Art Appreciation in Manila

2016 Mayo a-uno.

First of all, did you notice that most of our regular holidays this year fall on weekends? That only means we need to use more vacation leaves for travel because there’ll be few long weekends. Boo! Anyway, whether you’re in the annual LaBoracay event today, or traveling around the country, being with #teambahay even, HAPPY LABOR DAY, folks! Let’s work harder this year to levy more taxes to the government (!), be able to pay our bills and finance the things that we love to do! Unfortunately, I haven’t been traveling lately because of things like work. Also, it’s been really hot in Manila lately that commuting to the mall to get free air conditioning doesn’t look any more appealing. For now, to freeze another humdrum weekend, I thought of visiting some local museums and... a tourist in my own city.

More recently I’ve started to fall on the same routine, again, of work, eat, sleep, work. Mundane. Fortunately, there hasn’t been much house chores to do this weekend, so I thought of finding a way to get the tourist feeling back again, effortlessly. I said it’s time to dust off my history books! Today, I am going to the National Museum and Intramuros’ San Agustin Museum and see how Manila came to be what it is today. Yay!

Historical Pieces of Manila - Paintings and Scenes to Admire

I’m not writing to convince you that Manila is the most beautiful city you’ll ever see in Asia. Because it’s not. Neither it is the safest nor the cleanest city. Being a congested highly urbanized area, Manila is terrible in many ways. But that doesn’t mean it’s poor in all aspects, especially in history. If you have a free half day in Manila (especially if it’s Sunday), why not go on a quick trip to the National Museum and San Agustin Museum in Intramuros like I did? It’s a good way to see the finer side of the city. Please excuse the slums and the prickly heat though.

Here are some lovely paintings and scenes to see while you’re in the historical area of Manila:

Filipiniana Clothing

It’s the traditional dress of Filipinas during the Spanish era in the Philippines. Nowadays, Filipiniana gowns are worn during Presidential inauguration, fiestas, and by anyone who wants to promote traditional costumes. The National Museum have many paintings that show the beauty of Filipinas in their traditional clothing.

Beautiful Filipinas in their sophisticated traditional gown 

The Kalesa

It’s one of the unique things you’ll see in Asia, particularly in Manila. It’s a mode of transportation introduced by Spanish colonizers. They say it was initially for nobles and high-ranking officials only. Nowadays, it’s used to tour visitors within Intramuros and the Binondo area.

Cozy ride be like 

Paintings of Vicente Manansala

Manansala is a National Artist in the Philippines for visual arts. Though I’m not familiar with his life story, I admired most of his paintings that I saw in magazines when I was a kid. He’s known for his masterpieces on early modernist cubism. I love his artworks because the patterns of the subject and its environment are delicately superimposed.

L:R:T:B: Kalabaw, Isda, Manok, Pamilya Paintings of Manansala

Juan Luna’s Spoliarium

Luna was a painter and a political activist during the late 19th century. He created the Spoliarium, an 1884 gladiator-themed painting and many other famous paintings like The Parisian Life, Las Damas Romanas and The Death of Cleopatra to name some. I love his paintings because as an audience, I am taken back to the centuries-old colonial scene in the Philippines. Juan Luna’s Spoliarium had also proved that Filipinos could paint better than the Spaniards who colonized us.

Dear Filipinos reading this now, it’s not Spolarium. It’s Spoliarium! 

Sala de Profundis - A Crypt

I’m not sure of the exact meaning of Sala de Profundis. When I searched online for each word, it translated to “A place (Sala) from the depths (de Profundis)”. I stumbled upon this crypt in the San Agustin Museum and it gave me goosebumps. It used to be a refectory, then converted into a crypt for the Augustinians and later for Filipino families. Juan Luna’s tomb is also found here. The place is all quiet, it felt like somebody's looking behind you. I just took a few photo and immediately entered the adjacent Baroque exhibition room.

The Crypt

Baroque Altar and Ivory Sculptures

“God is Beauty,” Saint Augustine once said.

San Agustin Church was found in 1571. It is the oldest stone church in the Philippines. The church survived several earthquakes and calamities and a survivor of World War II in Intramuros. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1933. The San Agustin Museum houses many wooden and ivory sculptures from the Baroque era. Some altars were also preserved and are now part of the exhibits.

Exhibits - Baroque Era 
Ivory sculptures of the Nativity 

Hallways and Gran Escalera of San Agustin Museum

I've been to San Agustin Museum when I was in 4th grade through a field trip. It has changed since then. The choir loft is not accessible when I visited. I was not able to see the huge iron cast bell that I used to admire when I was 10. Is it still there? Hadn't I explored the area that much? Anyhow, the museum's interior, hallways and the stairs are beautiful and well-preserved. I also loved the huge paintings down the hall. It felt like I’m in Europe once again!

Beautiful hallway of San Agustin Museum 
Gran Escalera 

Php 400 Tour to See the Historical Pieces of Manila

The National Museum and San Agustin Museum on a Sunday afternoon

Amount in PHP
Gas / Commute
₱ 75.00
Parking - National Museum and Intramuros
₱ 0.00
Entrance fee to National Museum
₱ 0.00
Entrance fee to San Agustin Museum
₱ 200.00
₱ 400.00

San Agustin Church and Museum

• Open daily 8am-12pm & 1pm-6pm
• Entrance fee: ₱ 200 / adult

The National Museum

• Open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
• Entrance fee: ₱ 150 / adult (Free admission on Sundays!)

Still life painting - "Kutohan" by Ben Cab 

My Takeaway: Country Before Self

The Philippines has a vibrant history. Our ancestors fought for the freedom that we are enjoying now. We benefited from their efforts to revolt to an otherwise unfair and terrifying foreign regime. Juan Luna painted the Spoliarium to show the world what the Spaniards have brought to the Philippines. Jose Rizal wrote many revolutionary literary works to open the eyes of oppressed Filipinos. Nowadays, how many of us actually regard history as a vital part of our dignity as Filipinos? Who amongst us think about our country before ourselves? Through our simple ways, we can be a hero too. The National Election is nearing. With all the bad propagandas catapulted to the presidential candidates, how can we take a stand? Dear countrymen, this is what we can do for our country at the very least. Please, vote wisely. Vote with conscience. Country before self. We must work toward a society that puts the interest of the majority before ourselves. It’s make or break this 2016 election. Whoever wins, the next president can’t fix our country alone. It’s us, Filipinos, who can bring positive change to the Philippines.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

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  1. Hi, Do you have any idea if the san agustin musueum is open during holidays? Thanks!. Because I try to call their number but no one is answering. thanks


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