Museum Of Miniatures Marikina: A Gallery Of Little Wonders
Galleries far and wide have showcased paintings scaling walls and ceilings—artworks literally beyond the reaches of man. Art enthusiasts would marvel at life–size sculptures and large impressionist renditions of human emotions, but Filipinos had yet to see minuscule pieces lovingly handcrafted by an artist. That is until Ms. Aleli Vengua, a collector of miniature pieces, came along. The late artisan, however, did not have the chance of seeing her shadow boxes at the Museum of Miniatures Marikina.
Museum of Miniatures Marikina started as a hobby
It was a hobby she started when she was young. In 1977, Ms. Vengua launched her first collection of tiny baskets, figurines, and furniture, lovingly arranged in shadow boxes. Since then, she has gathered over 60,000 tiny pieces, which are on display in Marikina Museum of Miniatures.
According to Lara Elise Vengua, the artist’s daughter, her mother was fond of collecting small things, which she would keep in a shoebox. These were things that the family would usually throw away, but Ms. Vengua would keep. The materials found in the shadow boxes were made from recycled materials like wood, plastic, scrap fabric, to name a few. When asked why her mother chose miniatures for her collection, the younger Vengua said, “It was to showcase her love for the wonderful world of small things.”
Lilliputian wonders came from a great mind
The Museum of Miniatures Marikina is full of Lilliputian wonders—from tiny straw hats to minuscule-framed photos of James Dean, to a tiny metal-wrought rocking chair and a large, colorful display of dishes for Thumbelina and her posse. You may wonder why they’re called “Lilliputian.” The term came from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver Travels; wherein Gulliver (the main character) encounters tiny, six-inch men who act just like normal-sized humans. Cool fact, huh?
The miniature pieces have been handcrafted and assembled to compose the different parts of a European mansion. Each room is a replica of its model, with the pieces in 1:1 scale. The shadow boxes are museums on their own, for every room is unique. One will find mini–Coca-Cola cases in the basement, a mechanic’s tools in the garage, a pool table and a Monopoly set in the boys’ room, and a charming four–poster bed and dresser in the girls’ room.
The miniature toy store, on the other hand, could give toy stores in malls a run for their money. The toy store evokes nostalgia at the sight of Gumby, a jack-in-the-box, toy cars, and a rocking horse. Other rooms are worth checking out, and the inner child in each visitor will be overjoyed to see a large doll house, complete with a patio and a small barn. The curator in Ms. Vengua is evident in a miniature Mona Lisa painting.
Making the Museum of Miniatures was not a small task
Lara recalled that a few months before her mom’s passing, Ms. Vengua would bring her work home. She often saw her mother hunched over the pieces, hands shaking, yet intent and focused on her craft—passion for art triumphing over the growing cancer in her body.
Many sets were made to complete the Museum of Miniatures Marikina, but it was a commissioned project for multi-awarded newscaster Ms. Cheche Lazaro that Ms. Vengua toiled on, small wooden doors adorned with Christmas wreaths, her very last set.
“It is from her that I learned that if you really, truly love something, you will give it your all, and you will not be afraid to do it,” Lara, now a schoolteacher added.
The miniature collections gained wide attention
Ms. Vengua’s efforts paid off, as her collections gained media attention. The miniature pieces have been featured in popular Philippine media outfits such as Bulletin Today, Best of the Philippines, Lovely Day, and Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho.
Lara likewise noted the kindness and generosity of Mrs. Carmen “Gigi” Abaya-Carlos, her mother’s best friend and a collector of Nativity sets, who offered to include the miniature pieces in the same gallery. “Despite the fact that I am not earning anything from it, I have no apprehensions whatsoever. Having the Riverbanks Center “borrow” the collection is in itself a privilege, a gift, so that others may see the works of my mom,” she said.
As for plans on moving the exhibit to other galleries, Lara said that the collection would be open for public viewing at the Riverbanks Center for as long as it is operational. For the Venguas, the choice was made: to keep the love for art alive. In this context, Ms. Vengua’s passing is but a shadow compared to the light that pours from her finely crafted pieces.
Aleli Vengua’s Museum of Miniatures Marikina
2/F E-Com Building, Riverbanks Center, Barangka, Marikina City
Open on Fridays to Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Entrance Fee: PHP 75 per head, 20% discount for senior citizens. Teachers enter for free.