Built high up on the rocky cliff side overlooking the sea, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco is a hidden gem.
Founded in 1910 by Albert I, great-grandfather of the reigning Prince Albert II, with architectural details inspired by the marine world, the museum is dedicated to art and science. Aside from a world-renowned aquarium, it houses the late Prince Albert I’s collections—thousands of natural history specimens from his countless travels and sea explorations.
Recently, the Oceanographic Museum became a most fitting setting for the exhibit “Tubbataha, the Philippines’ Unesco Marine World Heritage Site.”
It was such an unforgettable moment for me to arrive in the museum for the official launch of “Tubbataha.” The show featured 24 impressive photographs by National Geographic photographers and Rolex partners David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes, and award-winning photographer Maria Teresa “Tet” Lara.
As I walked through the museum’s grand entrance, I was filled with indescribable pride to see our Philippine flag waving alongside the flag of Monaco. Then I stepped into the main exhibition hall.
There were stunning large-format, high-gloss images of Philippine marine life and seascapes mounted on its walls.
The launch was graced by Prince Albert II who, following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, is himself an avid adventurer and sea voyager. Philippine consul to Monaco Patricia “Patsy” Zobel de Ayala gave the welcome remarks to an audience consisting of the Monegasque community, diplomats, conservationists and philanthropists.
In her usual selfless manner, Zobel de Ayala gave all credit to the well-loved Dr. Stephen Zuellig, consul general of the Philippines to Monaco, who passed away last January. She considers Zuellig her mentor.
The CEO of the Oceanographic Institute Foundation, Robert Calcagno, gave a short speech before the exhibit’s photographers were introduced and given an opportunity to describe their personal and unique experiences of Tubbataha.
Angelique Songco, superintendent of the Tubbataha Reefs Protected Area, appealed to the audience to help protect and preserve the heritage site’s precious marine life. Also shown that evening was a documentary that chronicled highlights of Prince Albert II’s expedition to Tubbataha and the island of Cagayancillo last year.
This first-ever event to generate awareness in Monaco of our Philippine national seas and their underwater treasures was the result of the tireless work of Zobel de Ayala, who is winding up her stint after 10 years as honorary consul of the Philippines in the principality.
On a separate evening at the museum, she hosted a second cocktail and viewing of the exhibit and documentary exclusively for the Filipino community in Monte Carlo. Her heartfelt and quiet service to the community there, primarily composed of OFWs, will no doubt be greatly missed.
Local audiences will have a chance to view the exhibit when the Tubbataha photographs return to Manila in October, under the auspices of the Ayala Foundation and Ayala Malls. —CONTRIBUTED