When in Manila: Get cultured at National Museum

Trips to museums never fail to make me feel like an artsy and cultured person I am quite not. Our visit to National Museum was definitely at a time so apt, as it fell on the day right after Independence Day! Talk about culture—and, well, freedom—depicted in the paintbrush strokes and intricate sculpture folds of century-old pieces of art.

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It’s a shame that I’ve never paid the museum a visit all my life, but Anthropology class changed that, having had the chance to visit one of its buildings early this year along with my classmates. But then, never has a visit become so much more meaningful, as things feel so different when you pay a visit out of your own want and initiative, which is what happened two days ago. Nitch and I, with our itchin’, travelin’ feet, brought us to explore the museum all on our own—minus the mandatory two-page reflection paper as a course requirement and documentation meant for some lengthy, dragging slideshow for class—and I’m so glad we did!

With the huge chunk that National Museum occupies along the stretch of Taft Avenue, it’s hard not to notice such landmark, crisp white paint and all. A little reminder though—the actual entrance of the museum isn’t on Taft Avenue, so a little bit of walking is still needed to reach the place. When facing the landmark on Taft, walk left until the stoplight, and turn right to Finance Road. Fret not, sweat—maybe. Easy peasy.
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May celebrates National Heritage Month, which meant free admission to the museum! Glad they decided to extend the no-pay visit until the end of June, which makes it absolutely free to enter the halls of National Museum and Museum of the Filipino People. Free admission is observed on Sundays as well, so really, there is no excuse to not come and pay this landmark a visit.

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The first room carries the most recognizable and renowned piece of artwork found within the corners of the museum—no other than Spoliarium by Juan Luna! This is undeniably the main reason of mine of wanting to explore the place, which holds true for many goers as well. I actually thought that this would be found on the upper floors of the museum so that visitors can view other pieces of art first before seeing this in person, as it is easily the most known after all. Didn’t expect it to be literally the first one you’d see up close, so I was truly surprised to see it at a glance! It is massive, which I didn’t quite anticipate either. Wish they installed brighter, natural lighting in this particular room though—taking photos in low light, especially with a wonky point-and-shoot, is really a struggle. Grainy pics are the absolute party pooper.

It takes a good few minutes to just stare and let the true, deeper meaning of the painting sink in, and boy did it feel so eerie, as Nitch mentioned. Nevertheless, such a beautiful and thought-provoking work it remains to be.

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Several exhibits showcase portraits of known Filipinos, relevant personalities throughout Philippine history, and unknown, common folk citizens of the country. Was starstruck to see actual artworks that Jose Rizal worked on. Because this man—he’s everything (although the painting below ain’t no self portrait!).

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Grateful for friends who are always game to explore the beloved archipelago, near or far it may beand love to write all about it as well! A variation of this post can be read through Nitch’s writing here. Really curious to know what she thinks, as I’ve yet to read it (pretty sure we said the same things, haha, but essentially, one thing I’m certain about is how we share the same level of admiration for this place).

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Admittedly, what I really enjoyed looking at were the abstract paintings and ‘modern’ artworks. Was ecstatic to see works of Ben Cab (yep, the same Ben Cab of BenCab Museum in Baguio, which is a must-visit as well!), Fernando Amorsolo (hailed as a National Artist), and Guillermo Tolentino (notably sculpted The Oblation).

Nitch and I also share a favorite among all: the busts/sculptures! Truly mesmerized by the complex folds on the meticulously crafted figures that represented the person so well, as if our late presidents magically came to life as we stood a foot away from them. Because I’m stupid, I forgot to even take a snapshot of the said exhibit (was probably just too engrossed, really), but it is certainly a must-see.

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Wouldn’t know if it is a norm for museums to show what tools and palettes artists use as they paint, but I found it to be a feature so interesting! Look at that color explosion. DSC08779
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Just minutes before noontime we were able to finish touring the museum, which lasted for two hours. A few hours after, we spent some time touring its component museum just opposite of it. In between museum-hopping, we went to SM Manila to fill our empty stomachs. Dessert was no other than milk tea, my weakness. Tried ‎CoCo都可 for the first time (definitely not the last), and settled with the flavors of Salty Cream and Matcha Green Tea. Touring the two museums on one go can be very draining, so having a bite in between was a great decision.DSC08798 DSC08808 DSC08805

Right after some badly-needed catching up and discussion of life decisions over good grub, we walked back and headed to National Museum of the Filipino People. As I’ve already gone here for school purposes a few months ago, I still wanted to give it a try, in the hopes of witnessing anything new (note: none actually, quite a bummer). The component museum hosts archaeological and anthropological artifacts, so those fond of geography, war, and culture in general would want to give this place a try. Many preserved flora, animals, and insects over a hundred years old were also showcased.

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Cue Jay Chou’s Qing Hua Ci. Some porcelain dating back from the Ming dynasty, made in the city of Jingdezhen in Jiangxi, China. Of course, this I would remember. Haha.

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Linnaeus books on taxonomy and nomenclature—ack! I may be a nerd, but not even one bit was the nerd in me happy to be reminded of school.
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The museum carries a lot of indigenous and regional artifacts and symbols, which really proves how truly diverse the Philippines is. Regions in the country don’t fall short of their own distinct cultures and traditions, many of which I am unfamiliar of.DSC08535

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Do not touch! The curator will not be so pleased.
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Baro’t saya, so pretty. I read from somewhere that a country here in Southeast Asia (was it Indonesia?) requires people to wear their national costumes to work once on a weekly basis—something I would truly be an advocate of. We ought to do the same!

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Doctrina Christiana, one of the earliest books printed in the Philippines.

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Baybayin, an obsolete form of writing. Back in high school we were taught that referring to it as alibata was all sorts of wrong. Funny thing though, people lined up for a selfie with it but it can’t just happen (blame the sunlight) as you’ll end up being a silhouette on the photo. Well, art!

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Art junkies would definitely want to pay a visit to National Museum, while a trip to National Museum of the Filipino People is meant for history buffs and those who want an overview of Philippine culture. I liked them equally, and I’d easily recommend both for a day’s visit.

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Body aching and back breaking, our restless feet still managed to let us take a stroll around Rizal Park and Luneta Park, which again, proved to be another adventure, so much that it deserves an entry of its own! Can never say no to another adventure, especially in a city you need to get to know again.

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