MANILA, DECEMBER 23, 2011 (STARweek) By Ida Anita Q. del Mundo - Christmas is truly a magical season for children, so aside from its annual Christmas program, the Museo Pambata has many new surprises and adventures in store for its beloved young visitors.

The museum recently redesigned and upgraded its environment-themed galleries. Launched on Dec. 2, the galleries feature the Philippine rainforest, rice fields, coastal areas, and indigenous medicinal plants in a new outdoor herbal garden.

Exploring each of these sections of the museum, children – and even adults – come to realize the importance of caring for the environment. This way, they are encouraged to take on their vital role in the planet’s future.

It is also the aim of the environment-themed galleries to highlight the country’s rich biodiversity, with each section showcasing various aspects of the country‘s natural environment.

“We hope that children will know that they are an essential part of biodiversity, and that the conservation of our natural resources is very important,” says Museo Pambata president and CEO Nina Lim Yuson. “We want them to understand how their actions affect their environment, and the entire planet. The same things that affect the animals, plants and insects have an impact on them too – from the quality of the air we breathe to the water that we drink.”

Children slide into a learning adventure in the environment-themed rooms. Photos by Jonjon Vicencio

As the country’s premier children’s interactive museum, Museo Pambata offers exhibits that are not only educational, but also fun and hands on. In the rainforest section, the experience is made more real with the gentle rustling of leaves, birds calling to one another, and rain pouring down in “Sounds of the Forest.” There is a special area dedicated to the Philippine eagle where children can stretch out their arms, tracing the haribon’s wingspan. In the section on Philippine insects, kids can climb up the “Web Wall” like spiders.

Aside from learning about the rainforest, another interesting section teaches children about rice – from its planting and processing, until it reaches our plates. Here, children can try their hand at planting rice themselves to appreciate the work that a farmer does to produce the rice that they eat. “In this section, we hope to make children aware about the importance of rice not only because it is our staple food but because it provides livelihood to our farmers,” Yuson adds.

The marine section offers a unique dress-up opportunity with various costumes and headpieces of sea creatures to try on. Children will also learn more about mangroves, another aspect of the Philippine environment that is lush with biodiversity.

The newest addition to Museo Pambata, the outdoor herbal garden, lets children touch and smell the various indigenous plants and herbs that can be used for natural healing.

Led by Yuson, the galleries were developed by exhibits director Joseph de Vera and exhibits consultant Rinnah Sevilla, together with Gino Gonzales as the creative designer. The interactive exhibits were designed and fabricated by Rubbertree Design Inc.

Children learn about sea creatures while playing dress-up. On the cover: Museo Pambata’s visitors play beside a Christmas tree in the museum’s lobby. The children’s museum offers a life-long gift of discovery to all Filipino children.

The renovation of the galleries was made possible by a grant from D.M. Consunji Inc. and Semirara Mining Corporation. “He is a role model of an earnest and hard worker,” says Yuson of the sponsor, David Consunji. Though Consunji has just turned 90, Museo’s “ninong” proves to be young at heart. “He has a generous heart for children and their future,” says Yuson.

Not stopping there, Yuson says that they plan to continue renewing all of the museum’s exhibit rooms. Next in line for a facelift of sorts is the Bodyworks section.

In 2012, Museo Pambata promises to forge ahead, continuing its environmental advocacies. From February 2 to 4, the museum will hold the 2nd Asian Children’s Museum Conference with the theme “Children and Climate Change.”

Yuson is also looking forward to various special exhibits in the pipeline, including a Singapore exhibit mounted with the help of the Singapore Philatelic Museum and another featuring Helena Z. Benitez, another one of the museum’s “ninangs.”

Seeing the importance of having more museums like Museo Pambata in the country, workshops are being planned in Cebu, Tagaytay, Davao, and with other groups and local governments who would like to start their own children’s museums.

As the museum gets ready for another year, Yuson says, “We need more support, both in visitors and funds to make all these dreams come true... Let’s invest in our children.”

She adds, “We are quite passionate in our work as we see the many children who enjoy and learn from our programs and exhibits.”

With Museo Pambata’s continued commitment to the Filipino child, the museum will not only be giving children a gift this Christmas, but one that will last for many, many years to come.

Museo Pambata is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and on Sunday from 1 to 5 pm. Call 523-1797 to 98 for more information.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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