Do you consider yourself a book lover, a traveler, an introvert, history buff, or are you just fascinated by Philippine culture and folklore? If you can relate to one or more of the categories above, then the Book Museum might be for you.
Hidden in a quiet neighborhood in Marikina, the Book Museum cum Ethnology Center contains a collection of limited edition books and published materials from all around the world, including travel artifacts from different regions of the Philippines.
This museum, founded in May 2013, houses the personal collection of Atty. Dominador Buhain, one of the owners of REX Bookstore, which is one of the largest book publishing companies in the Philippines. He also happens to be an avid traveler and collector.
Buhain is one of the most traveled people in the world. Not only has he been to all 81 provinces of the Philippines, he’s also been to at least 273 countries around the world (and counting) as well as 408 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, collecting artifacts along the way.
In the age of the internet, the colorful and eclectic museum aims to revive the love for reading among Filipinos and encourage a younger generation to explore the world through the printed word.
The museum is divided into six main sections including the Book Museum and the Ethnology Centre.
The main gallery houses the collection of books, magazines, diaries and other published materials arranged by country in alphabetical order. While many books are modern, there are a few antique and century-old books on display including one of the earliest books printed in the country about Roman Catholic Catechism.
The museum serves as a library as well, with one space devoted to those who just want to stay and read. To prevent damage, books may be read only inside the museum and can’t be taken out. Most are displayed behind glass shelves surrounding a gigantic marble sculpture of the owner's foot, which symbolizes the owner’s traveling lifestyle.
One of the most interesting displays is the rare collection of miniature books. Visitors can try reading one of the smallest books in the world. You’ll need a special magnifying glass to read The Lord’s Prayer, since it measures just the size of a thumbnail (3.3x3.3 mm).
You can also spot the smallest tablet which contains a Chinese poem, a mini collection of William Shakespeare’s 40 books from Frankfurt, Germany, and a tiny edition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry bought in Tokyo, Japan.
Beyond the books, the museum also serves as an Ethnology Centre, housing an impressive collection of artifacts related to Philippine culture, history and folklore.
Marvel at Pre-historic stones from the Gigantes Islands, a collection of Philippine agimat and anting-anting (amulets and charms) and see depictions of creatures from Philippine mythology like the tikbalang, manananggal and engkanto along with historical figures. The museum contains one of the biggest gongs from Cotabato, Badjao Ritual Death Boats, traditional tribal attire and a collection of salakot (traditional wide brimmed hats).
The Cordillera Display Area contains various bululs, the carved wooden figure used to guard the rice crop by the Ifugao (and their sub-tribe Kalanguya) peoples of northern Luzon, along with wooden coffins, traditional weapons and implements used by Mumbaki (native shaman), and accessories adorned with teeth and hair. The guided tour gives visitors an overview of rituals like mummification, headhunting traditions and more.
The Mindanao Display Area houses similar intriguing artifacts from the islands of Mindanao including replicas of traditional Maranao houses, personal items and crowns used by royalty, weapons, woven textiles, and chess sets.
The artwork, murals and statues around the museum provide colorful photo ops for visitors. The Marikina Historical Pathway depicts popular landmarks and symbols of Marikina City like Kapitan Moy, Science Museum, San Roque Church, and Marikit (the fairy godmother of Marikina).
The Annex contains a Microscopic listing of REX publications on its walls. There’s also enclosed area for events and school field trips with large paintings of maps of the world on the floor. A few quirky totem poles depict creatures from Philippine mythology like the kapre, manananggal and dwende.
Museum visits end with snacks at the 50s-themed James Dean Café right on the premises. While a bit confusing and seemingly disconnected to the theme of the other sections, the pop culture café pays homage to the museum owner’s favorite actor and houses posters and other vintage memorabilia.
Address: Book Museum cum Ethnology Center, 127 Dao Street, Marikina Heights, Marikina City
How long will it take to visit: 1-2 hours
Hours of operation: Tuesday – Sunday 9:00 am to 12 nn and 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm.
Entrance Fee: P300 for all galleries (P40 for Book Museum, P30 for Cordillera Display Area, P20 for Mindanao Display area, P10 for Marikina Historical Pathway, P100 for Annex and P100 consumable at James Dean Café)
NOTE: Photography is allowed except in the Cordillera Display Area and Mindanao Display Area.