The “Graduation”

Four and a half years. If you think about it, it’s like the typical length of stay of a student in college, or a little bit more than the duration of one’s high school life. I have spent the last 4.5 years of my life doing something really amazing, and that’s being part of the creation of The Mind Museum.

It was an adventure and a different kind of experiential education, more than anything else.

On the first few months, I had to report to two separate offices (BAFI office in BGC and ALI office in Makati). I reported to and learned from different bosses from both sides. I already assisted for an event on my first week, and then thrown into a meeting by my own on my 2nd week. I learned Project Development 101 as a crash course. I had to attend 6-hour technical meetings once a week (which always left us so tired and hungry). For six months I carried all my documents and my laptop between the two offices, as the number of documents slowly grew in volume and mass.

Afterwards, I was based solely in BAFI office, which was a small, L-shaped, white-walled office with NO WINDOWS. Everyone in the office were within eyesight, and you don’t even have to stand up or shout to talk to the boss. I still remember that small magical office which was able to mysteriously expand with every new person in the team. From just 5 people, it was able to accomodate up to 10 people after 3 years, before we were set to move to the museum.

In the first and second years, everything was just on paper, on a powerpoint, or on excel. There were so many orthographic and perspective drawings of the exhibits and the exhibition spaces. There were endlessly evolving timelines, as well as pro-forma financial runs that contained overwhelming amount of information. There were countless project meetings, and at every stage slowly changing and shifting in terms of contents and manner. There were the Project Core Meetings and Project Technical Meetings related to the building and facilities planning and construction. There were very specialized exhibit design meetings.

After the planning stage came the dreaded execution stage. Our focus was shifted to the construction of the building and facilities, and the fabrication of the exhibitions. There were the tons of blueprints and construction contracts that we had to prepare, and so many requirements for various permits. We had a lot of challenges just to be able to start the construction of the building, a number of external things that were out of our control.

In terms of the fabrication of the exhibits, one of the biggest challenge is coordinating a number of different fabricators to do exhibits as designed by a number of different designers, while being supervised by a number of different scientists. By this time there were already two other exhibit managers with me, and we worked together to make things happen. There were numerous site visits to the workshops of the fabricators (near and far) to check the progress of the exhibits. There were so many things that we had to reconsider, to adjust, and sometimes to scrap altogether. It was a loooooooong and tedious process.

Add to this the process of preparing the content write-ups for each and every exhibit. In terms of nose-bleed work, we probably were able to accumulate a gallon of blood each week from our noses, ears, and eyes while preparing the write-ups.

The fourth year was the time of reckoning, like a final year in the university doing thesis or dissertation. But it was far more difficult than just writing a thesis. The Mind Museum is the biggest project of my life yet, a real, larger than life project for which you do EVERYTHING just to make things happen. EVERYONE did EVERYTHING humanly possible just to be able to make everything work. There were months of fieldworks and site works. We constantly traversed the building construction under the heat of the sun, in safety gears. We had to manually draw exhibit locations on the raw slab just to make sure that all our exhibits would fit. There were exhibits that were much too big to transport, sometimes too massive and difficult to move around. There were mega-problematic fabricators that gave us more headaches. There were all kinds of delays and unexpected problems. We just had to find ways to get through those.

Across those four years we also did a number of major and minor events. There were also many different “launches”, donor recognition events, exhibit design Powwows, cafe scientifiques, and exhibit testing, among many others. These events were also a lot of work in terms of time and effort, but through the years we slowly got used to working on the details, especially for recurring events.

Our committed soft-opening was December 15, 2011, for which we moved mountains to make happen. There were many weeks of non-existent weekends, and days before the soft-opening date when we did not go home anymore. The event started at 6pm on December 15, 2011, and I still remember being stinky and messy running around and rolling around the galleries just to make sure everything is in place, up until 530pm. We just had enough time to tidy up and look human right before the main program started.

Seeing the building finished and all the exhibits coming to life was priceless. To be able to see everything come from ideas, to written words, to drawings, to prototypes, to the actual thing is a pride and a blessing for me. A name engraved on the founders’ wall is just icing on top, because my entire heart and soul is part of The Mind Museum now.

If I were to remember those 4 years, I would remember a lot of learning and growth. Most of all, I will keep and value all the friendships and relationships found and forged in the team and with external contacts in the past 4.5 years. I owe a lot of my learning and growth to my two bosses, Maribel and Manny. I laud the entire Mind Museum project team for a wonderful job well done.

I would like to consider this stage as a graduation of sorts. I have accomplished what I have set myself to do the past 4.5 years. The Mind Museum is now up and running, giving a chance to all its guests to learn and appreciate science in a fun and interactive way. It’s time for me to leave now, because the pond is getting smaller, and there is such a big world out there that I have yet to discover, and so many opportunities and possibilities that I will be chasing after.

Off to a new adventure now.

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