Tag Archives: arts

Ma-ARTe Manila Museums Field Guide – An Attempt

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:

Museum Field Trip Brochure Outside Museum Field Trip Brochure Inside

The art quotations are well-chosen because they spark ideas.

Let me now run through with you what to expect in each museum.

  1. 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.

The 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.

The Met

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!

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IMG_7375 Tolentino Collections

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.

Diorama samples

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):

  1. The National Museum
  2. The Metropolitan Museum of Manila
  3. 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.

Cheers!

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The Phantom of the Opera – Manila 2012

I again have the fortune of watching another West End hit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) with my family yesterday, September 9, 2012. What I like about Broadway shows is that they are already coming to Manila. Filipinos need not go to New York or London or even just Singapore to watch West End and Broadway shows. I’m just also glad that CCP has allowed these tours to use the main theater, and that the CCP Main Theater has the requirements of the tour.

In my New York visits, I was not able to watch The Phantom of the Opera, and now I am able to see it here in my own home country! It is a joy to be able to watch famous musicals in the Philippines. My family and I were looking forward to this day. I was just raring to watch my favorite Phantom songs sung on stage as opposed to just listening to them.

First impressions

I have not read in full the plot and sequence of events of the Phantom. In my experience, I would normally see a glimpse of the beauty and majesty of the set design upon entering the theater. What I saw was a gloomy set filled with gray curtains.

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The stage set upon entering the theater.

The first scene is the auctioning of the items from the closed down opera house. The stage was so dark you could hardly see the faces of the characters, but you could still, though faintly, recognize the emotions from the main character. This first scene lasts for just 5 minutes and as the story flashbacks to the glory days of the Opera House, the gray curtains reveal its original majesty.

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The majestic stage design with the trademark chandelier.

First impressions don’t last. They lasted only 5 minutes for this one. 🙂 Now, I don’t want to spoil your viewing of the show by giving too many details, so let me go straight to my humble appreciation for the production.

Set Design

The set is just amazing. They probably have three different curtains they play with. The effectively used these to fill the stage. In certain scenes, the curtains are half-drawn, almost alluding to the scarred half face of the Phantom. It also effectively covered the other half of the stage for the element of surprise most especially in the opening of Act II with “Masquerade”.

The opera within a musical was a great opportunity to showcase elaborate designs for the three different operas within Phantom. Aside from that, the operas came in the right frequency to break the drama since they also served as a comic relief, and the climax of the show. Genius this Andrew Lloyd Webber indeed!

What you need to watch out for in this production are the visual effects. You would be amazed and you are left to wonder how they would execute the boat ride scenes (how will the boat move on stage?!), the hundred candles that appear suddenly on stage without burning anything. The best scenes and those that require most technology are those set in Phantom’s lair. My favorite scene though is the scene where Christine Daaé bowed down to the audience after her opera performance because suddenly you are brought “backstage” instead of having the feeling of being the audience for the operas. That kinda tickled my brain. 🙂

Another favorite set is Christine’s dressing room with a big mirror where the Phantom appears. The mirror was angled properly to make the tiny dressing room look to have more space.

Performance

There is nothing to comment much about set design since standards in design are pretty much dictated upon by the original designers and directors. Same goes with the fidelity to the original script and even acting and dance sequences. What remain are the skills of the members of the cast.

Since I have no basis of comparison for Phantom other than the soundtrack which I have been listening to for many years now, I will give my simple critique of the performers.

The singing is just superb. I should say that their voice quality is comparable and at par with the original performers’. I had a difficult time distinguishing the singers on the live show from the CD. Both are just as good. For the die hard fans, they would probably be disappointed with some singing style that differs slightly from the original, but they are negligible and you should be able to give some leeway to the actors.

I would like of course to give much credit to Dondi Ong, the sole Filipino member of the Phantom cast. I was fortunate to get his insights regarding his stint with Phantom because he was my brother’s good friend. We called him up and met with him outside CCP’s artists’ entrance. A tenor from UP Diliman, Dondi’s classical execution of his parts was spot on. His performance is nothing short of professional. He was able to rehearse and get into his role quickly, and delivered it humorously at that. You also have to give it to him because he is one of the few who needed to do eight – EIGHT! – costume changes during the 2 hour performance, and two major make-up changes which he said he already did on his own. Add to this, he had to bear 5 pound heavy costumes each time. He confessed that he already lost 10 pounds since his joining the cast. You also know that he’s that good, that on the day he auditioned, they were already showing signs of their preference for him. According to Dondi, the casting director already framed his profile and judged that his looks fit the role. They also asked him to sing a portion of the musical on the same day other than his prepared audition piece. To prove further he deserved the spot, they signed him as well for the Korea and Singapore tour (I don’t remember if he’s already going to the Australia tour). It was just supposed to be a token role for a local artist to fill, but they contracted him for other tours as well.

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With Mr. Dondi Ong, Tenor

For Phantom fans used to listening to the voices of the original cast, you won’t be disappointed by this casts’ performance!

What is impressive with Christine Daaé’s actress is that the role requires training in classical ballet. I’m impressed with the actress’ natural ballet dancing skills, but definitely not a Lisa Macuja-Elizalde. It didn’t require complicated arabesques and lifts, but the basics were executed nicely.

Conclusion

I just simply love the fact that you can somehow (of course, not entirely) appreciate both musicals and opera in one show. According to Mr. Ong, people have looked down on his decision to take part in this popular West End musical because they think that it belittles his talent as a classically trained Tenor. I would agree, however, with Mr. Ong’s opinion that this is the best way to reach to more people. With this show, people come to watch because they want to watch it, and not because they are required to watch an opera. It’s the best way to reach out to the teens and influence their taste for higher culture. I just couldn’t agree more.

The Phantom of the Opera doesn’t come to Manila often having an international cast chosen by an accredited production staff. Every Filipino who can afford should afford to watch this. Hopefully, after we have exhausted all the popular and top-grossing musicals to show here, we can start importing the not-so-popular ones, but are worth watching as well, and still people go and watch.

International tours being welcomed in the country, Theater courses should begin flourishing in our country. Younger people become more interested in theater, and taking it up as a legit course in college, taking minor in singing, ballet, jazz dancing; thus, taking theater acting a notch higher. No matter how noble it is to act out plays with social dimension and that speak about politics, they still do not appeal to the pop culture generation. We have to use more popular media to reach to them, to educate them ultimately to appreciate a different kind of culture that is more lasting, and which does not change even after 25 years, just like this classic musical, The Phantom of the Opera.

Take advantage. Watch.

Upcoming shows in Asia:

May-June 2013: Bangkok, Thailand

August-October: Singapore

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