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Arts and Culture

Museum-hopping made hip and easy

JOYFUL HARVEST - Joy Angelica Subido, Joy Angelica Subido, Karla Alindahao - The Philippine Star

More than just repositories of valuable pieces from bygone ages, museums are places that tell our stories as a people. Rich in history, culture and tradition, these are places that promote an interest in learning, encourage pride, and allow us to have a better understanding of why we are what we are. The hope is that by helping us appreciate the richness of our past, we will be inspired and driven to do even better and accomplish more to further ourselves as a nation. It is a pity, therefore, that visits to places of culture such as museums have taken the back seat to other forms of entertainment. To encourage us all to visit our museums, therefore, the usual entrance fees were waived when the Cultural Center of the Philippines celebrated the 10th Pasinaya Open House Festival.

Regular entrance fees were waived at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, National Museum, Bahay Tsinoy, Casa Manila, Museo Pambata and 1335 Mabini. By availing of Pasinaya’s “Pay what you can, See all you can” donation scheme, museum-goers were able to visit the different museums and joined in various interactive activities scheduled there. Visiting the various museums was easy because there were 10 colorfully painted jeepneys that ferried people for free.  “With the participation of our partners, we want to expand and involve the whole city of Manila,” said CCP artistic director Chris Millado. “We hope to infect the whole city with the spirit of creativity.”

Pasinaya is a one-day open house festival held annually at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). It is the biggest multi-arts festival featuring the participation of numerous artists and artistic and cultural groups. We recently visited Pasinaya’s partner museums.

Classical pre-colonial gold pieces, pottery and modern art at The Met

The Metropolitan Museum houses the collection of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Permanent collections on display consist of classical Philippine gold work of the 8th to 13th century at the basement. This consists of gold ornaments, ritual pieces, and barter rings which are “evidence of a flourishing pre-colonial Filipino society actively engaged in local and international trade.” Likewise at the basement gallery is 8th-13th century pottery (household implements, ritual articles, and burial vessels), and religious images crafted by Filipino artists.

The upper floors house the works of Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo in an exhibit titled “Hidalgo: The Colonial Subject as Master”; Juan Luna’s special commemorative called “A Century and a Half Since”; and special exhibits featuring contemporary Philippine art.

Ongoing until April 15 is “Winter Garden: The Exploration of Micropop Imagination in Contemporary Japanese Art” featuring works from 14 acclaimed Japanese artists.

(Metropolitan Museum of Manila is at the Bangko Sentral Complex, Roxas Blvd., Malate, Manila. The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)

Tsino, Chinoy, Pinoy: Reliving the Chinese-Filipino experience at Bahay Tsinoy

Most impressive at Bahay Tsinoy are the life-size exhibits depicting the life of Chinese immigrants during Spanish colonial times. Working as laborers, merchants and artisans, the Chinese or Sangley (as they were called by the Spaniards,) served as the backbone of the economy. They helped build churches, carved religious icons and even printed religious books and prayer pamphlets. At the museum, we learn that the first three books printed in the Philippines were through the efforts of Keng Yong of Binondo in 1593.

A replica of the infamous Parian Gate with its drawbridge will serve to impress upon our children the iniquitous nature of discrimination. Although the hardworking Chinese were productive members of society during colonial times, they were subject to persecution and harassment. Fearing their growing numbers, the Spanish relegated them to the quarters called the Parian. A gate with a drawbridge separated them from the walled city.

Other notable exhibits at the Bahay Tsinoy are the Ching Ban Lee Ceramics Gallery (10th to 17 century ceramics unearthed in the Philippines); the rare prints, books and photographs collection that depict the Chinese way of life in old Binondo; Henry Tong Collection of rare Philippine shells and Ang Siu Cham Stone Collection that depict natural sceneries. An exhibit called “Tsinoys in Nation-building” has portraits of national leaders of Chinese of Chinese descent.

(Bahay Tsinoy is at 32 Anda, corner Cabildo Streets, Intramuros Manila. The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. The museum houses a bookstore and gift shop selling assorted souvenir items.)

Old masters, magnificent artwork and impressive architecture at the National Museum

The National Museum houses the Philippines’ most important national cultural treasures. Among the most famous of these is “Spoliarium,” the painting that won for National Artist Juan Luna a gold medal in the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 in Madrid. A depiction of dying gladiators, the huge masterpiece is also the subject of numerous lectures because its allegorical meaning touches on religion, politics and the social condition. In school, we are taught that Luna’s “Spoliarium” was a commentary about the conditions of his time — a depiction of the sufferings of his countrymen.

Apart from an extensive collection that is a veritable timeline of Philippine history, the fact that National Museum is housed in a magnificent building is a bonus for those who have a special interest in architecture. Originally designed as a public library by Ralph Harrington Doane as part of Daniel Burnham’s master plan in 1918, the structure became the seat of Congress. It is built in the neoclassical style and is both imposing and impressive.

(The National Museum is at P. Burgos Drive, Luneta, Manila and is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission on Sundays.)

Learning through play at Museo Pambata

Who says museums always have to be big, somber places where you have to be on your best behavior? At Museo Pambata, everyone is encouraged to play.

As the first hands-on discovery museum for children in the Philippines, Museo Pambata makes learning fun with interactive exhibits on history, culture, the environment, health and science. The museum advocates reading and has published children’s and child-related books. Apart from being a favorite place for learning, leisure, laughter and adventure, Museo Pambata is now also a popular venue for kiddie parties.

(Museo Pambata is at Roxas Boulevard corner South Drive Manila. Operating hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday to Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.)

Live it up: The good life at Casa Manila

With its shiny hardwood floors, high ceilings and ornate carved arches and furniture, Casa Manila is a grand and beautiful period home that depicts the lifestyle of the wealthy during the Spanish colonial period in the walled city of Intramuros. The sturdy wood and stone structure has huge windows that allow breezes to cool the house, and houses an impressive collection of furniture, china and other antiques — the cream of what we are told is a 70,000-piece collection.

Casa Manila is part of the Plaza San Luis, a cultural and commercial complex consisting of nine houses showcasing designs of “Filipino-Hispanic architecture popular in the 17th and 18th centuries.” It is an ideal stop after a full day of visiting museums. With several well-known restaurants nearby, this would be a good place to end a fruitful day, have dinner, and revel in the Philippines’ rich cultural heritage.

(Casa Manila is at Gen.Luna St., Intramuros Manila.)

BAHAY TSINOY

CASA MANILA

CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES

INTRAMUROS MANILA

MANILA

MUSEO PAMBATA

MUSEUM

NATIONAL MUSEUM

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