Molluscs make magic material
by Ronnie Hoyle

DIVE anywhere in the ocean and you will find a mollusk somewhere. Every crevice of our planet has been infiltrated by these hard-cased characters – and nowhere more so than the Philippines.

The man who knows is Quirino Hora, who owns Nova Shells, and who has been studying these creatures for nearly half his life, starting 30-odd years ago when his elder brother introduced him to the mysteries of the sea.

Since then, Quirino admits that he has become a compulsive collector of shells and has infected many other people with his enthusiasm: he’s still doing it today…but this time in ever-increasing numbers.
Besides making shells earn him a living by supplying other aficionados all over the world with first-class specimens, he has turned his former hobby into the Panglao Shell Museum, where he proudly displays more than half of the shells that can be collected in the Philippines and which he has found during hunting trips all over the islands.
“I haven’t actually counted,” he says, “but I think I’ve got something like 700 of the 1,400 types of shell that can be found in the area – and marine scientists have told me that I seem to have some that they haven’t seen.”

Not just shells they have never seen, but some they have never classified. They even managed to make away with a few of his ‘swaps’ for their own collection before they left the island to try and find out what they had actually got.
“When the scientists were here a few months ago they told me that the seas around Panglao probably have the biggest variety of shells in the South Pacific,” he said, and that could put Panglao Island well and truly on the collectors’ map.

The rarest in his collection – named after Emperor Hirohitoi of Japan, and found off Balicasag Island, near Alona Beach - is a deep water shell that is so minute that you need a microscope to see its full beauty, while the largest, he admits, was made for him in plastic simply so he could show others how beautiful shells could be.
Two of the cowry shells in his collection have a special significance for Alona Beach because they were discovered by French scuba diving enthusiast Jacques Trotin several years ago and named after his son and daughter when he and his wife, Paz, started Bohol Divers Lodge and Philippine Island Divers on Alona Beach before thousands of others made the discovery of the ‘forgotten’ isle as well.
Open daily behind his home in Panglao town center, near Alona Beach, Bohol, the museum also has a large souvenir shop which is attracting an increasing number of visitors – probably because Quirino also runs a fashion jewelry-making concern employing local people which sells thousands of items each year and demonstrates how shells can be made into beautiful artifacts and adornments.

On top of that, he supplies legions of girls and women with shells that they sell to visitors on the beaches around Bohol in various forms and earn a living for themselves and their families and, of course, he is also the first person to buy shells from fishermen in the locality.
Collecting the more common shells for distribution to manufacturers in the export industries in and around Cebu forms a great part of what Cureno and his wife, Primitiva, do for a living, although they both have connections with the holiday industry by running Casa Nova Garden and Casa Nova Beach resorts for tourists at the same time…and building up an estate for foreign visitors who want to make Alona Beach their hideaway holiday home or a permanent place for a retirement in the sun.

Hooked like a diver with the raptures of the deep, Quirino is now in his mid-60’s and has already passed on his affliction to his children – pop into his museum and you might get infected as well!

Panglao Town Center, opposite gasoline station.
Quirino and Primitiva Hora – Landline: (038) 502-8074
Mobile: 0921-510-3151