A taxi dropped us off at Market! Market!, an open-air retail space with food specialties from all over the Philippines. Every island, no matter how tiny, is represented here with its own food specialties. It’s a welcoming atmosphere with a local feel, it makes us want to sample everything. We can see why Filipinos enjoy spending their days off here.

The place is part of the fast-growing Bonifacio Global City (BGC), a highly urbanised district of Manila, owned by Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation, a joint venture between the government and private sector, the latter represented by Evergreen Holdings and Ayala Land Inc. (ALI).  ALI is one of the most prominent real estate developers in the Philippines.

As we walk down the open spaces of BGC, we pass business people on their way to lunch or their next meeting, joggers, people reading on benches and mothers strolling with their babies.

“It’s clear how the developers of BGC envision urban development for the future of Manila,” I tell Anouk. “Bonifacio Global City is one of those places where quality of life is more important than anything else.”

“It makes sense,” says Anouk. “BGC is an area developed for people to work, live and play,” she reads out loud.
At the end of the promenade, we arrive at The Mind Museum where we’re meeting Manny Blas.

Manny Blas at the Mind Museum in Manila by CoolBrands NextWorld Storytelling
Manny Blas (l), a colleague, Anouk Pappers and Chiqui Batac at the Mind Museum

“Have a seat,” he says. “Welcome to The Mind Museum.”

“What an inspiring name: the Mind Museum,” says Anouk.

“Thank you! The museum – part of the non-profit Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc. – is a project devoted to educating people through the world of science, that’s why it’s called The Mind Museum.  It shows us what we know, how we know it, and what we do with what we know. One of our goals is to also highlight the link between science and art,” says Manny. “We want to make science attractive again. It’s about time.”

“Smart, but what do you mean by ‘It’s about time’, where does that come from?” I ask.

“Glad you ask, Maarten,” says Manny. “The Philippines was the only country in Asia with no proper science museum and it scores low in science education. We felt we could improve on this by building a world-class science museum.”

“Manny, you sound very proud of the project, how did you end up working here?” Anouk asks.

“Well, long story short: I come from the marketing world and Ayala was looking for someone to work on the project. It was very exciting at first,” he tells us, “as I had no experience in museum-building projects or fundraising. Things have gone really well though; it’s been immensely gratifying to be part of such an exceptional project from its beginnings.”

“How is that?” I ask.

“Well, we started by finding private corporate donors and then engaging people with a love for art and/or science in the project. They could donate and would get naming rights to certain galleries and exhibits to show their support for science education.  Some individuals also donated and they get their own ‘star’ in exchange,” he says as he points at the stars hanging on the walls. “This appeared to be a very engaging and successful way of involving our own community in building and actually also promoting our museum and the purpose of it.”

“And you also included all sorts of people in the building and operational processes?” Anouk asks.

“Indeed, it has been a joint effort from the start. As if an entire village was involved: suppliers gave us materials for free or with big discounts, volunteers joined forces for fundraising… Even exhibits have been organised by a multidisciplinary team where scientists, engineers and designers all work hand-in-hand – it’s constant teamwork. As a result, we have been able to fund our operations from our ticket revenues alone, which is unique for such a non-profit organisation.”

“So The Mind Museum is an inspiration for the rest of the community,” I conclude.

“Absolutely, Bonifacio Global City is meant to inspire its visitors, to open spaces and people’s minds, just like the museum does,” says Manny. “The idea is to rise above mediocrity, both at the museum and in the city.”

“You’ve definitely gone beyond mediocrity here. This is a special place you’ve created,” says Anouk.

“You know Anouk, when it comes to art and science, the sky is the limit,” says Manny with a proud smile.

To be continued…..

Tags: Meeting Manny, meeting Manny Blas, meeting Manny Blas in Manila, CoolBrands NextWorld Storytelling, CoolBrands, Storytelling, Mind Museum, Ayala,  Bonifacio Global City, BGC, Ayala Land Inc., ALI, Ayala Land Philippines, Mind Museum Manila, BGC Manila, BGC Philippines, Manny, Blas, Manny Blas, Mind Museum Taguig, Taguig