|View of the museum halls from the second floor. This – allowed.
In secret I wondered, why the hell are they encouraging photography of the paintings in the museum halls, but not artifacts INSIDE the museum itself?
|Enlarged copy of Ninoy’s scribbles/ timeline marker inside his cell. This – not allowed.|
That question is answered the minute you pay the P100 per head donation. For the Aquino Museum is not just any museum. It is a tell-all crucible of the Philippines’ (inarguably) most renowned political clan, the Aquinos, most notably its patriarch, the late Senator Benigno Aquino III.
But beyond that, this three-storey building chronicles liberties sabotaged and reclaimed during the Marcos dictatorial regime. Paradoxically, right smack in the middle of the superbly sober Luisita Drive (a property of the Aquinos themselves).
Inside are framed photographs of the clan, Ninoy’s camera as a soldier enroute to Korea, papers, and more papers. Ninoy’s diaries; letters to friends and family; and spreads of Time, AsiaWeek and the Philippines Free Press articles stretching as far as the 70s. You know, times when national dailies didn’t deem Kris Aquino’s STD or the Tulfo-Barretto NAIA brawl headline-worthy.
|NOT ALLOWED. Ninoy’s clothes, boots and belt when he was assasinated. They didn’t rinse off the blood. Guaranteed to send off multitudes of goosebumps.
The gallery, though only medium-size, is a chock-full of colorful history compressed into tiny sections, each tugging at the Filipino’s heartstrings.
|One of the top 15 Ninoy Aquino painting contest winning entries in 2012.
In between deftly wiping tears, I look up at the security cameras and apologize to whoever is manning the booth. To hell with it. I want memories of this. This is history. I take my phone out and press the shutter.
The tour itself takes only about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on whether you DO read inscriptions or not. But in that one whole hour, I learned so much about the heart of the Aquinos more than I can from two hours of Kris’ babbling on TV.
|NOT ALLOWED. A square walled space replicating Ninoy’s original cell while in exile.
All artifacts used by Ninoy himself.
As we pose for the touristy shot fronting Ninoy’s supersized portrait, the reasons why photos weren’t allowed occurred to me. Aside from the theory that flash photography affects the quality of the artifacts (all photos here are flash-free), they don’t want to spoil the experience for you. They don’t want you to think you need not travel 40+ miles from the city to revisit this crucial time in history. And I echo that sentiment.
|At the adjacent convention center: Ninoy’s Volkswagen Rabbit while in the US. Sweet ride. ALLOWED.|
Because even with all these photos to look back on, it doesn’t feel as real and as moving as peering at Ninoy’s bloodstained clothes through glass, at the handwritten poems he inscribed while in solitary confinement, the tear- and goosebumps-inducing walk-through of it all.
|Super allowed. Quite obligatory, actually, said staff.|
It’s a story whose magnitude cannot be excerpted from reading books or a blog (not a blog, most of all!). It’s a story that not even the most trained of photo experts can express. This story, it’s part of my history and yours too. For better or worse, I’m glad I took those ninja shots to share with my daughter because as a Filipino, it’s her history too.
It is a story to be appreciated, to be relived for oneself. And it’s waiting for you.