A museum called FAM

Inaugural opening of the Filipino American Museum. Photo by Roz Li

Inaugural opening of the Filipino American Museum. Photo by Roz Li

By Cristina DC Pastor

This was how I explained the Filipino American Museum (FAM) to the hubby when I got home.

Me: I just came from a museum opening, um, except that there is no museum.

H: Huh? What?

Me: It’s an empty room in an old Soho building, has white walls and not much else.

H: And?

Me: And there’s a performance artist playing sounds using what looked like a vacuum cleaner suction hose, a mike, a wind chime and other stuff. His name is Stephen Decker and he went to Yale.

H: And?

Me: And it’s packed. I’m guessing 400-plus people trying to figure out where the museum is and what’s going to happen next. It got too stuffy in the room. I was in and out trying to get some air.

H: Why is it called a museum if it’s just an empty room?

Me: That’s what’s on many people’s minds, actually. Mine included. And I asked one of the organizers, a nice lady named Nancy Bulalacao. She said what they have is not a traditional museum with collections and archives and all that but the beginning of one. She said, “Filipinos have asked how come we don’t have a museum for our people?” and she said FAM has sort of “planted the seed.”

Then she talked about how this group of Asian and Filipino cultural leaders got together to provide guidance on how the museum is to evolve. She mentioned names like writer Luis Francia, theater actress Ching Valdes-Aran, lawyer Rio Guerrero and restaurateur Nicole Ponseca.

H: So this so-called museum is now gone?

Filipino American artist Stephen Decker

Filipino American Stephen Decker performs his light-and-sound art called ‘Salvaging the Aether.’ The FilAm photo

Me: I’m guessing after the launch, it’s gone. Physically, that is. Nancy said their next event is on December 8 and it will be a gathering of grassroots organizations. It will be in Queens.

H: Why don’t they call it a performance space, pop-up style?

Me: They prefer to be known as a “roving museum,” one that “floats from space to space.”

H: Isn’t that misleading?

Me: Some people thought so. ‘Gimmicky’ was another word I heard. But Nancy has a background in traditional museum. She was former director of Public Programs at MOCA, this Chinese museum by Soho. Very close to my office. Nancy told me MOCA started out as a collection.

H: Isn’t that how most museums start?

Me: She said this is just the beginning for FAM and that “there will be traditional elements later on.”

H: When?

Me: I guess when they have enough money? Rio Guerrero, one of their advisers, was saying that building a traditional museum requires time and resources and that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

H: Then they should stop calling it a museum because it has no collection.

Me: Who’s to say how we use words nowadays, like ‘tablet’ is no longer aspirin and ‘cloud’ is now a computing system.

H: Were there food, drinks?

Me: Yup.

H: Then, it should be called a bar.


  1. RobDH wrote:

    As a American Filipino, I find this somewhat disturbing. Like a scam.

  2. Rio Guerrero wrote:

    Over 400 people attended this event. That fact alone evidences our collective desire for the establishment and success of a Filipino American Museum dedicated to our community and its artists. The definition of the word “museum” is inconsequential compared to the vision and effort of so many collaborating to make this dream a reality. It is unproductive to trivialize the good faith and dedicated efforts of so many who aspire to deliver the gift of a museum to our present community, and our future generations to come, by referring to it as a “bar.” Instead, like the hundreds of people who attended FAM’s inaugural event in support, I offer my most heartfelt “Congratulations!” to FAM for an amazing evening and historic launch. I wish FAM the greatest of success in the future!

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