What? When? How? Who? Why, why, why?
Who hasn't been stumped by the thousand and one questions of children? To them, everything is new, urgent, full of wonder.
Museo Pambata, the Philippines' premier children's museum, hopes to answer some of these questions - and stimulate children to be even more inquisitive and eager to learn. It is a place of hands-on discovery, a child's window to the world, providing a view that stays honest and consistent amidst changing images and meanings.
As more families migrate to Metro Manila, urban communities swell with the increasing number of children who have little or no access to stimulating learning centers.
Studies made by the Department of Education, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the National Economic Development Authority show that failure to provide children with opportunities contribute to a wide-range of socio-economic problems affecting them in later years. These include poor adjustment and learning gaps in the school environment among school entrants; high drop-out rates; juvenile delinquency and drug abuse; increase in the number of street children and sexually exploited minors; and inadequate sense of nationhood, self-discipline and self-reliance among adolescents and young adults. (Education for All Philippine Report, 1992).
Museums as stimulating learning centers for children
Traditional museums are known to be places where natural, artistic, historical, or scientific objects are exhibited and preserved. These are usually hands-off centers where visitors are not allowed to touch the exhibits.
Children seek to understand experiences of the past and present and possibilities for a future. They need open spaces to explore and experience learning. Scientific facts become living experiences, for example, when children learn to differentiate parts of the body by seeing and touching a life-size model of the body parts or when they look through magnifying glasses to see how an ant colony moves about. Hands-on museums use this method to stimulate children to learn.
What is the Museo Pambata?
The Museo Pambata is a children's interactive museum, the first of its kind in the Philippines. It is in a sense an alternative to the formal classroom environment where learning resembles a one-way street – the teacher imparts knowledge and the students absorb it. In Museo Pambata, children can use their total senses and learn various concepts at their own pace. It excites the minds of the young, inspires them to learn more, and most importantly revitalizes what child learning should be – fun and exciting!
Opened in 1994, Museo Pambata is the dream come true of Nina Lim-Yuson, an early childhood educator and mother of four, who once brought her young children to the Boston Children’s Museum in America. They had so much fun with the museum's hands-on exhibits that she wished there was a similar place back home where her kids - and the millions of Filipino children - can learn and have fun at the same time.
The Dream Unfolds
Former Department of Social Welfare and Development secretary Estefania Aldaba-Lim shared Yuson’s enthusiasm over the idea of having a children’s museum in the country due to her past involvement with children for over three decades, including a United Nations appointment as Special Envoy for the International Year of the Child in 1979. They envisioned the museum as a venue for alternative learning for children, specially for those who have no access to formal education.
The Historical Elks Club Building.
In March 1993, Lim and Yuson presented a proposal of their dream museum, to be situated in the historical Elks Club Building in Manila, to then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim who had just arrived from a UNICEF Mayors’ Meeting on the Rights of the Child in Mexico City. Much to their joy and surprise, he readily approved it.
The Museo Pambata officers were elected in the first Board of Trustees meeting held in June 1993. Mayor Lim was elected as chairman, Estefania Aldaba-Lim as president, Elizabeth Zobel as vice-president, Wilfrido Tecson as treasurer and Atty. Leocadio de Asis as legal counsel. Nina Lim-Yuson was appointed executive director. Other founding members were renowned stage director Zenaida Amador, Philippine Star founder Betty Go-Belmonte, cultural supporter and businesswoman Doris Ho, National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin, PCCI President Jose Pardo, Cultural Center President Teresa Escoda Roxas and businessman Carlos Soriano. The board invited former First Lady Amelita “Ming” Ramos to be honorary chairperson.
Educators, visual artists, architects, museum workers and other professionals met regularly to brainstorm. Concepts were then translated into several theme rooms designed and produced pro bono by architect and stage designer Joselito Tecson.
Scale models were made and presented to prospective sponsors. A brochure conceptualized by premier advertising agency McCann Erickson, led by Emily Abrera, and a 10-minute video produced by Cheche Lazaro's Probe Productions helped "sell" the idea of Museo Pambata.
The Museo Pambata today.
In December 1993, the City Council of Manila, in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) granted the Museo Pambata a 10-year-free-of-lease-use of the Elks Club Building. The funds raised by the board of trustees were used to start its rehabilitation.
In March 1994, the recognition dinner for Museo's first Ninongs and Ninangs, (sponsors who gave one million pesos each) namely Luis H. Lim Foundation, Juan and Lualhati Cojuangco Foundation, A.Y. Foundation, Petron Corporation, Fe S. Panlilio, Don Emilio T. Yap, Helena Z. Benitez, Security Bank and Trust Company, Landbank and GSIS.Finally, on December 21, 1994, the dream museum became a living reality!
With a strong leadership, a definite plan of action and imminent success, the list of Ninongs and Ninangs has grown longer: Department of Tourism, PAGCOR, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Health, Sen. Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., Consuelo Alger Foundation, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Coca-Cola Foundation, Development Bank of the Philippines, PHINMA Group, Splash Foundation, Aldaba-Lim Foundation, WS Family Foundation, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, E. Zobel Foundation, Globe Telecom, Inc., C Com Foundation, and Ford Foundation Philippines.
Museo Pambata is a children’s discovery museum with various programs in support of children’s rights and a broad range of creative and educational services for children and adults involved in children’s welfare.
To be a children’s discovery museum and resource center promoting Filipino culture, children’s advocacies and creative educational programs with linkages to global communities.
Just as children's ears tingle at the ting-a-ling of a sorbetes cart, the Museo Pambata hopes to evoke as much excitement in their minds, whether they are five or fifty. And just as a children's eyes light up at the sight of a sorbetes cart's rainbow of colors, it endeavors to captivate their imagination - and deliver a thrill to their senses as rewarding and as pleasurable as a cone of sorbetes, so they shall tug at Mommy's skirt, look up to her eyes with eagerness, maybe not for more sorbetes but for yet another enriching visit to the Museo Pambata.
The logo was designed by UP Fine Arts graduate, Pia Recto.
An average of 200,000 children and adults visit Museo Pambata every year. At least 15% are subsidized by the Ninong/Ninang Endowment Fund.
Museo Pambata is a non-stock, non-profit organization certified by the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC), with revenues from investment income; contributions and grants from individuals, groups, foundations, corporations, and government agencies; earned income; and admissions income.
Museo Pambata is a private foundation with a a 13-member Board of Trustees. Chairman is Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim; president and CEO, Dr. Nina Lim-Yuson, vice president Aleli M. Villanueva, treasurer Evelyn R. Singson, legal counsel Atty. Wilfredo E. J. E. Reyes and executive director, Maricel P. Montero. Board members are Emily A. Abrera, Olivia M. Campos, Junie del Mundo, Vic M. Eduave, Edwina Consunji-Laperal, Tina Maristela-Ocampo, and Maria Teresa del Rosario-Zeller.
Selected photographs (c) NPPA Images, 2010.
Illustrations by Robert Alejandro.