I’ve lived in Metro Manila for a decade and I must admit that I haven’t been to the National Museum of the Philippines. But 2016 will be different. I made it a goal to visit all these places in Metro Manila that a Filipino guy like me should have already explored. And damn, there’s a lot of them! But first in that bucket list is our National Museum.
Getting to the National Museum
I live in Evangelista, Makati. I have never been to the National Museum or in Manila in general, besides a couple of times riding the LRT. So my first assignment is to know how to go there. I instantly consulted Google and Waze, which is a big help. So upon looking at the map, I would have to take an LRT ride to United Nations station, then I can walk to the museum. Pretty simple since I live just one jeep away from the LRT.
That’s what I did. But when I dropped off the UN station, I got a little confused. I decided to take a pedicab, who’s already waiting right at the bottom of the UN station’s stairs. WRONG MOVE! Yes, you have been warned! The pedicab driver scammed me. He said the fare is only 40 pesos. But when I got to the destination, he’s asking for 140 pesos! That’s more expensive than a taxi ride for such a short distance! Since I’m not from this area and I’m scared to cause any kind of trouble, I just gave him the money and left. Then I found out that he brought me to the wrong building. This is the National Library. I would need to walk and find the museum. That pedicab is such a help!
The National Museum of the Philippines is divided into 2 branches: The Museum of the Filipino People and the National Art Gallery. After a few walk, I finally arrived at the main entrance of the Museum of the Filipino People.
This branch of the national museum is focused on the Philippine’s culture and heritage. It houses the following exhibits:
San Diego Exhibit
Start with the exhibit gallery on the ground floor showing the wreck site and eleven of the recovered cannons.
Five Centuries of Maritime Trade Before the Arrival of the West
Merchant vessels were sailing through Southeast Asia bringing trade and commerce to the Philippine Islands.
The Origin (Pinagmulan)
The gallery presents information on the origins of the Philippine Islands and the Filipino nation. The exhibition focuses on the four periods of Philippine pre-history : Paleolithic; Neolithic; Metal; and Ceramic Age.
Archaeological Treasures (Kaban ng Lahi)
The Archaeological Treasures Gallery portrays secondary burial jar collections as well as samples of other utilitarian vessels unearthed from different cave sites in the Philippines. It also features the importance of burial practices associated with the death of early Filipinos in the southern Philippines and other parts of the country. One of these practices is the secondary burial of the dead person which involves treatment and re-burial of the bones after the corpse had decomposed. The process include cleaning, painting or treating of the bones known as one washing. The practice of secondary burial always involved a ritual ceremony.
The Filipinos and Their Rich Cultural Heritage (Kinahinatnan)
This ethnographic exhibit focuses on the Philippines as aland of diversity, crossroads, and a tapestry of cultures. The gallery showcases some regions that have been influenced by migration over the millennia, while others have developed in relative isolation, locked in by the roughness of the terrain and adapting to their distinct environment. These cultural influences, adaptations and response to the environment led to the emergence of major ethnolinguistic groups with many sub-groups. Having a common prehistory and background, all ethnic groups in the Philippines speak languages that belong to the Austronesian family. It is the variety with adaptive techniques and cultural diversity throughout the archipelago that make the Philippines unique.
(From the museum’s website)
Before entering, we were told that we need to deposit all our belongings and register. The museum is open Monday to Sunday, entrance fee is 150 pesos, but free Sundays. We went there on a Sunday, so we didn’t pay anything. I would love go back on another day so I can pay, a little help to our museum. Operating hours is between 10am to 5pm. It’s already 2pm, so I hope I have enough time to appreciate the exhibits. I suggest you go here 10am. It’s a huge building, and most galleries require reading if you really want to learn the exhibits. Cameras are allowed as long as you don’t use flash photography.
Upon entering, the first thing I noticed is the building’s beautiful architecture. I just love old buildings. The atmosphere inside screams history. It feels like the building itself is an exhibit! Sadly, there are not a lot of people, given that it’s free today. I hope a lot of people grow interest in visiting the National Museum. If you can stroll inside a mall the whole day doing nothing, you can definitely spend some precious time appreciating and knowing your roots here. This is something that should not be taken for granted.
As you can see, I am really enjoying the mood and the vibe the building gives me. This place is perfect for photographers and old souls alike. But let’s not forget that we’re here to see the galleries. So let’s go up the stairs and check out what’s in store for us. Sorry for the image-rich post. I believe that through pictures is the best way I can show my experience in the National Museum.
Museum of the Filipino People
As I said, we don’t enough time to go in detail through each galleries. I really recommend visiting in the morning. After going through four floors of exhibits and with time management in mind, we decided it’s time to go to the other branch of the National Museum of the Philippines, which is the National Art Gallery.
Now this is the part I don’t like. To go to the National Art Gallery, you need to cross the street and make a turn. Yes, it’s a different building. It kinda made me lose the momentum and I felt like I’m on my way to a different museum altogether. But that feeling suddenly went away when I saw this…
The National Museum That I Know
Arriving at this branch of the National Museum of the Philippines, I have this feeling of “Finally, I am here!” Why? Because this is the iconic building of the National Museum. This is the one I see in textbooks and postcards. This is the place I promised myself I will visit someday. This is the National Museum that I grew up knowing.
The building was originally designed as the public library by Ralph Harrington Doane, the American consulting architect of the Bureau of Public Works, and his assistant Antonio Toledo. Construction began in 1918 but was suspended several times because of lack of funds. When it was decided that the building should be used by the Legislature, the revisions of the plans was entrusted to Juan Arellano, then supervising architect of the Bureau. The building was inaugurated on 16 July 1926, and by then had cost four million pesos.
The building was part of Daniel Burnham’s plan for the development of Manila. Upon its completion, the second, third, and fourth floors were occupied by the Senate and House of Representatives while the ground floor was occupied by the National Library.
The 1934 Constitutional Convention was held in this building. On its front steps Manuel L. Quezon was sworn in as President of the Commonwealth. The Legislative Building was a casualty during the bombing and shelling of Manila in 1945. It was reconstructed in 1946 following the original plans but with some revisions, such as the replacement of flat pilasters of the stately rounded engaged columns. In mid-1996, the Senate of the Philippines moved out of the building. In 2003, renovation started to transform it into National Art Gallery of the national Museum.
The National Art Gallery houses Juan Luna’s Spolarium. It is worth a visit just by seeing this alone. You will really appreciate the talent of Juan Luna. He has other paintings inside the galleries that I think really stood out from the others, most notably “The Parisian Life,” who I feel is very advance for Juan Luna’s time. I wish I possess that level of skill, too!
Those who love art and appreciate beauty will surely enjoy looking gallery by gallery in thus huge place. I love Fernando Amorsolo‘s work. They’re simple but very impressive. I spent a lot of time looking at his sketches. It looks so easy for him! Another highlight of my National Museum visit is being inside the Old Senate Session Hall. I can’t explain the feeling when I stood there in the center. I can only imagine all the stuff that happened here in the past! It’s a little creepy though, since there’s not a lot of people, but that’s part of the fun.
National Art Gallery
The National Museum of the Philippines is a place every Filipino should visit. I truly enjoy discovering my roots, heritage and culture. It just feels good to see what the Philippines can offer, the treasure, the art and the people. The National Museum of the Philippines is open Monday – Sunday, 150 pesos entrance fee, but it is free on Sundays.
National Museum of the Philippines
Padre Burgos Drive, City of Manila, Philippines
Phone: (02) 527 1215