Marikina’s Humble But Kingly Museum

If there’s one thing to love about Marikina, it’s its suburban atmosphere that is relaxing and, as they would say, “chill” while not lacking on the interesting places to visit. From its food district to to its shoe museum to its clean public market, Marikina is one of the metropolis’ underrated gems that deserve a visit.

And if there is one more reason to visit Marikina, it is this one of a kind museum that book-lovers and aficionados of Philippine indigenous culture would appreciate: the Book Museum cum Ethnology Marikina Heights.

The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center first opened its doors in 2013 to showcase he collection of Dominador Buhain, a lawyer whose family owns the prominent law book store and publisher Rex Bookstore. A well-traveled individual, Buhain has collected various items during the course of his travels around the Philippines and abroad, many on display for public appreciation.

While this roamer originally came to this place for the books, it’s a surprise to see the ethnography collection turned out to be quite impressive. I dare say this, its collection can give Ayala Museum and National Museum a run for its money just by the sheer number of artifacts on display.  For one, there is a huge collection or prehistoric stone sculptures from Gigantes Islands and a sizeable collection of sculptures done by renowned sculptor Anastacio Caedo.

In another section of the center, one can find a rich trove of artifacts from the Cordillera region such as clothing, instruments, weapons, household items, ritual items, among many others. This probably is one of the most massive collection of Cordillera artifacts one can see outside the Cordillera region itself.

Nearby is another facility, where one can find this item artifacts from the Mindanao area weapons, clothing, instruments, as well as scale models of traditional Mindanao houses. It encompasses both Muslim and Lumad groups so one can have a better appreciation of the rich Mindanao culture itself.

There are also some interesting side attractions as well, such as one of Rex Bookstore’s equipment for book publishing, a mural that is a tribute to Marikina, and the monument of Rex Bookstore’s founders surrounded by pairs of shoes which the patriarch loved to collect.

Then there’s the book museum itself, which has the appearance of a Babylonian temple painted with murals depicting the histories of world and Philippine literatures.

One realization made once entering the facility is that calling it a book museum may be a misnomer. In reality, it is a museum of print materials from across the globe. Not just books but also magazines, leaflets, postcards, and other media. Also, the collection of books is not as extensive and diverse as one might expect here, but there are still some interesting items on display, particularly some of the world’s smallest books like miniatures of the complete works of Shakespeare, as well as The Little Prince.

Most of the books are classified by country and territory. However one may notice that some countries/territories have no books on display. This one is actually intentional, aiming to represent that these places have little to no access to books and other media.

There are also other items on display such as figurines, vintage toys, and other collectibles from various parts of the world that Buhain collected.

Finally, there is the centerpiece of the facility, which is interestingly not a book. Rather it is a marble figure of a giant foot. Why a foot? It is said that it represents Buhain’s love for travel and discovery and collect stuff along the way. After all, the whole center would not have been possible without this passion of his.

As overwhelming this piece has become, there is one final stop to check out in area. And that is the James Dean cafe which is actually part of the complex. It turns out that aside from traveling, Buhain is also James Dean fan. The cafe is a tribute to the Hollywood icon whose early and tragic death made him a legend. There are James Dean memorabilia on display throughout the cafe sport an apt 1950s diner theme with the neon signages and and the black and white floor tiles.

The good thing about it is that the P300 entrance to the Book Museum cum Ethnology Center already includes a P100 credit to order anything in the cafe within that value. So after being overwhelmed by what you see in the center, you can wind down and enjoy something to eat or drink at the James Dean cafe for as low as not having to pay extra. You can also borrow a book from the book museum for you to read.

The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center in Marikina is a definite must-visit place, not only for the books but also for the rich collection of artifacts you rarely, if ever, see anywhere else. For that large of a collection, it is disappointing to see them cramped in such small spaces. They deserve to be placed in a bigger facility so more people can appreciate them better. Visit them one of these days and be pleasantly surprised by what you’ll get to see.


The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center is located at 127 Dao Street, Marikina Heights, Marikina City. For more information, visittheir Facebook page.

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