Having seen the announcement at Facebook (social media saves the day), Art and I made sure to block off a date when we would go to the National Museum. We have never set foot in it - if I have as a student, that memory has certainly been banished from memory - and it dawned on both of us that while we actively try to see the museums of other countries when we travel, we have never done it here.
A waived entrance fee means you have no reason not to go.
Our first concern was parking, since Manila is a city notoriously known for having cramped streets and, for motorists, a scarcity of places to park. We were (surprisingly) allowed to park right in front of the Museum, for free.
The facade of the Museum reminded me of Palma Hall in UP Diliman, or any other building (most, anyway) in UP that was facing the Sunken Garden, which had a grand, old feel: wide columns, high ceiling, stairs that seem to lead you to even more grandeur. Thankfully, most parts of the Museum had a cooling system, as it was sweltering that day. When you enter, leave your bags at the counter at the right, and also sign up to log in as a guest for the day. You can only bring in your wallet, cellular phone and camera; everything else must be left at the baggage counter.
The security personnel (who also acts as an information booth of sorts) tells us that the Museum consists of three buildings: the National Art Museum, the Museum of the Filipino People, and the Planetarium (which I remember clearly as being part of our field trip in elementary school, so I guess I did go to the National Museum when I was younger).
With the visual arts, I have to confess that words do not do them justice. I will let the art works speak by themselves. Our camera battery gave way in the midst of our walking tour so the pictures here are in no way representative of the totality of the collection we have.
Owing to the lack of camera battery power, we could only take pictures until this exhibit. Our feet hurt only when we stopped to think about the time - it's easy to get lost in this world (in a good way), especially when you read the descriptions of why a painting came into existence, or the story behind the cannon found in the middle of the room.
You can (obviously) take pictures, with the proviso that no flash photography is allowed - which explains why most of these shots seem like they were taken in the dark, literally. One quibble we had was that there seemed to be no "guide" - e.g. a suggestion where to start your museum tour. I suppose some people find that best - they can go to any exhibit at any time they please - but for first timers, it would be helpful to give some kind of structure or flow as to how to begin this journey.
We thoroughly enjoyed this chance to revisit periods past, and some parts explained our very present. I don't need to quote Santayana here, in order for anyone to see the value in studying our past. One hopes that, as a city that seems to disregard old edifices and landmarks, we can rally our officials to preserve our heritage and works of art.
The museum is not charging anything this month - let's repeat that, it's free admission the whole month of October 2012. Go, soak in our culture, and let it revive in you a wonder for our own heritage.
Bonus question: Can you guess which of the pictures above is a representation of Tandang Sora?