The only time I went to National Museum was when we were required to see Spoliarium and other paintings by Philippine National Artists, as part of arts appreciation chapter in our Humanities class. I find it strange (and a bit of shame) to have not been visiting our very own museum, while I find time to explore the foreign ones. Hence, I’ve booked this tour (with a college friend who I thought might want to revisit the place, too) before coming home for a vacation.
(Literally old age books displayed in one of the galleries in the museum)
I particularly joined John Silva’s tour. (He is the Senior Consultant of the National Museum. I’ve read stuff about how good he is in walking you by to History.) However, I didn’t know there are ‘two museums’ until he emailed me the map few days before the tour. My friend and I confidently agreed, “But there’s only one National Museum, wherein it says it’s the National Museum”. So we found out that the main museum is actually the Museum of the Filipino People located in the former Department of Finance Building. And the National Museum that we know is currently called the National Gallery of Art, which is an extension of the museum.
True enough, John Silva is a brilliant history tour guide. He knows what he says and to my delight he has imparted a huge amount of details that I didn’t find in history books nor discussed in Philippine and Asian Histories. In this three-hour tour, I never got bored, but just consistently fascinated by the humorous and sensible sharing by Mr. Silva. There are 14 galleries, and I think all of these are interesting. These are among my favorites, in no particular order:
(a) The two paintings about Magellan’s visit
In this one, you will note the subservience of the Filipinos upon his arrival and introduction of new ideas.
I find the second interpretation of Magellan’s visit more realistic. I always thought that there must be some resistance from Filipinos, aside from Lapu Lapu’s explicit try.
(b) Salinta Monon’s corner
She is allegedly the last known Bagobo weaver. She was one of the two Manlilikha ng Bayan Awardees of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCAA) in 1998. Here’s an interesting article where her being a nobody in her hometown in Bansalan, Davao Del Sur was tackled.
Salinta was still a little girl when she had watched her mother’s nimble hands glide over the loom, weaving traditional Bagobo textile using fragile abaca fibers. At 12, she presented herself to her mother to be taught how to weave. Her ardent desire to excel in the art of her ancestors enabled her to learn quickly.
According to her, it takes her 3 to 4 months to finish a fabric 3.5 meters by 42 centimeters in length or one abaca tube skirt per month. “It takes time but the result is great,” she admits.
(c) The Shell Midden
I’ve touched the shells many times. These are model middens, though. It must be very interesting to see real life middens, containing debris of human activities and remains of their meals.
(d) Strange images
The museum has a collection of images like these and grouped them according to profiles, distinction in eyebrows, shape of head, etc. It is indicative of the origin of the individuals that primitive Filipinos have interacted in the past.
(e) The jars
Among the artifacts and artworks displayed, I felt insanely delighted by the plenty and different types of jars.
The dragon jars, seemingly China jars, and many others are some of the proofs that even before the colonizers came in, the Filipinos had an existing trading relationship with people from other areas of the world (the Galleon Trade explanation by Mr. Silva was very awakening).
I find these jars very weird. It might be artistic for some eyes. But it is said that some of the natives were probably fascinated by image of breast that it inspired a jar’s structure.
(f) (Authentic) old sailors wheel
As told by Mr. Silva, tourists/guests would spend several hours in this area staring (and mesmerized by) at this rare find.
(g) In the main museum itself and the National Gallery of Art, there hang excellent paintings.
Among Fernando Amorsolo’s pieces, I particularly liked this one. It’s very alive, the actual piece captured the color and profiles of a Filipina.
There are also paintings of previous American officers during their colonization and of previous presidents of the Philippines (up to Ferdinand Marcos). The gallery included the imeldific first lady. Imelda looks so grand. My late grandparents are Marcos loyalists. They must be thrilled to see this.
You will notice the damage in the upper and lower portions of the painting. These were ruined during the time the piece was taken from Malacanang.
There were also paintings which themes were based on the suffering from the colonization.
This one is bittersweet. This has wonderfully illustrated the reality of that era.
It seems like the most appealing pieces are those drawn based on the sad corner of the past.
An interpretation of Philippines’ death. It must be liberating to see these paintings for real.
You will feel literally victorious with this piece. One of my big favorites in the gallery.
(With Mr. Silva standing.) The Spoliarium and I met again. This time not for my Humanities class. As shared by Mr. Silva,
This painting (submitted to Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884, where it garnered a gold medal) inspired the young Jose Rizal, then a medical student and a close friend to Juan Luna and Felix Resureccion Hildalgo. Rizal, in his toast to the two artists at a celebration several weeks after, congratulated them and proceeded to declare the end of colonial patriarchy. After all, he reasons, if Filipinos can now equal the Spaniards in the arts, why couldn’t we be equal in political rights? It was a turning point for young Rizal. He had made a declaration. Several months later, he was involved in campus demonstrations and began to write the first sentences to his anti-colonial novel, “Noli Me Tangere.” The medical student’s career path was irrevocably altered, and he dedicated the rest of his life and even gave up his life for his country. It all started with a painting in front of us.
I didn’t get to have a really decent take of the Spoliarium. After a few shots, I was reprimanded by the museum personnel that it’s not allowed to be photographed (just this one). Thank you, you didn’t ask me to delete the concerned shots.
This painting is allegedly done by one of the Filipino artists. There is little information about the woman in the painting. Story says that this was donated by her children, after the painting was found in the basement (after their mother’s death). The signature bears the Philippines mark, hence, they decided to donate this instead of them maintaining it.
These are some of Mr. Silva’s collections which are showcased, too, in one of the 14 galleries.
(This is the area fronting the National Gallery of Art. You will see there Lyceum of the Philippines, one of the universities housed in Intramuros.)
The three-hour tour is time well-spent. You will feel prouder of being a Filipino once you’re done with it. Having Mr. Silva in your group makes a big difference. The artifacts, artwork, and every piece get a real meaning through his dedicated sharing of our past.
As you turn right, you will be directed to Manila City Hall’s clock, the Philippine version of Big Ben
Tour fee is Php 700 for adults and Php 500 for children up to 18 years old. A portion of the fees will go to I LOVE MUSEUM Program, bringing public school teachers to the National Museum to appreciate the arts and later bring their students. It is said that studies show that the arts educated children raise their academic achievements, promotes love of reading and become better citizens.
Kindly make your reservations by sending an email to John Silva through firstname.lastname@example.org, or you may reach him at +639267299029
0 thoughts on “Museum of the Filipino People”
haven’t been inside the national museum nor the museum of the filipino people. I didn’t know that it’s the latter one is the museum itself.
btw, the binondo food wok chinese new year edition with Ivan was really good. grabe super busog ako. Had fun.
I was actually surprised that they allowed you to take pictures as most museums don’t. Thank you for sharing the tour.
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I love the paintings that depicted history – Magellan, Japanese invasion. I think that’s because my thesis was related to World War II Philippines. I’ve never visited any museums in the Philippines. It would be nice if it is encouraged by the school system as well. This is another to do on my list when I visit the Philippines. Thank you.
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Thanks for the tour. 🙂
Did the museum personnel mean you couldn’t take a picture of just the Spoilarium or did they mean all the paintings/artifacts? My experience with museums is that they don’t allow any picture-taking. 🙂
Wils last blog post..Scrubs
First, thank you for a wonderful summary of the tour you took with me. On taking photographs inside, the museum allows it for so long as you do not use flash. And for so long as you do not have so much stuff (tripods and the like) that bothers others.
Unless you are a serious photographer, I discourage people taking pictures altogether because after awhile, it’s the picturetaking that dominates, rather than a serious meditative effort being in a museum.
See you all at the National Museum.
John L. Silva
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Thanks for sharing.
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I love this post. My nationalism and patriotism has been been awakened because of this. Time to have a scheduled tour of Luzon, and I would like to include this in my sched.
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Nakakalungkot at the same time nakakahiya. In my college days, I pass that place every day since its near my university, yet it never sits in my mind to visit our heritage. I’ll take note of that next time I’m home.
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This is such a great post. I love your shots (including the sneaky ones). These artworks are amazing and one must realise that the Philippines has a lot of talent! The history and culture must be valued and respected. Sometimes one has to remind these generations that it is still a great country.
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i was in the same area early last month but i never took pictures. the spoliarium is truly a majestic piece of work.
Rach (Heart of Rachel)
I’m not sure but I think I have been there when I was young (on a field trip).
Thanks for sharing these great photos. The artifacts and paintings are amazing. Like you, the Amorsolo painting of the Filipina woman immediately caught my eye. It’s a lovely image of youth and a promising future. The painting of the former first lady is beautiful.
Rach (Heart of Rachel)s last blog post..Weekend Snapshot #58
heehee. having been in the museum trade for a while, aside from the artifacts and art, i love looking at the installation techniques that local museums use. i haven’t been into the national museum for a couple of years though. last time i went, only a few galleries had opened.
did you go to see the gold show at ayala? brilliant! 😉
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did mr. silva tell you that it was the Luna’s Spoliarium that ignited the revolution? i was surprised to learn that fact. 🙂
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Wonderful art and hey, nice coverage ! I ought to see this museum when I visit Pinas next time 😎
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Buti they allowed you to take photos. When we were there one time in college bawal daw yung pictures.
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sobrang galing talaga ni j.luna sa spoliarium anoh? talagang obra mastra! 🙂
sayang naman yung sa painting ni imelda. sana maayos pa para naman mas tumagal pa ng mahabang mahaba 🙂
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looks like P700 worth spending. our date (A and I) was an adventure rather than a tour. 🙂 but i’m so envious!!! a picture of the Spoliarium!!! *sigh*
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I noticed too that it is mostly the balikbayans who take these sort of tours. It all boils down to feeling more nationalistic after one has lived overseas for a certain period of time.
So thanks for making us aware about these tours which are affordable and in the process enrich our knowledge and make us more appreciate our colorful history.
Great shots. I’m surprised that pictures are allowed. They shouldn’t be allowed imho. It takes away the fun from actually listening to the tour guide’s narrative.
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so glad you did this! i loved this tour too!
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hi… anyone, is there a payment in having a tour inside the national mueseum? if there is how much will it cost ? please give some reply to my question…
Salinata Monon, featured in the museum just died last week.
Glad to hear that the national museum nowadays is clean and well-organized, hope to re-visit someday. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
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“The medical student’s career path was irrevocably altered, and he dedicated the rest of his life and even gave up his life for his country. It all started with a painting in front of us.”
Indeed. Thank you for sharing your photos and insights as well. 🙂
You’re welcome. I checked your blog, you’ve been to the museum, too. Thanks for dropping by!
ang ganda ng pilpinas ang saya pagaralan and history nito im a grade 5 student from a private school santa isabel college
nung pumunta kami sa national gallery of art LIBRE lang po siya . may bayad lang dun sa bagong national museum ( the yellow one ) kung di ako nagkakamali aabot lang ng 30php yun for students pero 80php ata kapag foreigner 🙂
Have you any idea where i can find a staff listing of the Philippine national museum? I really need help. Thanks! 🙂
I have a piece of money worth 5 pesos in the 1890s. what to do with it?
Jemma@ Traveling in the Philippines
I wish I could also touch the shell midden. I’m curious to see the remains of their meals.
ask ko lang if maa-accommodate parin ba ako if di sia tour..i mean ako lang personally pupunta…o marami po ako makakasabay sa tour….salamat po