It was during museum curator Bernard Fernandez’ birthday celebration that the idea of a permanent display was conceived. He was talking to the De Leons, and they recognized his effort and ordered the release of some money to begin the construction of a building to house the old costumes and props.
Having worked in the wardrobe department of LVN Studios since 1950, Fernandez has preserved the costumes quite remarkably. The colors are still bright, the lines distinct and the designs accurate. It’s a shame though that only a few are modeled by mannequins, such as costumes worn by Nida, Delia, Charito Solis and Manuel Conde.
Not equipped with modern means of preserving fabrics, Fernandez opts for naphthalene or mothballs, with an occasional sunning to dry out residual moisture and the fungi growth that accumulates. The air-conditioning helps to stabilize the temperature, the fluctuation of which can easily ruin delicate fabrics.
Aside from the costumes ranging from flamboyant evening gowns and ornate armored suits, the museum also boasts of photographs of the studio’s stars, like Mila del Sol and Lou Salvador Jr., which line the walls. More photographs of directors and those showcasing scenes from movies fill up the nooks and crannies of the place, along with a few old movie posters and props like cameras.
Fernandez also showed me the old Max Factor makeup kits which include a formula they used for fake blood which was more realistic than what makeup artists use today. There are also worn-out shoes and boots and rusty military insignias. Encased in a glass cabinet is Charito Solis’ elaborate jewelry which she used in her movies. They were personally delivered by Charito’s sister after the actress’ death.
But it’s not only Charito Solis who gave pieces for display at the museum. Nida Blanca and Delia Razon also donated some of their dresses and photographs, though both women prefer to keep their own collections, perhaps for sentimental reasons. In fact, Nida has boxes of costumes and albums of photographs in her library.
Museum curator Bernard Fernandez said that there are other potential acquisitions, but so far none has materialized yet. One is the life-size portrait of Leopoldo Salcedo done by an American painter. The painter was looking for an individual or an institution as the recipient, and the LVN Museum was one of those considered. But the plan was foiled by Salcedo’s death. Fernandez last saw the portrait at the star’s wake and didn’t dare ask for it, out of respect for the grieving family.
Another batch was made up of trunks of old stuff belonging to Rogelio de la Rosa, as promised by his wife. Unfortunately, Fernandez lost contact with her. Still another possible acquisition is the suitcase full of scripts currently in the possession of someone who worked as assistant director for actor-turned-director Gregorio Fernandez.