The distinctive facade of the Silliman Museum usually represents Dumaguete City on postcards and pamphlets. Sad to say, it’s now my third time to visit the City of Gentle People but I haven’t stepped on this iconic structure even once. Being a museum guy, I’m elated that the Silliman University Anthropology Museum was gonna be our first stop on this particular trip.
I’ve always loved Silliman University’s laid back atmosphere; it’s tree-lined boulevards, its grassy fields and its very American architecture. I’ve actually written about a walk I did years prior along its arcades, searching for a fried ice cream. I still haven’t found that said dessert but the university hasn’t changed one bit from what I remembered it to be.
The Silliman Hall, where the anthropology museum is located, was built in the early 1900’s in the American Eastern Stick Style. Parts of the structure, like its metal pan ceiling and cast iron columns, are reclaimed from a New York theater. It used to be an assembly hall before it was converted to a museum in 1973.
Talk about history, it is the oldest of its kind the Philippines.
The exhibits in the Silliman Museum are divided into two categories and seven galleries; three for Philippine ethnic groups and four galleries for artifacts across Negros Island and the mountainous areas of Cotabato. One can expect to see all sorts of earthen jars, prehistoric weapons, some skulls and such.
Unfortunately, taking photos are not allowed on the first and second floor of the museum. Although we were allowed to take a few snaps at the ground floor since we’re gonna be promoting the place; the second floor told a totally different story for our click-happy fingers.
And it was really just sad for shutterbugs like us as the second floor of Silliman’s Museum is where the action really is. There were golden sarimanok, intricate Muslim swords, tapestries of magnificent patterns, love potions and the most beautiful voodoo doll I’ve ever seen—well, not that I’ve seen a lot—but it was really intricately lovely. And that’s saying something especially for a witch’s doll which was said to have been confiscated from a local witch in the nearby island of Siquijor.
I have to say that Silliman’s small second floor collection can rival those of much bigger museums. But our excitement tapered off once we reached the building’s third storey. Although cameras are now allowed, it houses much more recent and less interesting artifacts like old dusty typewriters, tattered books and turn-of-the-century appurtenances.
Although there were still a few items that caught my attention like the old adding machines, probably a precursor of the modern calculators. But the exhibits being displayed on a non-air conditioned attic didn’t add much to our enjoyment. It was almost midday and the weather was overcast, I can just imagine how sweltering hot it would be to visit this on a sunny day.
So after a quickly circling the area, everyone went back down and quickly went out into the cool shades of Silliman University’s massive old trees.
I really liked the fact that guides were constantly at our side, explaining in detail the artifacts we were viewing. It just gives a deeper significance to the pieces than just mere eye-candies to take pictures of (or not, in this case). It took us almost an hour to tour Silliman Museum’s three floors, and for a history geek, I consider it time well spent.
Silliman University Anthropology Museum
Address: Rizal Blvd., Brgy. Bantayan, Dumaguete City
Contact Number: (035) 422-6002 (loc.207)
Open Hours: Monday to Friday
8:30AM - 11:30 | 2:30PM - 5:00PM
GPS Coordinates: 9° 19' 52.02", 123° 18' 32.66"
View Location on Google Maps: Click Here