Tag Archive: Museum

Having visited the Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, Ilocos Norte last July seems to have driven us to search for more Lunas. Or rather, to dig deeper into the mind of this great patriot and artist. More than his art, there is that most interesting if not tragic side to this hero’s life.

Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc , Ilocos Norte

The tour guide here should be commended. Not easy to hold the attention of my 2 elves, aged 10 and 13, the whole hour we were here. I particularly liked how he presented Luna to us as the artist while talking of the gold award he won in a Madrid art competition with the masterpiece, “Spoliarium”. A copy hangs in this Shrine while the original adorns the Masters Hall in the National Art Gallery. Or Luna as a romantic with a painting of “Una Bulaquena” where the original painting used to hang in Malacanang Palace till it was transferred to the National Art Gallery.

The Original

The Original

In one trip to the National Art Gallery, the Luna paintings showed how his art has evolved through the years spent in Madrid and Paris. But what caught my attention were some Luna paintings with no attribution. Was it Juan or Manuel who painted these? Jose Rizal once said Manuel , the brother of Juan and Antonio Luna, is the better painter but Manuel chose to study music instead.

That Little Girl Reminds Me of Someone Named Luna

My search brought me to a Lecture Series on Juan Luna at the GSIS where its museum proudly hangs the celebrated GSIS investment in a Luna painting entitled “A Parisian Life”. Michael “Xiao” Chua gave the lecture which allowed us listeners to understand another side of Juan Luna. For the most part of the lecture, Xiao dwelled on the life and tragedy of this great artist. It is up to us viewers to relate these trivia to how his art has evolved. I am no art connoisseur but it is not difficult to differentiate the masterful but intense strokes exhibited in the “Spolarium” versus the softer, milder, even playful art gleaned from “A Parisian Life” .

The Parisien Life at the GSIS Museum. But not for long. Who is buying?

The Wife Paz......Tragically Shot by Juan Luna

Xiao disclosed that the painting Parisian Life is up for sale. So, who is buying? It will be recalled that the sale and purchase of this artwork was so enmeshed in controversy in recent past. It has certainly gone a long way from the Bahay Nakpil-Bautista in Quiapo to the Hongkong auction house to GSIS Museum. In whose walls would it hang next? Xiao laments the possibility of having this painting stashed away in some foreign land. Much like the Battle of Lepanto, another masterpiece of Juan Luna, which has been hanging in the Senate walls in Madrid, Spain. So with the “Death of Cleopatra” which is on display at the prestigious Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain. Anyone care to shell out a hefty sum to keep this national treasure here at home where it belongs?

Battle of Lepanto @ Madrid, Spain.

Let me ask……..when was the last time you visited the Museum?


Don’t look at me. It’s something I don’t do on a regular basis. But I would love to spend many afternoons there. And I continue to wish there is a good coffee corner somewhere within the building where I can take a break before pursuing a second run of the Gallery.



The National Art Gallery with the Balangay Diwata ng Lahi



As it turned out, I was good for just a couple of hours. No breaks. Glucose level drops in 2 hours after walking from Hall to Hall , up and down the 3 floors. And then I start longing for a cup of good brew and some munchies. Having said that, let me advise you to go in the morning after a good breakfast! Or in the afternoon after a good lunch ūüėČ



The Museum Of the Filipino People



When I got there, I decided to do the National Art Gallery first. The Museum of the Filipino People is good for a separate visit. “Slow by slow.” ūüėČ Who says you can rush through a Museum? The best time is always a time when you don’t care about the time. Go slow. Read all those markers. Every piece of art has something to say. Either written or visual or sensed. If you’re like me who hardly picks up an art or history book, this maybe a fine time to brush up on art and history. You just have to trust that the most relevant information are encapsulated in all those reading materials and markers.



Juan Luna

Felix Ressureccion Hidalgo‚Äôs ‚ÄúAssassination of Governor Bustamante‚ÄĚ



You may want to start with the Hall of Masters. Be prepared to be blown away. Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium” has that effect on most people. On the other hand, Hidalgo’s “Assassination of Governor Bustamante” reveals a violent side of Spanish friars of that period. See it to know what I mean. Sly. Sly.



There are special halls showcasing the Museum collections of Juan Luna, Hidalgo, Amorsolo, Botong Francisco, Napoleon Abueva, etc. I cannot write about all of them, and would have to limit myself to a few favorites. After all, the “selection” is a very personal decision. No pretensions here. In my book, art assumes significance when these treasured pieces “talk” to me. Or “touch” me. I may misinterpret its message, or completely misunderstand it. But why and how the message was conveyed to me is entirely my own perception. Or sensation? This may sound like it takes too much away from the artist himself. But I dare say that the artists’ messages affect people in different ways. Happy, sad, empty, peaceful, anxious, relaxing, refreshing, uplifting…… we feel as we feel.



How lucky were those who posed for Amorsolo! They have been immortalized by this National Artist’s magical hands. Truly, a “Pamana” or inheritance. Amorsolo’s legacy lives through these masterpieces. Thank God for this prolific painter, our very first National Artist. From Philippine landscapes to traditional Filipino practices and everyday life , to these portraits, one is transported back in time as one takes in all those details of his artful strokes. For sure, his uncle Fabian de la Rosa, another great Filipino artist, must be so proud having mentored Amorsolo in his younger days when he and his family (Amorsolo’s mom is De La Rosa’s cousin) lived with them after Amorsolo’s father died.






First off, I was very very happy to find the Museum Foundation Hall where one views Botong Francisco’s murals which were ‘rescued’ by the Foundation from Philippine General Hospital (PGH) where they were earlier housed. The murals represent the progress of medicine in our country, so it was fitting to have them in PGH. Over time, these art pieces hardly invited attention, much less admiration and respect, as PGH visitors had other mundane things in mind. Cleaned up, restored to its former glory, and accorded its due respect in a Hall focusing on the greatness of this National Artist is an answered prayer. Aaaaah. Those wooden benches looking like “hagabis” (were they? ) let one rest and simply take in all the beauty of the masterpieces.





Vessels of Faith. That’s what it says. Honestly? I don’t know one bit about this exhibit. So, I devoured all “lessons” to be learned right in this Hall. Remember what I told you? The good guys who made this exhibit possible would have read up on these art pieces, and like “Twitter” are constrained to write down/display all that information in as few words as possible. This is history “shortcut”, if I may call it that. And it is just what I need. Right then and there, I did my “cramming” as if I would have to pass an exam as I exit from the National Art Gallery.





So, how much do we know of the Tau-Tao? A quick reading gives ample background on this Bagobo myth on afterlife. The myth is complete with all those colorful characters which reminded me of those Ramayana tales and Panday movies. Imagine Lumabat’s journey from earth, crossing the horizon to reach the skyworld. Meeting and vanquishing a snake with sharp teeth and a mouth that opens wide and shut to cut one person half, chasing a deer 9 times around the world, belly-opening procedures to take out one’s intestines to free Lumabat of his earthly desires (hunger)! Oh, this is part of our history — all those pre-Hispanic beliefs and myths comprising the Filipino spirituality!






I lament that I did not take my history lessons seriously. How I wish we had the equivalent of an Ambeth Ocampo (myIdol) in my student years! Now I cram. And it takes more than a few visits to really appreciate our heritage housed in the National Arts Gallery. So much. Too much. So I have decided on my “slow by slow” mode as my memory bank is not as efficient as it used to be. A few exhibits at a time. A few artists at a time. And once more, how I wish there is a Coffee Shop within the Museum! Caffeine-starved, my memory bank screams “full”. No storage space.



Talk to you later, guys!

BenCab Museum is more than just a museum.  


We came , knowing we won’t get disappointed with this National Artist’s works and art collections. ¬† Learning more about the indigenous art in this neck of the woods comes as a bonus . Appreciating how BenCab’s art evolved through the years since he dropped out of college to emerge as a Master of Contemporary Art is ¬†a natural consequence. Beyond all these, we were still surprised to find that behind the Museum is a farm and garden where one can arrange an eco-trail tour to meander around duck ponds, a forest, a layered garden imitating the famous rice terraces, ¬†typical indigenous architecture of the Ifugao, Kalinga and Bontoc. ¬†We wandered around the pond, crossed a charming wooden bridge leading to a small kiosk overlooking a mini forest and a river meandering through the property along with a cascading waterfalls on one end of the property.



We found BenCab Museum on our way to Baguio City. ¬†From Marcos Highway, we turned left at Kilometer 6 Asin Road, Tadiangan, Tuba, Benguet. ¬†It would be another 4.5 kilometers till we reached the Museum. Admission is 100 pesos. ¬†The place is only a 15 minute ride from Baguio City Center, passing the Woodcarvers’ Village along Asin Street. ¬†There are jeeps to Asin from the jeepney terminal found near Baguio market. Just be sure you don’t go on a Monday when the Museum is closed.



Since we arrived noontime, ¬†we were pleased to find that the Museum has a charming dining place called Cafe Sabel right on the Farm and Garden Level. ¬† There is a good menu selection ranging from the very local “Longsilog” ¬†consisting of the Baguio Longganiza or local sausages, served with an egg and fried mountain rice, ¬† to the more continental soup, salad and sandwich combination, ¬†to chicken cacciatore, pork schnitzel and a number of pasta selections. ¬† We ate our lunch here on a table with an open wide window overlooking the farm and garden.



Interestingly,  Cafe Sabel was named after a somewhat mad, bag lady  whom the artist observed and sketched from a window of a house somewhere in Bambang, Tondo where he lived for a time. In his mind, this mad scavenger must have been a symbol of dislocation, poverty, hopelessness  and isolation.  

In the lovely words penned by Rene Guatlo:

“This vagrant woman is one of the best known muses of the artist’s storied career. In her plainness, he saw beauty.

In her anonymity, he saw an individual person who chose to live as she saw fit.

In her weakness, he saw her native¬†wit and strength. It is a tribute to BenCab that what he saw, what he painted, are what endure.”



The painting of rooftops was when the artist was still relatively young. ¬†Easily one of my favorites along with the Sabel pieces and the painting of 3 masked men. ¬† Taking off from the rooftop painting, one can observe how his art has evolved through the years. ¬†There is even a special gallery in the Museum called Erotica. ¬†From sensual paintings to erotic woodcarvings and sculptures, this room may overwhelm your senses. ¬†ūüėČ



And then there is the collection of indigenous art from the Cordillera region.  Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Apayao and Baguio City make up the Cordillera Region.  It happens to be the ONLY landlocked region in the country encompassing most of the areas within the Cordillera Central mountain range of Luzon, the largest range in the country.


The Museum showcases the skills of Igorots in weaving and basketry,  and the woodcarving skills of the Ifugaos.   Notably,  it was the Ifugaos who carved the Banaue rice terraces in the Cordillera mountainside 3,000 years ago. 



In the middle of the Cordillera Gallery is this very long wooden bench called “hagabi”. Carved from a single piece of wood, ¬†the “hagabi” is a symbol of wealth and social prestige among the Ifugaos. ¬†The “ritual” involves the hosting of a public feast where priests (called “Mumbaki”) perform a ceremony called “mamaldang” to determine if the omens for the creation of the hagabi bench are favorable. ¬†If so, ¬†the ritual begins with the search for the right tree (usually a narra) , the journey of the woodcarvers to the forest to select, cut and carve the tree, ¬†and the villagers taking turns in transporting the carved hagabi bench out of the forest through mountain trails . This activity takes several days and ends with more days of eating, drinking of rice wine and dancing. ¬†Quite an elaborate feast, if you ask me. ¬†And I am reminded of the ceremonies attendant to the creation and carving of totem poles in Alaska to mark a “special event or milestone” . ¬†Interesting.



The last room we visited was the Maestro Gallery.  Here one finds a selection of works by Joya, Edades, Aguinaldo, Chabet, Legazpi, Luz, Magsaysay-Ho, Sanso, Zobel and other masters.   The Museum definitely does justice to this art collection.  All of 3 levels plus the Farm and Garden Level,  the BenCab Museum makes for an afternoon well-spent.   For sure,  I will come visiting again in my next Baguio trip. Perhaps spend more time in the Farm and Garden, or just sit it out in one of the kiosks in the middle of the duck pond.  Who knows?  The Cafe Sabel may even have a resident Chef by then.  Or am I expecting too much?