I have appreciated and gotten high looking at the art in Louvre and Musee D’Orsay in Paris, the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Vatican Museums in Rome, and the Met in New York, but I have not even visited the museums (at least in the age of my enlightenment) of my own country. Mind you though, my Bachelor’s thesis is about Philippine contemporary art. I only managed to appreciate them from coffee table books, but never saw them in the museum. I carry this guilt in me, and a greater guilt within me for being lazy to just go discouraged by traffic, and parking woes.
I finally had a chance to go to even to not just one, but FIVE! museums in just one day. Our school’s MAPEH department organized a museum visit during the semestral break for the Arts and Music teachers. When I heard about it, I insisted to go with them as long as the vehicle can bring one more passenger, and that I will pay for my own meal and entrance fees. I was given permission – YES! – and we were off on that happy Tuesday.
Ms. MG, our MAPEH Coordinator prepared an amazing brochure (for the lack of downloadable brochures online), and I am sharing it with you here:
The art quotations are well-chosen because they spark ideas.
Let me now run through with you what to expect in each museum.
- The Museum at De La Salle University – Manila
- 2401 Taft Ave., Metro Manila (2nd Floor Yuchengco Building)
- 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Mondays to Fridays)
- 9:00 AM – 12:00 NN (Saturdays)
- Fee: P25.00 (Filipinos), P50.00 (Foreigners), Free for DLSU employees
- Suggested duration of visit: 1 hour
- Picture-taking not allowed. Bags are left with the guard.
During our visit, the focus of the chosen art featured in the museum was allegories. The museum was accented by various statements on visual allegory. One example I like is:
A visual allegory communicates its meaning through symbolic figures. Reflecting an event or story of our societies, an artwork feature allegorical figures or symbols, offers meaning beneath the surface level.
Inside, you are given samples of Ang Kiukok’s sketches, Botong Francisco’s rendition of patriotism, BenCab’s impressions of the Filipino, and many other samplers from Filipino contemporary artists. It was great to start with this museum because it was not overwhelming, but caffeinated enough our sleepy interests to build a slow but steady awakening into the addictive high of art which we were about to see at The Metropolitan Museum.
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Manila
- Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Roxas Blvd. Manila
- 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM (Mondays to Saturdays)
- Fee: P100 (Regular), P80 (Senior Citizen and Differently-abled)
- Free guided tours on Saturdays at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM
- Suggested duration of visit: 2 hours
- Must not miss: Installation Art, Joya, Sanso, and Saguil
- Picture-taking not allowed. Bags are allowed inside.
When you arrive at The Met, you are greeted by a jolly plump guard who is willing to be comedic to entertain the seemingly serious visitors who want to critique art. He’s the best comic relief to a highly intellectual activity. Sadly, this museum is not academe friendly – no discounts for teachers and students. Read: “Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas”. Kidding! 🙂 I understand fully how expensive it is to curate and preserve art, especially those gold artifacts in their vault at the basement of The Met! WOW!
The highlight of this museum is that the Philippine contemporary art pieces are organized by period. The Met visit will give you a glimpse of the artistic trend during a span of a decade or so. It shows you also how an artist’s style evolves as new philosophies are introduced. Does the artist imbibe the new style, or does he stick to his own?
You will love the Juan Luna and Amorsolo samples to abstract artists like Hernando Ocampo, and other more contemporary artists who already exhibit “installation art”. The latter must be the highlight of your visit rather than the paintings themselves.
Of course, The Met visit is never complete without the visit to their vault at the basement where they keep the precious metals and pottery. Along the corridor that divides the two media are religious artifacts and statues date all the way back to the 18th Century. On one side, the smell of old pottery work pervades. You will be amazed by the hand-made variety of pottery work throughout the ages. On the other side, appreciate the gold accessories that pre-Spanish inhabitants of our country molded, designed and wore to differentiate the classes in their tribe. They look like cheap designs, but appreciate the intricacy of the details placed into the molding in an era without technology. It is only from this perspective that you will appreciate this genre of art.
3. The National Museum of the Philippines
- Padre Burgos Drive, Rizal Park, Manila
- 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Tuesdays to Sundays)
- P150 (Adult), P120 (Senior Citizen), P50 (Student with valid ID) – See website for big group discounts, Free during National Museum Month (October)
- Picture-taking allowed, bags to be left with guard (small body bags okay)
- Suggested duration of visit: 2 hours
- Must not miss: Spoliarium, Manansala pieces, Joya, Botong Francisco, Hidalgo, Villanueva collections
This museum should not be missed by every Filipino. It showcases all Philippine art works. It highlights and gives the deserved throne at the center of the museum Juan Luna’s Spoliarium. It deserves the visitors critical eyes. Let your eyes wander across the award-winning painting in Madrid (second place is taken by another Filipino artist, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo). Appreciate the chiaroscuro – discover the source of light, where it falls, and leaves the plane. Appreciate the perspective, the detail, the edges, the direction of the strokes. Purposeful art and techniques make the experience of the beholder a little more exciting I should say.
In your stay, enjoy the amazing early cubist-realist tendencies of Vicente Manansala in portraying the evangelization of the Philippines. Feast your eyes on the abstract art of Joya – the play of shapes and shades. Compare that with H. R. Ocampo’s style. Observe his sketches of how he chose his colors and patterns. Appreciate abstract art by matching the artwork title with the actual art. See how the title reflects the choice of colors, pressure placed on the stroke, the overlapping of paint, the choice of medium.
Simply discover the beauty in apparently simple, but really complicated pieces of art and let your soul soar!
4. Yuchengco Museum
- RCBC Plaza Gil Puyat Ave. corner Ayala Avenue, Makati City
- 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Mondays to Saturdays)
- Fee: P100 (Adults), P50 (Students), P25 (Children and Senior Citizens)
- Picture-taking allowed; small bags allowed, big bags need to be left with the guard
- Suggested duration of visit: 1 hour
The Yuchengco Museum houses the art pieces that the Ambassador Alfonso T. Yuchengco owns. He is obviously an art collector. He has an extensive collection of Rizal memorabilia: samples of his work, handwriting, and pieces of furniture form Rizal’s home. The art is organized per artist, so this helps the visitors to develop a concept of the artistic style of a particular artist based on sample works. He has a wide collection of paintings by Fernando Amorsolo, Juan Luna and Botong Francisco. Admire the floating zen garden that you wished you had at home.
The best way to divide and conquer this small museum is to start from the highest floor down to the ground floor – tip given by the museum guard.
Here, enjoy some museum gifts and art books at their little bookstore, and have your picture taken in front of Eduardo Castrillo’s “Spirit of EDSA” monument. Yes, the same one who did the People Power monument along EDSA. While you’re there, pass by their food court to have coffee or even a full meal. Amazing food court!
5. The Ayala Museum
- Makati Avenue corner Dela Rosa St. Makati City (Between Greenbelt 4 and 5)
- 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Tuesdays to Sundays)
- Fee: P225 (Resident Adult full admission), P125 (Resident Student, full admission), Free for Teachers with school ID or PRC ID – See website for rates for basic admission and foreigners
- Picture-taking allowed only on the Ground floor and 2nd floors; small bags okay, big bags to be left with the guard
- Suggestion duration of visit: 3 hours
Our last stop was the Ayala Museum. The services available and curation are at par with international standards I should say. Audio guides are available for borrowing on an iPod for only P75, tourist maps are available here for free. The visit comes with a complimentary guide of the museum.
Like in the Yuchengco Museum, you would like to start from the top floor going down. For every collection, a viewing room explaining the collection is available for you to watch at your convenience if you are not in a hurry. The collection of gold and wares on the fourth floor is less overwhelming than that of The Met.
Going down to the third floor, appreciate Fernando Zobel’s abstract arts. Learn a little Spanish to understand the titles so you can practice matching titles with the seemingly meaningless blotches of paint and sketched grid lines on a typical Zobel work of art. On the same floor, you will find the Museum gift shop. Find time to see some souvenirs you might want to bring home.
The favorite of all visitors is probably the 2nd floor where the dioramas are. I grew up in highschool making dioramas for projects – it’s like that is the only project we could think of doing then. The ones found here exemplify how our dioramas should have been made! It is numbered in order of events with “1” being the coming of the Aetas into the Philippines. The diorama exhibition ends with the EDSA revolution.
Appreciate the detail placed into making the dioramas. They are well done, and do help visualize Philippine history for the learning mind. This is also the floor where you can take pictures. Don’t miss out on the the model Spanish ships that landed our shores. It’s amazing work.
On the Ground Floor, take time to see the changing exhibit. On the day we were there, there was an exhibit of Mexican paintings. You can download the museum map here to help you plan ahead of your visit.
That ends our ultimate 5-museum field trip. The suggested duration isn’t what we followed that day. We spent lesser time in the museums than I would have suggested and wanted to. But if you ask me the essential museums, these are (and in this order roof priority):
- The National Museum
- The Metropolitan Museum of Manila
- Ayala Museum
Art is for everyone. You just need a great tour guide to help you appreciate it. I have always believed that people from all classes can appreciate art. Anyone with a soul is capable to doing so.