When I am overseas or visiting a new place, I make sure to include museums and galleries if they have in the itinerary because it is through these confined yet rich destinations that I can understand their culture and history.
The last time I visited the National Musuem in Manila was during a field trip in elementary school about 17 years ago. So when I heard an announcement that the National Museum started doing renovations, I psyched myself to pay a visit again. On October 14, 2012 I went back in time for Museums and Galleries Month. This time entrance to the Museum was FREE.
Through the years it was decided to be used by the Congress. During the leadership of Claro M. Recto, the 1934 Constitutional Convention was held here. Philippinie Presidents were sworn in here too; Manuel L. Quezon in 1935, Jose P. Laurel in 1943 and Manuel Roxas in 1946.
The Old Cogress Building is not only important to my family not only because we are Filipinos but because my grandfather worked here as a lawyer until Congress was abolished in 1972 when Martial Law was declared.
The fact remains that when Luna and Felix Resureccion Hildalgo won the top awards in the Madrid Exposition of 1884, they proved to the world that indios could, despite their supposed barbarian race, paint better than the Spaniards who colonized them. (Ambeth R. Ocampo, "Rizal Without the Overcoat" 2000)
Rizal was footnoted in his speech that the Spoliarium "embodied the essence of our social, moral and political life: humanity is severe ordeal, humanity unredeemed, reason and idealism in open struggle with prejudice, fanaticism and justice..." (Leon Ma. Guerrero, "The First Filipino People" 2007)
Rizal who was friends with Luna and Hildalgo was inspired by the painting which led him to write his own 'Spoliarium' - that book would be called "Noli Me Tangere"
Gallery IX contains the work of great Philippine modernists featuring important works by Victorio Edades, Diosdado Lorenzo, Vicente Manansala, Carlos V. Francisco, Hernando R. Ocampo, Cesar Legaspi, Ang Kiukok and various other artists who were instrumental in setting bold directions for Philippine art from the 1930's into the decades of the post-war period.
Although the Museum is still a work in progress, there are still some areas for improvement which I would like to suggest if I may say so.
1. Audio tours when the Museum is done with its renovations as this will increase efficiency in the sharing of knowledge to visitors. To those who are not familiar with audio tours, these are sets of recorded (tape) given to visitors in which they can press 'play' or 'pause' as they tour around the Museum.
2. Invite volunter guides to the Museum. I went there on a Sunday afternoon when there was a stream of visitors coming in, mostly families with children. It would be nice to have volunteer guides who are willing to share knowledge and speak about the Museum.
3. Convert the courtyard into an al fresco dining destination or coffee shop. I spent almost 5 hours going around and was hoping I could buy some snacks or drinks within the Museum but there was none available. Maybe you could consider inviting a Filipino specialty restaurant to operate there. It would be income generating too for the Museum.
4. Since this is called National Art Gallery, would you also be showcasing other forms of art by renowned Filipino talents in Litretaure, Music, Dance, Film and Architecture? I am not quite sure if they are represented at the Museum of the Filipino People. That I had to go back because I ran out of time last time I visited.
5. Since most of the visitors are children who are on their field trips, please try to make some of the galleries appear more interactive by introducing ways that would encourage children to touch, smell or hear objects.
6. Souvenir Shop. It would be wonderful to take home something from the Museum. It could be postcards, books, pens or any Filipino made merchandise.
Next stop, National Museum of the Filipino People.