Written by: Robin Kenneth Z. Peralta (PARTDES DFS2 ABDFILM 11504081)

After visiting the National Museum of Anthropology last two weeks, I had a hard time finding the National Museum of Fine Arts in Manila. I went there alone for I have no close friends in our block. An acquaintance might be more appropriate to describe them. Yet, I feel so at ease being with them during class especially during group activities.

Going back to the topic, I think I walked around the National Museum for three times not realizing it was the museum I was looking for. It was Sunday as it was very sunny when I walked that morning. I actually thought it was going to be a disaster day until I finally found the National Museum of Fine Arts. “Thank God!” I said as I felt the air-conditioned ambience of the museum. What a relief!

I found the service staff at the lobby very accommodating and approachable. They were friendly enough to guide me where to go towards the galleries I was looking for. It turned out that the lobby I thought was also the second floor of the museum.

A close encounter with the Spoliarium

I visited the Gallery 1 to Gallery 6 including the Hall of Masters and South Hallways. They all consist of the artworks created before the World War II. If I were to choose the top 10 from these artworks, those would be the following:

RETABLO (Side Altar)
  1. RETABLO (SIDE ALTAR) — This antique artwork came from the Church of San Nicolas de Tolentino from Dimiao, Bohol. It was created during 18th Century. If I were to compare the church altars from this century to modern day I could see one difference. Based on its structure, this retablo was made on woods. The modern altars today are made on metals either with silver or mostly gold. Seeing this artwork in person, I could see where the design of modern altars came from. Most of them are based on this during the Spanish colonial period. The design was very detailed composed with little pillars.
Corinthian Pillars

2. CORINTHIAN PILLARS — These are the pillars created and used during the 18th century. I think it represented the Spanish colonial period here in the Philippines. It was also made on woods with unknown creator and date when it created. I wonder how old it is right now. These pillars influenced the minds of Filipinos that’s why whenever we think of a castle or a palace, we always visualize it with these Corinthian pillars. Even in Ibong Adarna or any other Filipino stories with a palace, the design of the palace/castle won’t be completed without these.


3. CRUCIFIX — created before World War II with unknown artist and undated. This one best represented the Spanish colonial period. They introduced to the religion of Christianity. And this artwork was symbolic enough to prove that Filipinos have deep faith to Jesus Christ because of Spanish colonialism. The style and design is simple yet symbolic. It symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ for our salvation.


4. PORTRAIT OF TWO STUDENTS — These students were from Ateneo Municipal de Manila from Pasig. Paintings before were like a photograph to them. This was the time when cameras were not yet invented. Even without the title of the painting, you can identify that these two boys were students. Based on its style, the unknown artist from late 19th century used oil in canvas and used a symbolism by putting a book on each of the boys’ hands. During the prominence of paintings pre-world war II, they used books to say that the subjects are students. They used “pamaypay” when the subject is married to a man. Painters used many other symbolisms in order to characterize the subject of their paintings and to deliver the story behind it.


5. RECUERDO DE PATAY (MEMENTO MORI) OF A CHILD — This oil on canvas painting was made by Simon Flores y de la Rosa (born on 1839 and died on 1904) on 1896. It captured a dead child lying on a bed with flowers beside her. I may not know the story behind this painting but I can feel what the painter wanted to convey when he made it. The mood of the painting was dark that sets the sad mood since the child was dead. The flowers symbolizes her beauty and condolences of the people who loved her.


6. UNA BULAQUENA — an oil on canvas portrait of a conservative lady made by Juan Luna y Novicio (born on 1857 and died on 1899) on 1895. From the title I conclude that the lady in one of the Filipino’s traditional dresses was from Bulacan. Aside from the books and “pamaypay”, painters also used the towel (panyo) on their subject’s hand to symbolize that a woman wasn’t married yet or she was still a virgin and she was clean. The subject is looking at another direction in order to capture a candid moment of her. The artist preferred a whole body painting for him to show the beauty of the subject’s dress.


7. RIZAL THE REFORMIST — an oil on canvas landscape painting of Jose Rizal while writing with his books and other objects that symbolized his greatness and wisdom when it comes to his fields. This painting was made by Martino Abellana (1915–1987) on 1960. He used a set of color combinations to make the painting more realistic and to set the right mood of what the artwork was trying to convey.


8. ROUNDED RELIEF PORTRAIT BUST OF DR. JOSE RIZAL — an artwork made by Isabelo Tampinco y Lacandola (1855–1933) Circa 1910. The artist used plaster of paris in molding the structure of Rizal’s face and head. I know that this was a very hard to do for I have experienced doing it myself in HARTDS1 class and it was not a joke for someone like me who was not talented in arts. You must have a lot of patience and great strategy to make an artwork as good as this. The motif used was dominantly Spanish since we were colonized by that time.


9. PORTRAIT OF A LADY — It is also known as Mi Novia or Portrait of Paz Pardo de Tavera (oil on panel) made by Juan Luna y Novicio (1857–1899) Circa 1855. The beautiful young woman as the subject was religious as she portrayed herself with a rosary held by her hands. This conveys a meaning that a subject has a faith to God. The artist also showed a small book beside the lady which I conclude the Bible.


10. BUST OF DR. JOSE RIZAL — a wooden bust of the Philippine National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal made on 1926 by Graciano T. Nepomuceno (1881–1974). This bust is much harder to make compared to the other one made on plaster of paris because wood is the foundation of creating this. You must be good in molding and carving. The color of the artwork is dark brown which I think the natural color of the woods used by the artist. He also made sure that the texture of this bust was smooth after he finished carving the shape. This is a great sculptured representation of the upper part of the Rizal’s human figure. Through this artwork, we can visualize how Rizal really look like when he was alive.

A selfie photo captured outside the National Museum of Fine Arts

Overall, I can say that it was a wonderful experience after all despite of what I’ve been through before I found the museum of fine arts. I felt very lucky because not all the Filipinos can get a chance to see in person the artworks made by famous artists which lived by years and have been a part of Philippine history. We must treasure these artworks for history is what made us who and what we are now.

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