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Old water reservoir now a museum



The concrete water reservoir which used to supply household water in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, has been converted into the town’s museum, showcasing the many aspects of its heritage ranging from built to archaeological and the intangible.

Called Museo San Nicoleño (Buabobuabo) and located at the town’s población beside its Spanish-era elementary school building, the museum is housed in what used to be the reconstructed overhead concrete water tank called buabobuabo which supplies water to the town.

Buabobuabo is an Ilocano term for “pumping motion” since the place was formerly an artesian well from which people drew water using a pump before its conversion into a concrete reservoir in 1964.

The museum opened in late December 2017 in time for the quadricentennial year of San Nicolas’ establishment as an independent town.

It was a former visita or mission station of Laoag prior to its initial separation in 1617.

The image of San Nicolas de Tolentino and a scale model of the town.

History, pottery

The museum presents the town’s 400-year-plus history starting from its foundation as a visita in 1584 to its heritage-based developments today.

It also talks about the place’s patron saint, San Nicolas de Tolentino, whose image carved by noted Paete carver Luis Ac-ac is laid within an impressive brick scale model of the town center.

The town’s built heritage such as a Spanish colonial church, convent, municipio, school building, as well as the heritage houses of the Valdes-Lardizabal and Madamba families are likewise presented.

Its damili pottery tradition is also showcased on the second level of a three-floor structure highlighted by the story of octogenarian Nana Paul, the town’s master potter who was declared Municipal Living Treasure in 2016.

Museo San Nicoleño is housed in what used to be the reconstructed overhead concrete water tank.


Completing the story is San Nicolas’ archaeological heritage, particularly in the village of Nagrebcan where a number of artifacts were recovered in archaeological diggings undertaken by the National Museum (NM) in 2015.

Initial findings of human and animal figures made of bricks suggest the area could have been a brick-making site in the late 19th century.

Another theory suggests it might have been the site of Sarrat before it moved towards the other side of the river after it was destroyed in the 1815 uprising, while local historian Manuel Aurelio contends in his book on San Nicolas history that the word nagrebcan in Ilocano means “boundary” so Nagrebcan separated San Nicolas and Sarrat.

The museum also mentions the role of a national newspaper in the archaeological diggings which led to its eventual declaration as an Important Cultural Property (ICP) by NM.

It was during a site visit in 2014 by San Nicolas tourism officer Richie Cavinta and the newspaper scribe during the culmination of the town’s cultural mapping project that artifacts made of bricks with relief images were obtained through initial investigation from residents who have kept those as personal collections.

This prompted the local government to request an archaeological investigation from the National Museum which later revealed more artifacts and resulted to its ICP declaration in 2015.

Photos by Cham Odan