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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bicol Shell Museum open for educational tourism

MINALABAC, Camarines Sur—At the pristine pebble beach of barangay Bagolatao, the Bicol Shell Museum’s unassuming exterior hides a breathtaking treasure: around 4,000 shells meticulously classified by scientific name, and labelled with the dates and places when and where they were found.

Prof. Leovegildo O. Basmayor, Sr. gazes at some samples of his massive shell collection now on display at Bicol Shell Museum, Bagolatao, Minalabac, Camarines Sur. (PHOTO: BICOLSTANDARD.COM)
Amazingly, there is perhaps no one as enthralled as its owner and curator, marine biologist  Prof. Leovegildo O. Basmayor, Sr.

“Despite having a massive collection, I continue to marvel at each and every specimen,” he revealed to the BICOL STANDARD.

“When I was a kid, I used to select and keep only the shells I found beautiful. Pretty soon, I discovered that all shells, regardless of shape or color, were beautiful in their own right,” he said.

As early as the age of six, Basmayor said he would comb the beach at barangay Salingogon in this town in search of conches, clams, and mussels, among others, many of which are still part of his present-day collection.

His seashells, which he kept in glass jars, grew so large that when World War II broke out, he had to devise a plan to keep them safe.

“I decided to bury my collection in the ground,” he said. “When the war was over, I returned to where I buried it and dug it out.”

Fanned by his endless curiosity, his passion grew all the way through adulthood, when he pursued an academic career in biology as a scholar at the University of Nueva Caceres and the University of the Philippines.

He then taught at Bicol University and the University of Nueva Caceres, while contributing to the collections at various academic institutions, and even the National Museum.

His real classroom, however, was the sea, which he continued to frequent in search of more and more specimens to collect and classify.

“At present, my collection is possibly the only one of its kind in the entire Philippines. The Bicol Shell Museum is unique in that it was built for educational purposes—to teach the present and future generations about these marine treasures that soon may no longer be found because of environmental degradation,” he said.
To his pleasure, his collection is well-received not only by the academe, but also by individuals from other walks of life.

“This collection is as much for students and educators as they are for the common person,” he said, gesturing towards the display cases, racks, and drawers.

“Absolutely everyone will find something relevant to their lives at the Bicol Shell Museum,” he stressed.

To illustrate, he cited an instance when police officers visited to learn about the kinds of venomous and non-venomous seashells, which was relevant to their investigation of incidents that occur on beaches.

“We built this shell museum to share to the community what I have discovered, in the hope of getting them to discover for themselves the wonders of seashells,” he told the BICOL STANDARD.

Now 82, he devotes his days continuing his study of various shells, as well as other marine and terrestrial organisms.

“You’d find it hard to believe, but I still learn new things every single day because of this passion,” he remarked.

At present, he is working on the content of the website of Bicol Shell Museum, which will enable him to share his collection to a global audience.

Basmayor’s collection is a real treasure, but perhaps not as much as he himself is a treasure, a wellspring of awe-inspiring insights borne out of a burning passion for science and shells.

He is presently based in Bicol Shell Museum at White Pebbles Beach Resort in Bagolatao, this town. (by Melissa Villa-Real Basmayor)

Bicol Shell Museum open for educational tourism
BICOLSTANDARD.COM

Bicol Shell Museum open for educational tourism
BICOLSTANDARD.COM

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