Aiming to represent the cultural heritage of the Filipino people and the natural history of the Philippines, the National Museum of the Philippines acquires, preserves, exhibits, and fosters a wide collection of pieces in various fields such as arts, history, archeology, anthrolpology, ethnography, zoology, botany, and taxonomy.
The National Museum is comprised of two separate buildings stationed along Padre Burgos Avenue, Manila. The Museum of the Filipino People serves as a repository of Philippine heritage through its historical and ancestral collections. The National Art Gallery houses copious treasured masterpieces, from paintings to sculptures, of some of the most renowned Filipino artists.
THE MUSEUM OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE
Before entering the museum proper, an authentic Ifugao house leaves the visitors curious of what is found inside.
Upon entering the museum, this elegantly-decorated edifice, known as the “Marble Hall”, initially sets the mood with its well-appointed structure, and polished marble aisle and arches.
San Diego Exhibit
Located in the ground floor, this exhibit displays the wrecked galleon ship, San Diego. Originally built as the trading ship San Antonio, it was quickly converted into a warship. On December 14, 1600, the ship sank because of the heavy cannons while being engaged in a war by the Dutch warship Mauritius, near Nasugbu, Philippines. Nearly 400 years later, in 1992, the wreck was discovered by French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio and a total of 34,407 artifacts and ecofacts were recovered from the shipwreck.
Five Centuries of Maritime Trade
This gallery displays pre-hispanic merchant vessels in Southeast Asia bringing trade and commerce to the Philippine Islands.
Linneaeus and the Linneans
Botanist and Zoologist Carolus Linnaeus, The Father of Modern Taxonomy, is known for establishing the foundations of binomial nomenclature. Displayed in this section of the museum are the various preserved species of flora and fauna existent in the Philippines.
The Origin (Pinagmulan)
This exhibit presents information on the origins of the Philippine Islands and the Filipino nation by focusing on the four periods of Philippine prehistory: Paleolithic, Neolithic, Metal, and Ceramic Age.
Archaeological Treasures (Kaban ng Lahi)
This gallery portrays secondary burial jar collections, burial practices, and ritual ceremonies, as well as samples of other utilitarian vessels unearthed from different cave sites in the Philippines.
Baybayin: Ancient and Traditional Scripts of the Philippines
Often confused with Alibata, Baybayin is the ancient pre-colonial Philippine writing system which involves engraving of the letters in bamboos, leaves, and stones. In this section of the museum, which is located in the 4th floor—manuscripts, engravings, embroidery (even tattoos!) of Baybayin are showcased. An example of which is the Intramuros pot shard. Retrieved in 2009, it is the only artifact with ancient inscriptions recovered systematically. A tentative deciphering of the script revealed “pa-la-ki” interpreted as “a-la-ke” or “alay kay” (“An offering to”).
The Artistry of Philippine Textiles (Hibla ng Lahing Filipino)
Inaugurated as a permanent gallery in 2012, “Hibla ng Lahing Filipino” spotlights the indigenous artistry of Filipinos through traditional textiles. By exploring the colorful fabrics and detailed textures sewn into the tapestry of our culture, the weaving industry in the Philippines is celebrated.
THE NATIONAL ART GALLERY
Originally designed as the public library by Ralph Harrington Doane, the American consulting architect of the Bureau of Public Works, National Art Gallery served as the venue for the 1934 Constitutional Convention. On its front steps Manuel L. Quezon was sworn in as President of the Commonwealth.
After passing by two imposing sculptures by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, the gallery known as “The Hall of Masters” (The Old House of Representatives Session Hall) will be seen. It features the works of 19th-century Filipino painters Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo.
Gallery I (Luis I. Ablaza Hall) – Colonial Philippine religious art from the 17th to the 19th centuries, prominent among which is a retablo:
Gallery II shows the Basi Revolt series by Esteban Villanueva, Gallery III is dedicated to the Philippine art of the academic and romantic period, Gallery IV features the sculptures of Isabelo Tampinco, Gallery V displays the works of polymath and National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Gallery VIII preserves iconic paintings of the late Spanish colonial period and into the American occupation, including those of Fernando Amorsolo, Fabian de la Rosa, Jorge Pineda, and Irineo Miranda, among others.
Gallery IX features the great modernists of Philippine Art, featuring important works by Victorio Edades, Diosdado Lorenzo, Vicente Manansala, Carlos V. Francisco, Hernando R. Ocampo, Cesar Legaspi, Manuel Rodriguez, Ang Kiukok, José Joya, Fernando Zobel, Mauro Malang and many others.
At the time of our visit, Gallery X (Museum Foundation of the Philippines Hall) houses Vicente Manansala’s cubism series.
Escuela Taller Intramuros
Finally, the newest exhibit of National Museum is the Escuela Taller Intramuros which started a little over last month. The Escuella Taller Intramuros started in 2009 as a project funded by both Spanish and Philippine governments to teach Filipinos the art of cultural preservation through masonry, ironworks, woodwork and electrical work. National Museum is currently displaying the outputs of the students and faculty of the school.
According to the museum’s official website, the existence of the National Museum is “anchored on the basic philosophy that the Filipino nation is kept unified by a deep sense of pride in its own identity, cultural heritage and nature patrimony.” Doubtlessly, museums exist so present generations can look back and appreciate the yesteryear that has ever impacted their lives. A culture reflected on well-preserved artifacts, canvases, fabrics, or chiseled molds, is a history worth revisiting.
Address: Padre Burgos Drive, Rizal Park, City of Manila, Philippines
Telephone No.: (+632) 527-12-09
Operating Hours: Tuesdays-Sundays, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Official website: http://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph
Student – PhP50
Senior Citizen – PhP120
Groups of 51 or more:
Students – PhP40
Adult/Senior Citizen – PhP120;
EVERY SUNDAY and EVERY MUSEUM MONTH (OCTOBER) – FREE!