The country has been incessantly facing numerous challenging societal problems. There are the usual corruption issues, red tape, poor quality of education, traffic woes and so on. The ills may be due to something cultural, behavioral or ethical in a Filipino, and whatever the reasons there may be, these strike the citizens at their core.
Only one issue is enough to create a Pandora’s Box effect—in the end, dissect one and a whole string of concerns is thereby unraveled. How then do we solve a complex, or perhaps on a pessimistic tone, a problematic country like this? To be sure, it is safe to say that there has to be a holistic approach. But perchance, one of the better investments in terms of long-term projection is improving the culture’s habit of reading.
It is then a colossal contribution that can be considered that of putting up and maintaining the Book Museum and Ethnology Center, the first of its kind in Asia.
It is a two-storey building which showcases books, manuscripts, documents and memorabilia from the countries that Atty. Dominador D. Buhain, the owner of Rex Publishing Company, has traveled to.
As of July 2012, the museum benefactor has gone to 273 countries under the Most Travelled Person listing and 205 countries under the Travelers’ Century Club. With this number of trips in the owner’s badge, any visitor can just imagine the array of books that he or she can bask into upon stepping in the Museum.
On both floors can be found the books that the owner has gathered from all over his trips. The books are categorized according to the country he went to. As the owner has been to exotic and unusual tourist places like Ajman, Aland Island (Mariehamn), Benin, Cook Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey & Deps, Lakshadweep, Sarajevo, Tonga—just to name a few, one can surely expect to find unique books here. There is a book on the Tainos from the Caicos Islands, one about the traditional art of Tahiti and another one about Shetland Islands.
The above-mentioned books, which are truly rare, are just additional to the classic books that land in people’s common reading list. There are old copies of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lalla Rookh by Thomas More, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, Robin Hood by Henry Gilbert, The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam and The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.
Any museum-goer may also be enthralled with the remarkable book collections the museum offers. There is a miniature collection of Shakespeare’s works comprised of 40 miniscule books written by the said English Bard. It was purchased in Frankfurt on March 10, 2012.
The museum also boasts of exhibiting the smallest book in the world, with the title of the The Lord’s Prayer. Its length and width is 3.3 x 3.3 millimeters respectively, and it was bought at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany in October 2012.
The smallest tablet can also be found here. It contains a Chinese poem with the title of Peach Flower Stream/Peach Blossom River by Pan Gi Hui. It was acquired through the course of the owner’s visit to the Yungang Grottoes in Sichuan Province in May 2013.
Going local, there are good Filipino titles such as Francisco (Balagtas) Baltazar: Sisne ng Panginay by A.I. Dizon, which copy is from the first edition in 1958; Codigo Penal Para Las Islas Filipinas: Profusamente anotado con el extracto de aquellas sentencias, a book on Criminal Law and is part of the second edition in 1889; Doctrina Christiana Explicado by Fray Juan de Plasencia, an early book of Roman Catholic Catechism back in 1593 and considered to be one of the earliest books printed in the country) and Selyo, a book on the Philippine history of postage stamps.
Those with an old soul can also take delight in ancient manuscripts such as a page of Gutenberg’s Hebrew Bible (1456); a Latin poem of an unknown author (undated); a page of the Inferno of Dante printed at Foligno by Nummeister (1472); a page of the liturgical book entitled Hours (circa 1500) and the Tacitus printed by Johannes de Spira in Venice (1469).
On the ground floor is where the big marble right foot—the logo of the museum—is situated.
On top of it is the complete listing of the countries that Atty. Buhain has been to. According to the explanation found there, the foot symbolizes readiness, mobility and progress, and is also representative of all the shoes that the owner has acquired throughout his lifetime and also of the shoe industry in Marikina, the city where the Museum is. The big marble foot is an enlarged reproduction of the foot of the proponent and the benefactor of the museum. There is also a listing of all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites the owner has visited.
Given this vast collection of books that Atty. Buhain presents to the public, the people are given another good antidote to help solve our societal concerns. Exposure to key issues, cultures and behaviors is a huge step in moving forward, personally and socially.
And with critical thinking skills sharpened, the people can be more attuned to the issues, a bit detached perhaps from their own petty interests and unwarranted emotional baggage. Encouraging as many people as possible, especially the younger ones, to develop or polish their reading habit is truly a very concrete contribution to nation-building. And Atty. Buhain proves just that—that learning does not have to be self-serving. ☁