Forget the beach: Remember the past at the National Museum

And so we’re back with more destinations where you can actually enjoy the summer as if in a sparsely-populated beach (a mythical place while summer lasts).

Today we recommend…the National Museum!

With excellent air conditioning system (we all know how important this is), awesome lighting, and exhibits that will leave you starstruck (“I used to read about Juan Luna’s Spoliarium in high school — and now it’s right in front of me! Am I dreaming? AM — I — DREAMING?”), the Museum is definitely a must-see.

The Museum’s facade feels like a stage, because it is a stage of sorts: in 1935 Manuel Quezon was sworn in here as the President of the Commonwealth in front of hundreds of Filipinos and some American colonists. Other important state events were also held here.

At that time, the building was called the Legislative Building. The upper floors housed the Senate, while the lower ones the House of Representatives.

What used to be the Senate session hall | Photo by the foodietraveller
What used to be the Senate session hall | Photo by the foodietraveller

But the building was almost levelled to the ground during World War II. Heavy shelling destroyed its ceilings and walls; it was nearly impossible to rebuild it. But the government did rebuild it, thank God. It returned to being Legislative Building, until the House of Representatives moved to its new site in Quezon City in 1977 and the Senate to Pasay City in 1996.

The Old Legislative Building (now the National Museum) was bombed during the Battle of Manila, 1945 | Photo from the Official Gazette
The Old Legislative Building (now the National Museum) was bombed during the Battle of Manila, 1945 | Photo from the Official Gazette

Oh, about the Museum.

Its obra maestra is, of course, Juan Luna’s Spoliarium, which is located in the old session hall of the House of Representatives. It is HUGE — four-by-seven meters. I once thought it’s something hung on a wall. You’ll need to stand a few feet from it to get a decent, capture-the-entire-thing selfie.

Juan Luna’s Spoliarium | Screengrab of photo by Kristine
Juan Luna’s Spoliarium | Screengrab of photo by Kristine

There’s also a gallery of old religious artifacts from different parts of the country. Mostly you’ll find intricately yet coarsely sculptured santos and altarpieces. The gallery is a beautiful look at how native Filipinos adopted Christianity and expressed their faith through art.

Santos and retablos | Photo by the Weekend Sightseer
Santos and retablos | Photo by the Weekend Sightseer

As for paintings — you’ll swoon and drown. Lunas, Resurreccion Hidalgos, Franciscos, Edadeses, Lorenzos, Manansalas, de la Rosas, Amorsolos, and Zobels. You’ll see them hung dignified in various galleries.

Botong Francisco’s Progress of Medicine in the Philippines | Image by Pammy
Botong Francisco’s Progress of Medicine in the Philippines | Image by Pammy

And, of course, sculptures of various materials and subjects by some of the greatest Filipino sculptors, among them Tolentino, Tampinco, Abueva, and no less than Jose Rizal!

Jose Rizal’s Mother’s Revenge | Photo by Rouella Christina
Jose Rizal’s Mother’s Revenge | Photo by Rouella Christina

You think museum-lounging is boring? Think again.

And entrance is free on Sundays. 😉 Learn more about the National Museum here.


This post originally appeared on the iCPA Student Cafe, the official blog of iCPA online accounting review website.

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