The National Museum of the Philippines
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I have always encouraged Filipinos and foreigners alike, to visit our National Museum. It's quite a pity and a bit strange that Pinoys who have gone abroad rave about New York City's MoMA, LA's Getty Center and Singapore's National Museum but have never been to our own!
For starters, our National Museum is actually a Complex consisting of the (1) Museum of the Filipino People and the (2) National Art Gallery. I am told, though, that there is supposed to be a third component which is a museum on natural history. This visit actually took us to the National Art Gallery, which is housed in the former Legislative Building (the one on the P50 bill), seat of the pre-Martial Law Senate and House of Representatives. The first component-museum is at the former Finance Building which is just within walking distance.
The works of Filipino artists, particularly painters and sculptors are housed in several permanent exhibits, as well as revolving or featured exhibitions. Filipino artistry at its best is showcased, proudly I must say. The crown jewel of course is Juan Luna's Spolarium. His masterpiece practically confronts, intimidates and enthralls you once you enter the room. It hangs directly across another masterpiece, "The Assassination of Gov. Gen. Bustamante". The latter painting was being cleaned during our visit, as evidenced by the ladders, scaffoldings, chemicals and tools around it. A good number of Lunas, as well as those of other masters such as Legaspi, dela Rosa and Hidalgo are on exhibition.
I was particularly drawn to Luna's painting of his mother. Very, very different from his "BulaqueÃ±a". Mrs. Luna looked very, very Filipino. The internet will later tell me that she had Aeta ancestry and that she was from a well-off family in La Union.
A stunning retablo, taken from a church in Bohol is also on exhibit in another room at the ground floor. Antique santos, as well as images of the bathala by ancient Filipinos can also be seen. A room is dedicated to the architect Juan Arellano. His works are on a display and a number of them still stand to this day.
There are other exhibitions which are yet to be opened for public viewing, so we can only eagerly anticipate the day that we can finally see them. One interesting feature of the Museum is the historic Session Hall of the old Senate. As mentioned earlier, both chambers of Congress were housed in this building. One important provision of Republic Act No. 8492 - the law creating the National Museum Complex is Section 5, and I quote: "Section 5. Preservation of the Senate Session Hall. - The National Museum shall preserve the Senate Session Hall as a tribute to the legacy of the great men and women of the Philippine Senate for their invaluable contributions to the Filipino people, and as a relic where democracy and freedom reigned and events of national significance transpired.
A visit to the National Museum is a MUST, for every Filipino. This account of my visit is far too insufficient and less accurate or comprehensive as compared to what YOU will see and appreciate once you make your own visit. There is a NO CAMERA policy once you're inside, so we had to make do with taking pictures outside of the building and at its lobby.
Free entrance on Sundays. Visit their website: www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph. To get there by train - get off at LRT-1 United Nations Avenue station, it's a short walk.
POSTSCRIPT: Early this year (January 2013), it was announced that the development and implementation of the third component museum, the Museum of Natural History is starting soon.