Tag Archive: National Museum

Back at the National Museum to attend the Museum Foundation’s Lecture Series on Batanes. No less than Architect Toti Villalon gave the lecture with a few prominent residents of Batanes in the audience. But we were more than an hour early for the lecture. So we found ourselves meandering from hall to hall, trying to avoid the student crowds who filled the Hall of the Masters.




The National Art Gallery/ National Museum with the Clock Tower of the Manila City Hall in the background.



We were drawn to the Amorsolo portraits — thinking how lucky those high society people were to pose for this National Artist. But one particular portrait got our full attention. Having just visited the newly-restored Old Senate Hall within the National Art Gallery (the same building used to house the Legislature), we were pleasantly surprised to find a hunk of a statesman in the twice-elected Speaker of the House.




Guess who? No less than the Speaker of the House (twice elected) Jose B. Laurel Jr.



With those looks, it’s tempting to think the Legislature consisted mainly of women. But this Presidential son (he is the eldest of 9 children of ex-President Jose P. Laurel) and Vice-Presidential brother (Doy Laurel, the man who withdrew his presidential ambitions in favor of Cory Aquino to run and win as Vice President) earned every laurel (pun intended) on his head. He made a bid for the Vice Presidency himself, but lost to Diosdado Macapagal, who went on to become President and whose daughter likewise became President. These days, they call it political dynasty. But the Laurels have all proven their worth, and for a “political clan”, remains low-profile and unassuming. Surely, their patriarch, President Jose P. Laurel, knew how to raise a BIG family.




Died not too long ago. Lived a quiet life though his family remained in the political limelight.

Originally intended as a public library but subsequently built to house the Legislature, this magnificent building designed by Juan Arellano was a casualty during the Battle of Manila in 1945. It was reconstructed in 1946 based on the original plans and remained the august halls of the Senate of the Philippines until it moved out in 1996. It took nearly a decade to transform this architectural treasure into what it is now: the official repository of national arts, treasures, archaeological finds and historical relics. The National Art Gallery of our very own National Museum.





The Old Senate of the Philippines. Fully restored!


Check out this hall where many statesmen of old (a rarity now) used to walk!



Whenever I visit the Museum, I always start with the Hall of Masters. It’s like paying your respects to geniuses the likes of Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. If that P150 (US$4) admission fee entitles one to a viewing of Luna’s Spoliarium and Hidalgo’s Assassination of Governor Bustamante ALONE, it would have been worth it. But there’s more. LOTS MORE. One visit won’t be enough.




The ornate ceiling in the Old Senate Hall within the National Art Gallery.


The Marker of the Old Senate Hall of the Philippines.



The Old Senate Hall has been completely restored. Here, where many revered statesmen walked the very floors and whose walls echoed many speeches from statesmen whose names now grace many street signs, shrines and monuments. Thank you, National Museum for allowing us to reconnect with our past. Thank you, Jeremy Barns, Museum Director, and everyone else who made this possible.




How many National Anthems were played in this Hall?


The Entrance to the National Art Gallery.


Lovely Building. Next up: Museum of Natural History. In the same area!

My afternoon was suddenly freed up, so how best to spend the time? The sun’s out and a walking tour is out of the question lest I feel like having a heat stroke. Shopping is not an option. I’ve also met my quota of 2 movies max in a week. I don’t feel like reading a book as the one I’m reading now is way too serious, too profound for my taste but nevertheless deserving of a read. I’m not hungry (yet) and I’ve been considering a walk in Chinatown when the heat is more bearable. Between NOW and a dimsum and lumpia fix in Chinatown, there’s the National Art Gallery.



Juan Luna’s Spoliarium


Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo’s “Assasination of Governor Bustamante”


In my first entry, I advised going to the Museum on a full stomach. This time around, I did the rounds while my stomach constantly reminded me of kutchay dumplings in this “hole-in-the-wall” dimsum place” off Ongpin Street. Without breaking a stride, I walked up the stairs to the Art Gallery. Sans camera. Sans bag. What I needed filled my pockets.







Siri was good company when I was strolling around Madrid as it is here within Museum walls. There was no crowd so I was able to spend as much time in the Hall of Masters Luna and Hidalgo. Almost mindlessly, I walked right up to the center of the hall between Luna’s “Spoliarium” and Hidalgo’s “Assassination of Governor Bustamante”. With each masterpiece, I inched closer, as if I’d find new meaning as I view the painting up close. I took my time snapping photos with my iPhone camera. Easily, I spent 10-15 minutes in this single hall. It’s not everyday after all that you find yourself ALONE in the Hall of Masters. No crowds. No student groups. No noisy chatty teenagers! No DLSR-toting tourists. ūüôā







Both masterpieces have so many characters and it is quite interesting to read the facial expression, mannerism, body language and “aura” of each character. Now, that’s coming from a layman. I have neither the aptitude nor the training for art but I see what I see. Whatever and however the painting makes me feel is completely my own. Regardless of who painted what, I derive a certain sense of meaning. Intended or not by the artist, this is WHAT or HOW this and that painting made me feel.






I dare not share my sentiments and personal interpretations with anyone. No pretensions here. Both Luna and Hidalgo intended those masterpieces to convey a message. Whether i did get that message or not is my problem. But some may wish to dwell on the “separation of Church and State” or lack of it upon viewing Hidalgo’s “Assassination of Governor Bustamante”. Or how Luna’s very Roman scene in Spoliarium may invite discussions on human rights violations or the Filipinos’ sufferings during that time. The serious artists may deliberate on the significance of the red shade and the dominance of bodies throughout the painting, the interplay of light and shadows or whatever sounds artsy. I have no interpretation. I asked Siri and Siri delivered a well-researched Wikipedia spiel. Then I snapped away. So what I have to share with you are these close up photos from my iPhone cam. Tell me what you think!





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!

If you don’t have the time and the resources to visit all the Lakbay Jose Rizal@150 Sites, or at the very least want a glimpse of what you can find there, you may wish to do this.

One morning I visited the National Museum,  I found myself way too early before Museum hours and so I lingered around. First off,  I checked out the Balangay Diwata ng Lahi behind the National Arts Gallery. Looking at this sea vessel makes you wonder how our ancestors rode the treacherous waters in open seas back then.  Also reminds us that the ancient Pinoys were really a seafaring people and competent boat builders! Can you imagine them sailing based on their ancient methods of reading through the stars, cloud formations, and bird migration patterns?  

Balangay Diwata ng Lahi @National Arts Gallery

An hour before the Museum doors opened to the public, and having viewed the Balangay, ¬†I wandered off behind the 2 Museum Buildings and found myself walking around the Agrifina Circle where one also finds the lovely Department of Tourism Building. ¬†Standing guard over all these art-deco buildings is a huge bronze statue of Lapu Lapu. ¬†Our likely first hero way before the Spaniards ruled the land, and most certainly way before the Americans “guided” us in choosing our heroes. ;-)

Lapu Lapu Statue Standing Guard Around The Valencia or Agrifina Circle

Off on one side a few meters away is a man-made pond where a huge relief map of the Philippines is to be found, right beside the Children’s Playground. All around this pond are glass-encased photos of various Rizal heritage sites named in the Lakbay Jose Rizal@150. Aptly called One-Stop Heritage Trail, it was unveiled only last May 2011. There is no excuse now not to learn more about these sites, if only to know our national hero better, appreciate his journey through life, his struggle, and his heroism.

Relief Map of the Philippines with the LapuLapu Statue in the Background

I found myself moving from one encased photo to the next. ¬†Tried to get a decent photo, but this amateur had problems with the reflections on the glass. ¬†Epic fail. ¬†But I read through some of the relevant and interesting ¬†trivia on each encased photo and thought I’d share with you just the same these awful shots I took. Just think I’m saving you the trip. ¬†Or perhaps you can be motivated to go to get a ‘better picture’.¬†

Rizal‚Äôs boat, the S.S. Espa√Īa arrived in Dumaguete City. Dr. Rizal went ashore, visited Governor Regal of Negros Occidental, visited a classmate Herrero Regidor and operated on the captain of the Civil Guard.

The same ¬†boat, the S.S. Espa√Īa, arrived at Iloilo where¬†Dr. Rizal¬†had the chance to visit Escolta and the Church of Molo in Iloilo.¬†

Then the ¬†S.S. Espa√Īa docked in Cebu on August 2, 1896 for a routine one-day stop over. After breakfast on board, Commander Carcinero took Rizal under custody to the Spanish Military Commander of Cebu, Gen. Adulfo Montero in the Military Headquarters located in Fort San Pedro.

The official residence and administration building of the politico-military governor of the district, Rizal lived there from July 17, 1892 to March 1893 before he was transferred to Talisay, now the Rizal Dapitan Shrine.

A National Cultural Treasure in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte.  Rizal created this map as an aid in teaching history and geography to the locals while in exile from 1892 to 1896.


I took notice of this lamp post. Love the base with the calesa design. Thought this lamp post is far better than all those multi-colored cheap-looking lightposts you find all over Metro Manila.  

There were more photos on display around the pond where you see the relief map of the Philippines. But it is now time to head back to the Museum.