Priceless, never before exhibited religious artifacts are now on display at the newly-opened Museo de Intramuros.
Photos by Jesse Bustos
Intramuros museum highlights religious history
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - May 5, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Manila’s Walled City is expected to lure more tourists as it opens the doors of its latest attraction that highlights the history of Intramuros as well as the culture of Filipinos.

Last Monday, the Intramuros Administration (IA) held the opening ceremony of the Museo de Intramuros, located in two important reconstructions inside the Walled City: the San Ignacio Church and the Mission House of the Society of Jesus along Arzobispo street. 

The museum managed by the IA was designed to house the period art collections of IA that include ecclesiastical art, furniture, vestments and textiles and other artifacts.

The current exhibition of Museum de Intramuros tells the story of the evangelization of the Philippines from the perspective of the Filipinos. It explores changes in the “Filipino” psyche as colonization introduced a new religion and culture to the natives.

“With the display of religious images belonging to the IA collection, the exhibition is able to highlight Filipino artistry and craftsmanship that developed from the merging of the indigenous and the foreign,” the IA said.

Curated by Esperanza Gatbonton, Gino Gonzales, Cecilia dela Paz, Santiago Pilar and Martin Tinio, the exhibition has six components: The Immaculate Conception, The Religious Order, The Patronato Real and the Establishment of Parishes, Religious Colonial Paintings, The Establishment of a Parish and Sacred Vessels, and The Indio Response to Evangelization.

The Immaculate Conception exhibit features images that chronicle the local evolution of Mary’s iconography, while the Religious Order component displays pieces about the five religious orders that played an important role in the evangelizaton of the archipelago – the Augustinians, the Franciscans, the Jesuits, the Dominicans and the Recollects.

On the other hand, the Religious Colonial Paintings section features the devotion of the Philippine colonial community to particular saints such as San Roque, the patron against the plague; San Isidro Labrador, the patron of farmers and San Vicente Ferrer, the patron saint against all disasters and intercessor of impossible cases.

The museum also features a special section on the third floor dedicated to the history of the IA.

IA administrator Guiller Asido said the current exhibit only features about 30 percent of IA’s art collection.

“We will be evolving the exhibit,” Asido said, noting that there are no concrete timelines of when other pieces from the collection will be displayed.

Gatbonton, in her 1981 book Philippine Religious Imagery, earlier described the collection of the IA as “extremely valuable because it represents the first real attempt to collect and preserve within the Philippines an important aspect of the country’s cultural heritage.”

“The collection affords the viewer a panorama of the various styles and enables him to compare them with the artifacts done abroad in the same medium. We, Filipinos, have always tended to accept that we were the passive receiver of artistic stimuli from abroad. This collection proves that the Philippines was as much a giver,” Gatbonton said.

Museo de Intramuros officially opened on April 29 as one of the highlights of the IA’s 40th anniversary.

At the museum’s opening, Tourism Secretary and chair of the IA Board of Administrators Bernadette Romulo-Puyat congratulated Asido and the cultural workers behind the project. 

“IA’s dedication to ensuring that the tangible treasures that immortalize our history are now accessible to the public is commendable,” Puyat said.

“This project, rooted in passion and a deep love of country, must be emulated and replicated,” she added.

Asido said construction of the project began in 2013 and was completed in January 2018. Construction cost was around P130 million.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) said the opening of the museum is timely as the country celebrates National Heritage month this May. It invited the public to explore and learn about Philippine culture and history by visiting Museo de Intramuros in Manila.

“The DOT will be investing in the promotion of cultural tourism in the years to come. We’re doing it not just because we need to expand our tourism products, engage a specific market and increase revenue. Cultural tourism is telling the world our narrative. It is also a platform to ensure that our heritage structures and objects such as these will be preserved and enjoyed by our progeny,” Puyat said.

Asido said the museum will be one of the main attractions that will help Intramuros attract more tourists.

“These are collections that haven’t been exhibited in the past 40 years, from the time we started collecting them. It’s something new we can offer tourists,” Asido said.

Asido earlier said Intramuros foot traffic numbers have been positive in the first quarter of 2019.

“We’re reaching almost half a million already,” he added.

At last week’s opening are (from left) IA administrator Guiller Asido, Jaime Laya, DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, CCP chair Margie Moran-Floirendo, Gemma Cruz Araneta, curator Esperanza Gatbonton and IA’s Jose Capistrano Jr.

Last year, Intramuros welcomed 2.8 million visitors. This was an estimated 67 percent rise from the 1.68 million visitors in 2017.

“So we’re expecting more this year,” Asido said.

Asido earlier said that the main drivers of foot traffic this year will be programs on creativity and public art. 

Apart from the Museo de Intramuros, other main attractions of the Walled City include the San Diego Gardens, Fort Santiago,  Plaza San Luis Complex and the Puerta Real Garden.

Museo de Intramuros is open Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekend schedules will be announced soon. Entrance is free.

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with