My memories of museums here in the Philippines are hot, stuffy, under-managed, irate staff, and poorly maintained collections complete with it’s poorly maintained labels or tags. But that isn’t the case, I’ve heard of our country’s efforts to restore the National Museum a few years back and since then I have been yearning to visit it.
I eventually got the chance to do that last January 31, this was during the long weekend care of our rich and vibrant Chinese culture. We started of the day at the first (yes there are actually two) museum, this is the one closest to Luneta Park or is in Luneta Park (geographic technicalities elude me). The entrance fee for the two national museums is at Php. 150, Php 50 if you’re a student (public, private, undergrad, graduate whichever works your way. Just present an ID) and this fee allows you access to the two museums (yes no need to double pay but we will get to that later).
Being a natural history museum or more formally known as the Museum of the Filipino People showcases your standard natural history and the material history of the country. It’s quite an extensive collection considering that each floor has around 3 exhibits and there are four floors to cover. A lot of artifacts have been meticulously restored and are exhibited for your viewing pleasure. Informational tags are placed for your intellectual delights and some fairly huge ones (the cannons of a Spanish galleon) are there for your idle hands to touch.
American architecture: big and grand
As you make your way around the museum, it’s not only the material and natural culture that you should take note off. The American-era architecture also takes a hold of you and in some ways makes you forget that you’re actually in Manila.
Progressing around the museum is fairly straightforward and the significant collections are prominently displayed: the Manunggul Jar, and the Laguna Copper Plate for one are a sight to behold. But since there are really a lot of artifacts on display it’s obvious that you can’t simply finish or get everything you need in one trip. Simply put the museum, without a tour guide or without a map is like your typical bodega where the owner just decided to dump everything he owns inside it and just let people sift through everything by themselves.
All in all the museum is beautiful, it isn’t hot or stuffy since it seems the staff placed the air condition on full blast that day. When we visited there weren’t a lot of people (maybe because they were all in Binondo on that day), which was a plus because it felt as though we had the museum practically all to ourselves.
Having it to ourselves or the feeling of it isn’t too bad, but there came a point in our trip that we needed a map/booklet/pamphlet to give us some structure for our trip or maybe a tour guide for that matter wouldn’t have been a bad idea either. The museum’s vastness is overwhelming and its collection stunning but it pales in comparison with its counterpart just across the street.
The National Museums are open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am – 5pm
They’re even open during holidays and Sunday admissions are usually free!