The National Museum of Fine Arts

If there’s one thing I would do if I can turn back time, it’s to be exposed early on in museums and art. My limited memories of museums involve a field trip to Ayala Museum when I was in grade school, and at the time I was more interested in hanging out with my friends than learning from that trip. In college, I crammed before the finals for Humanities 2, where we were to be given only 3 chances to successfully identify world-renowned paintings. I operated my ability to memorize pictures and titles on a short-term basis. When D and I went to Louvre and the Vatican museum, I spent less than a couple of hours there, navigating to and only focusing on The Mona Lisa (which I didn’t get close to, given the crowd), and the Sistene Chapel. Boy, did I miss out!

But it’s never too late to learn, right? I’ve spent a chunk of 2018 fast-tracking my learning and appreciation of art. One of the things that I started doing in 2018 is to go to museums whenever I travel. I intend to go back to the Louvre and the Vatican Museum to retrace my steps – and next time, spend hours in them to really take in the exhibits.

While I save up for my future trips, I’m grabbing all the chance I can get to also make the most out of the museums the Philippines has to offer. On my latest trip to Manila City, I brought along my whole family (parents, siblings and cousins) to The National Museum of Fine Arts (or the National Art Gallery) one rainy Sunday morning. We were the first to get there so we were able to park right outside the main entrance. Note to self: best time to go is on a rainy Sunday morning, ideally during opening so I can beat the crowd.

The National Museum of Fine Arts stands right outside Intramuros, along P.Burgos Avenue. It is a majestic building with quite a history, originally meant to be the public library and later on used as the Legislative building.

A few meters from the main entrance I came across a big hall, where me and my family were greeted by Juan Luna’s The Spoliarium. It is a sight to behold, with its grand dimensions. The oil on canvas painting was completed in 1884, and depicts scene of dying Roman gladiators.

Spoliarium
The Spoliarium

Opposite The Spoliarium is another grand oil on canvas painting, this time by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, called El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante (The Assassination of Governor Bustamante), also known as La Iglesia contra el Estado (The Church Against the State). This was made around 1898-1904, in Paris.

Hidalgo
Painting by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo

On the top floors, same location as the hall downstairs where The Spolarium is being displayed, is The Old Session Hall of the House of Representatives, which was first used on July 26, 1926. On its upper chamber is the former Session Hall of the Senate. The walls of this hall is painted with a historical narrative of The Philippines, from the reign of Lapu Lapu, through the colonization of Spain, USA and Japan, up to the Philippine Independence.

Old Session Hall
Old Session Hall of the House of Representatives

The National Museum is composed of several floors and halls filled with paintings, sculptures, photographs by Filipino artists.

I also came across some interesting relics from the past like this cast iron equipment, the Manila Public Water Hydrant. It is one of the 153 water hydrants of the Carriedo water system in the city of Manila. These were imported from the Glenfield Company Ltd., of Kilmarnok, Scotland. The Carriedo water system was completed in 1882.

Manila Water Hydrant
Manila Water Hydrant

I enjoyed that trip to the museum, and surprised to find that it was my parents’, siblings’ and cousin’s first time to go there, despite Manila City being so close to our hometown. They were impressed by the amount of effort the government put through to maintain the facility, and it was a breath of fresh air compared to the usual trips to the malls and restaurants. I am happy that I was able to share this experience with them, and also glad to see that a lot of families and guests are taking the time to visit the museum.

Thank you for reading my blog. For more information about the National Museum of the Philippines, visit their website at www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph

 

 

 

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