IA#4 Museum Visit One: National Museum

Unique is what I’d describe my visit to the National Museum as. To start, in my 20 years of residency in Metro Manila, this was my first time to ever step foot in the National Museum. Crazy, I know. Even crazier, rather than going with friends like the usual, I chose to experience a weekday in the museum alone. As it turns out, it was a good call because I got to observe the people and the art more deeply.

As I was about to enter the building, a group of five college students, still in their uniforms, preceded me in the line. One of which is a young lady with tattoo-covered arms. I overheard the guard questioning their intentions in paying a visit and warning them that if they caused any trouble inside, they would be escorted out. Thinking that the guard would raise the same concern, I readied myself. To my surprise, he simply greeted me with a pleasant, “Good afternoon, Ma’am” and a smile. A similar scenario happened when I saw the group at the reception where the staff at the baggage counter reiterated the caution. Although it may not be of great value to the subject matter, it did make me reflect on how inequality exists in the world we live in. Prior to my admission in college, I had little belief in the notion of inequality since I had always been an idealist. Inequality is a theme present in many art forms as it brings out intense passion against it. Many of the works I witnessed had their fair share of the prejudices present in society.

One of the most moving pieces I found was Doomed People by Dominador Castaneda. This painting demonstrates the pain of an era under siege; particularly the Japanese era. The man and wife were both murdered. Tied up and no where to run to, their child was left to be hopeless and devastated.

In the same gallery, a similar strife is depicted in Fermin Gomez’s sculpture, A Plea for Freedom of Fear (1949). Here, we can find a lifeless child at the feet of a woman, possibly the mother, with three other children as her dependents. The message may be analogous to the cry of the motherland to save its children from the previous captors of the nation.

A fear many have is a fear of dying; a fear of being judged by the Almighty for the deeds, whether fruitful or not, that they have committed on Earth. La Banca De Aqueronte (1887) by Felix Resurreccion Hidaldgo challenges our notion of death and morality. This reminds me of the Charon, the ferryman of the River of Styx, in Greek mythology. The painting displays men cowering away from the gates of hell which may be deemed to be a place of no escape as they are entirely stuck on a boat with no other direction but to face the end.

From the extremely emotional side of art, La Mujer En Reposo by Isabelo Tampinco Y Lacandola shows the softness of an atrist’s hands. This marble sculpture captures the delicate facial expression of a woman at rest.

The ambiance in the museum was unexpected as it was fairly quiet. Perhaps I just came in at the off-peak hours. Oh how I envied this woman, eternally beautifully engraved in peace.

This wall is filled with various Student Works in Italy including Rome, Venice, Naples, and Pompeii of National Artist, Juan Luna. As I walked towards these paintings, it suddenly hit me. I man who lived between 1857–1899, famous for centuries before me, actually made these. I was awestruck with the thought of the stories told in each of his works and the places he’s been. He had a bunch of works encapsulating his travels. He did not leave his beloved home, of course, as he did have pieces about the Philippines.

This terracotta sculpture is of a dog biting the neck of a top predator, a crocodile, at work. The piece may be a symbolism of a Filipino spiting a Spaniard at the time of the revolution against the latter. More interestingly, it was made by our very own National Hero, Jose Rizal. He, being well-known through the power of his ideas on paper, astonished me with other forms of art he left behind.

A more candid take on art are these sketches by Fernando Amorsolo. These are the befores of the afters that are masterpieces. It just goes to show the skill needed in creating art.

Skill and technique, together, is an understatement for the mural, The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines by National Artist, Carlos “Botong” Francisco. From conceptualizing and compartmentalizing the significant events in the development of medicine to the actual execution of completely filling up massive canvases, Francisco succeeded in telling the patrons the story of what has become of the medical field and us, Filipinos at the same time. It is evident that he emphasized the role of colonization in his paintings.

Hello from the other side of Francisco’s masterpiece. Going at this alone is tricky as there is no one to ask for proper photos. Here I am, nonetheless.

Off to the gallery of unknown artists. I wasn’t able to square in on each work, but I did appreciate the skills of the makers of these pieces even though they are not recognized by name, for that matter.

As my day at the museum came to a halt, I noticed something not a lot of people would’ve paid attention; the door handles of the establishment.

Engraved beside it is the last name of the Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture, Napoleon Abueva. Who would’ve thought that even door handles could be considered art.

In hindsight, I found this task of taking photos as not the most suitable way of being one with art. In spite of how films make it seem, standing in front of a piece and wondering about the antecedents in the making of such art is a more enriching experience. I’d learned this precept from my previous encounters with art exhibits. Some guests disrupted my solace as they were relentlessly taking snaps of every piece they see, not even absorbing any message that the artists were trying to relay.

Lucky me, I left just as three buses full of students on a field trip parked at the side. I’d definitely come back to see more. Maybe this new-found oasis will become a routine escape from the chaotic life in Taft.