Finally got the chance to visit the National Museum. I’ve been wanting to visit for the longest time but couldn’t seem to get to doing it on my own. There is something in the whole prospect that I find intimidating. Luckily, my friends, who have been thinking of going themselves, invited me to join. Needless to say, I was happy to oblige. I guess that is the only nudge I needed to finally make that jump.
I don’t pretend to be someone who is adept with the arts but I feel like I needed to appreciate it, especially living in a country that has identity issues and where culture and the arts often take a back seat. The arts department suffers lack of funding and a general lack of interest from the public. We, the people, have become so caught up with the daily routines of our pathetic lives. We’ve grown accustomed to the commercialism around us. I feel it a responsibility (as it should for each and every one of us), to develop a renewed appreciation for the arts, especially in a world getting more and more superficial and self-centric, with work and the pursuit of money taking the priority above everything else. We live our day-to-day lives kissing a**, some going as far as trumping values in exchange for power and wealth. We become beholden to people who are only driven by profit, making us mechanical droids who do their bidding. To all these, we need some reprieve. We need some diversion to bring us back and make some sense of our humanity, or what’s left of it.
How else can we appreciate art if we don’t see it face-to-face? I’m glad that I did. There is so much to learn and to be amazed about with our arts and culture, and the development of certain art forms. Imagine, for example, how creative and ingenious our forefathers were back in those days when the closest thing they could get to photographs and selfies are paintings and portraits using the basic and organic of art materials. Ah, the power of the human mind.
Such is the appeal of the Spoliarium, for example, Juan Luna’s masterpiece which rightfully takes center stage in the museum’s collections. It would be hard not to take notice and pay homage to as this is the largest and most imposing piece of artwork in this hall – the Session Hall of the Old House of Representatives. Collectively, everything that is housed under the Old Legislative building is called the National Art Gallery.
Aside from the Spoliarium, this hall also has works of other artists like Guillermo Tolentino and Felix Hidalgo.
Luis I. Ablaza Hall
Religious Art from the 17th to the 19th centuries
Academic and Romantic Art
Homage to Dr. José Rizal
Silvina & Juan C. Laya Hall
Security Bank Hall
Works of Guillermo E. Tolentino
The Old Senate Session Hall, where the works of Jacques Ferrier (scale models of his designs and projects) are currently on display.
Political and Social Commentary after the 1970s
Selected Modern Works
Philam Life Hall
Pillars of Philippine Modernism – Vicente S. Manansala
Pillars of Philippine Modernism – Victorio C. Edades
Philippine Abstraction from the 1960s to 1980s
There are also temporary exhibits such as that of national artist BenCab (Benedicto Cabrera) entitled BenCab: Appropriated Souls, which focuses on Sabel and his Larawan series.
There is so much art to be appreciated at the National Museum, we barely had enough time to see all of them. We had to cut our visit short as we have been feeling famished already after four hours of exploring the halls, and it’s way past lunch time. But just to give you an idea how huge and extensive the artworks are in here, the museum even has an annex (or a component) right across the street, the former Finance building, also known as the Museum of the Filipino people, which houses the anthropology and archaeology divisions. Another exciting and interesting visit for sure. For now, we can just dispel any negative thoughts and ideas about our country not having a strong culture, or that it is sub-par compared to others (whatever that means). My take away from this is that our culture is only as strong as the people who appreciate and practice it.