objects of the past.
Now here’s the thing: One hour is not enough to take in with pleasure and much pondering the wonder-full objects JBLFMU Maritime Museum offers. It is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm. Go forth, weep and fall in love with the rare sights!