In just a matter of five years, D’Bone Collector Museum managed to get the attention of the Philippines Travel Tourism Awards. In the recent awarding ceremony held in Manila last November, it was named second place in the unique museum category.
In the top 10, the museum also made it, making it as one of the two destinations in Mindanao to be included in the coveted list.
Currently, the museum is undergoing renovations. “It will be reopened to the public by the end of January in time for its 6th anniversary,” said Darrell D. Blatchley, the founder and owner of the museum.
When it opened for the first time in January 2012, there were only 150 specimens on display. When it will reopen next month, more than 5,000 specimens including Dinosaur bones and footprints will be seen by guests and visitors.
“We are continuing to push the quality of our museum higher to raise the education level and environment awareness of the Philippines,” said Darrell, who is popularly known as Uncle D due to his former television program.
Collecting bones may sound weird but Darrell started this kind of hobby when he was still a teenager. His fascination with bones made him discover that there’s more to an animal than just meat. Equally important are the bones.
His collection grew as the years go by. The collection was so huge that they could already filled-up a museum. And that was what he did – thanks to the support of his American parents, who are both missionaries. It is located in Bucana, just a walking distance from the Davao City Hall and the San Pedro Parish Church.
Only skeletons of an entire animal or some parts of its bones are displayed in the museum. So unique was it that four months after it opened, it was named by the Mindanao Association of Museums as the Best Museum in Mindanao. Two months later, it was featured in the show of Jessica Soho.
Collecting bones and skeletons is nothing new. But using it as a way of educating people in saving the environment is another. “For me, bones are the ultimate learning tool,” Darrell says. “So much can still be learned upon death. It tells you the life of the animal; whether it had a good life (healthy bones) or a hard life (cracked and deformed bones).”
Among those being displayed are a 41-foot long sperm whale and bones of Grizzly bear. Bones and skeletons of snakes, tarsier, marine turtles, various fish species, different sizes of the mouths of sharks, and birds abound.
“Each group that goes to the museum gets a tour about the animals found in each of the displays. One of the things we show to them is how some of the animals have died due to humans throwing garbage into the ocean or canals and how these kill the whales and dolphins,” Darrell explains.
Every animal displayed has a story. There’s Mercy, a dwarf sperm whale, which died in a fish net. “She was still alive when the fishermen found her but they killed her thinking she was a shark that got tangled in their net,” Darrell says. “When she was dead and they realized that she wasn’t something valuable or edible, they threw her back into the sea. When we recovered her, we discovered she was actually pregnant.”
Another one is a false killer whale named Alcoholic, named so because he was found dead with a bottle of alcoholic beverage inside the stomach. Another marine mammal died from a piece of plastic wrapper.
All in all, about 56 whales and dolphins on display that died due to garbage (mostly plastic like candy wrapper), trapped in fishing nets, dynamite fishing, and loss of food in their habitat.
A lot of the animals found in the museum are very seldom seen. “That for me is sad,” Darrell says. “It is because of human neglect, waste, carelessness, over harvesting, or greed that they are now endangered. I want people to know this fact before these species would be gone forever.”
Awareness campaign is what Darrell is doing. “You don’t have to stop a whaling ship to save one of these animals,” he says. “Just by properly throwing away your garbage, you can save one. It takes only two steps to the garbage can or doing nothing by throwing the plastic bag on the ground. By not buying that endangered parrot which the poacher has for sale outside the mall is another. Little things like these that when you add them all make a huge difference.”
Being the owner of the museum is a full-time job since he also serve as guide in most instances. Although he no longer works with his parents as youth pastor, he is still active but not on stage anymore.
Darrell believes his work with the bone museum as not as noble as that of Jesus Christ but at least he is doing something for His creations. “God cares for His animals and we humans should take care of His creations,” he says. “But the most important thing is still our fellow beings. The museum merely teaches us to be good stewards of what is around us.”
In 2015, he was the only non-Filipino to receive the prestigious Datu Bago Award among that year’s recipients. The awardees were recognized for their “outstanding, exemplary and selfless contribution to the growth and development of Davao City through its greatest resources, its people and for their invaluable contribution to the preservation of the Dabawenyo culture heritage.”
“It’s a very high honor,” Darrell says of his Datu Bago Award. “Even if I was not given the award, I will still be doing what I do. But it helps when people and organization recognize the value of what you have done and that it was and is for the greater good. All the heartaches are worth it.”
Darrell never stop working. Recently, he is hosting the D-Tour, “a socio-cultural and awareness tool that presents itself as a conscience for the society at hand by presenting situations wherein an individual is faced by simulated but rather common scenarios in life in which he may encounter.”
This eco-conservation and adventure show is produced by State of Mind Productions, Inc. The main advocacy of the company is to raise the artistry level in the city. “We want to help artists, musicians, filmmakers and others to have an equal opportunity, which are usually given to a chosen few,” says Darrell.
When asked for his final words, Darrell says: “Life is a journey full of choices and consequences. We know that what we are doing with this show is not safe. But if it made a positive change for this country and inspired others to take action to protect this great nation and its resources, then we have taken a truly good path.”
Darrell is happily married to a Filipina named Mary, with whom he has two handsome kids.