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Filipiniana Stewardship

At four o’clock on the shower-threatened afternoon of Saturday, February 13, 1960, eminent publisher and entrepreneur Eugenio H. López, Sr. dedicated the Lopez Museum and Library to the memory of his parents, Presentacion Hofileña and Benito López, twice governor of Iloilo. His brother, the well-loved senator Fernando, stood as witness by his side. The Museum was Eugenio’s dream and his personal collection, the seed of an enriching legacy.

In his address, Philippine President Carlos P. Garcia praised the founder’s noble act of preserving Filipino heritage. There were only a handful of cultural institutions at the time and government had prioritized socio-economic strategies for itself. Garcia cited the “moral obligation” of those with wealth to “help uplift the race… and place within reach the means… to satisfy the natural longing… for what is good and beautiful.” It was an endorsement of private support for culture.

In his speech that followed delivered in elegant Spanish, erudite Senator Claro M. Recto lauded Eugenio H. López, Sr. for his sensitivity towards a “history of nationalism and Filipino philanthropy.” The Museum—what Recto called a “university without professors”—opened an “arsenal of the country’s cultural treasures” to empower the Filipino people’s spirit with an awareness of historical continuity, patriotism, national ideals and commitment to shape a common glorious and grand destiny.

Distinguished architect and city planner Angel E. Nakpil designed the new building to showcase the nucleus of the museum’s holdings. Located in Pasay City, on Lancaster Avenue and near the founder’s residence, the edifice offered a stunning view of Manila Bay and stood out with its modernism. Marquita Perez, columnist of The Manila Times, the largest circulated daily at the time, called the triangular building a “pace-setting force” with an “overpowering first-impression.” Three cantilevered stories sprung out from a comparatively smaller but massive podium of reinforced concrete. One floor up were the library and staff rooms. The 211 works of art by Luna and Resurreccion Hidalgo were spread over the remaining floors: rare books and the Resurreccion Hidalgos filling the third floor; and archaeological artifacts, the Lunas, and Rizal’s letters on the fourth level. The Lopez Museum and Library gifted the public with an irrefutable endorsement of scholarship and championed the importance of Filipiniana in the fields of arts and letters.

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