As the culminating activity to our week long study of various artists, our little family of three trooped to the Art Gallery of the National Museum. I am ashamed to admit that I have never been to this museum, so I jumped at the chance to finally see it when the Energizer Bunny mentioned that she wanted to learn about artists.
We went on a Saturday morning and I was quite pleasantly surprised to see a line outside. For crowd control during registration, the museum staff grouped people by batch. It was quite an inconvenient wait, but upon entry into the lobby, I realized the logic behind the system: It was to ensure that everyone registers, pays, and deposits their belongings before enjoying the gallery since it was free for all once you enter.
Parking, Fees and National Museum Rules
Located along P. Burgos Drive very near Intramuros and Rizal Park, the National Museum is quite accessible via commute. Parking is available but limited along the museum driveway. Good thing we were able to park pretty easily despite the crowd!
Upon entry, guests are required to register and pay a P150 fee for adults, P120 for senior citizens, and P50 for students. Everyone goes in for free every Sunday. However, women get in for free the entire month of March for International Women’s Day, so our visit was perfect timing.
Food and drinks are not allowed inside, and bags (except wallet and mobile phones) are all deposited prior to entry. As with most art galleries, guests are not allowed to touch the exhibits.
To prepare for the visit, we set up a mini gallery at home. I printed out works of the artists we were studying and pretended that we were in an art museum. We made sure not to touch the “art” while talking about it. We practiced walking slowly through the gallery too.
Immediately greeting you upon entering the old House of Representatives Session Hall is Juan Luna’s Spoliarium. Measuring 4.22 meters x 7.675 meters, this masterpiece depicting the aftermath of gladiator matches in ancient Rome is the largest painting in the Philippines. It is truly spectacular!
Across it is another work of art, El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante (The Assassination of Governor Bustamante), the largest known work of Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo.
Unfortunately, the museum does not provide a map, so we pretty much browsed through the collections as we passed them. You may want to review the galleries in the official website of the National Museum for the collections that they have before visiting.
The more than 20 galleries took us around two hours to view. The collections from 18th century to modern artists such as Vicente Manansala and a current exhibit featuring BenCab are worth the trip. Some galleries, such as those showing the atrocities during the war, may not be appropriate for very young children or those who have not been introduced to this part of the Philippines’ history.
Keep it simple when talking to children about art. Simple questions such as what are similar, what are different, how it makes them feel and which is their favorite can spark interesting conversations.
How Artists Work
It was also fascinating to see glimpses of how artists work through exhibits such as Amorsolo’s studio with his last unfinished painting…
Malang’s collection of shot glasses where he put his paint…
… and Arturo Luz’s yoghurt paint containers.
The other highlight of the entire visit was seeing the grand Old Session Hall of the Philippine Senate. The architectural details put into this majestic room are truly stunning.
I was hoping to find a souvenir store similar to those in the Smithsonian museums. Reprints or replicas of some of our favorite artworks, coffee table books and other art-related merchandise would be nice to have after a visit. Just the same, it was a wonderful experience for our family.
The National Museum can make even little kids appreciate Filipino art and artists in a whole different level. We will definitely be back.