Personal {Remembering World War II in a Small Philippine Island}

Tucked in the foothills of  Mount Talinis in Negros Oriental is a small wooden house that is hidden from the street by tall rambutan trees. This is the mini World War II museum in Valencia, kept open by  a local who has been collecting World War II relics since he was a little boy. The house is identifiable to passersby by the small white wooden sign that bears Japanese characters (which, unfortunately for me, I could not read).

Visitors who visit this mini museum will be greeted by two large relics of World War II bombs, more than 5 feet in height, standing guard beside one wall of the house. Stepping into the first floor of the home, one is immediately greeted by glass shelves containing everything from old pens to shattered Japanese bifocals to torn water canisters that World War II soldiers, Japanese or American, wore on their belts.






The curator is in his mid-40s or 50s and a man of few words, although he does give helpful answers when asked. He starts the day by wiping the dust off the displays, polishing the wooden dummy that holds up an old Japanese uniform, as well as the old brass oil lamps that have probably provided precious illumination for rebels and civilians in the forest. There is a small collection of katanas, some complete with their leather sheaths. Only   Japanese officers carried katanas, since the soldiers had to make do with bayonets, the sharp, pointed knives that they attached to their rifles when closer combat was inevitable. Also in the collection are two ivory katanas sheaths, covered in the most elaborate carvings of women in kimonos. 






Another interesting discovery would be the collection of metal water canisters, some with their sides torn off. It is not hard to imagine a young soldier wearing the canister when a bomb exploded near or under him, tearing him and the metal canister into pieces. There is a collection of grenades, lined in a wooden box as if ready for use. In one of the shelves, one can see empty sachets of soldier’s rations of coffee,  toothpaste, and sugar. 



The curator and owner is an avid history buff who has been collecting the items as a child. Today, his collection is so large that it takes up the entire first floor of his house. There is a donation box near the door, which makes me think that  donations are probably the only thing that keeps this little museum alive. This is unfortunate, since the island has also seen its share of significant World War II events. Japanese soldiers made their way to the mountains here, and people fled to the mountains for their lives, my grandparents among them.  I can still remember my grandmother talk about how she carried her sister on her back as they fled from the approaching Japanese, and how they spent days in the forest, eating nothing but camote.

The relics in this little museum bring that moment to life… at least a fraction of it. It made me realize that my grandparent’s stories were real. I forgot to ask the curator if he has made any requests to the local government for a grant to keep his museum going. It would be a shame if the museum disappears when he can no longer afford to maintain it.  


Note: For now, visitors are what keep the museum. So if you decide to pay a visit, donate anything you can.  Another  great article about the museum can be read here. 

3 comments:

Kat said...

I'm really glad to know there are people who decided to put this up. We could really use some things to remind us how people lived back then, and also for us to be able to respect those who fought and suffered during that time.

joselle said...

I feel the same way kat. Hopefully the museum gets some backers for its upkeep. It would be a shame if it closes down :(

Orville said...

Love to visit this place :)

 

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