National Museum

Ipe and I almost always find ourselves in the Intramuros area whenever we don’t have anything to do and this Sunday was no exception. But given that it was high noon and it would have been torture to roam around under the sun, we decided to go to the National Museum first, as it had been over a year since our last visit.
Luckily for us, several wings have been reopened to the public AND you can go in for free! Apparently, Sundays are free so better make the trip. 🙂
Hall of Masters
First on our stop was the Hall of Masters. You can’t really miss this as this is the main hall of the entire building and it’s directly in front of the museum entrance. Here, you will find the masterpieces of Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo: the Spoliarium and the Assassination of Bustamante. 
The Assassination of Bustamante

I love their work and while I can’t decide who the better painter is, I personally prefer Hidalgo. His paintings look so life-like, especially his portraits. Even the gradation of light to depict creases and wrinkles on the skin is rendered so masterfully. If you stand a few feet back from his paintings, you’d think they were photographs.
Unfortunately, most of Hidalgo’s paintings, indeed all my favourites of his, are located in a different museum – at the Bangko Sentral Museum to be specific so you might want to check it out (it’s just a few kilometres away).
One painting of Luna that I particularly like, is his Portrait of a Lady. I can’t determine what draws me to it, perhaps the colors or how the face reminds me of European paintings (we have the Louvre coffee table book full of paintings at home and I browse through it in my idle time – a sort of present/souvenir from hubby from his trip there).  
Portrait of a Lady
The Museum has an entire gallery devoted to Fernando Amorsolo’s works – from his sketches to his paintings. Fitting enough, considering that he is our country’s first National Artist for Painting.

some of Amorsolo’s portraits

Walls full of sketches
Favorite Paintings
Several galleries are devoted to paintings and indeed, there is one devoted entirely to National Artists such as painters Joya, Edades and sculptors Abueva and Tolentino. Masters who belong to that distinct group of last men you address only by their last names. Funny though that I felt like I was rattling off the names of condominium towers at Rockwell. 😛
Modern Maria Clara by Victorio Edades, 1958
Kagampanan by Napoleon Abueva, 1970

Bust by Guillermo Tolentino

The Hills of Nikko by Jose Joya, 1964
There were also other paintings which I particularly like, spread out across various galleries.

Up Site Today, Dominador Castaneda, 1945
Fugitive from the Japanese, Dominador Castaneda, 1945
Bonifacio Brother by Carlos Valino, 1973

Death March, Dominador Castaneda, 1948

Hmm, I seem to favor a lot of paintings by Castaneda. I love the theme – mostly WWII. Nothing gory but it somehow evokes strong emotions from me.
Mother’s Revenge by no less than Jose Rizal

Some of my favorite halls, especially the “checkered” hall – reminds me of San Agustin Church in Intramuros and Baclayon Church in Bohol:

Senate Session Hall

One notable portion that Ipe and I were really excited to see is the old Senate Session Hall at the 3rd level of the building. It was based on the original design of Ralph Harrington Duane as revised by Juan Arellano.
The ornaments were done by Isabelo Tampinco and his sons Angel and Vidal. If I am not mistaken, this is one of very few structures, if not the only one, in the country with such intricate statues of Greek and Egyptian gods. The statues though were too far up for me to see and my trusty camera can’t get a good enough zoom photo of them; but while these lend grandeur to the hall, I was a bit confused as to what this myriad of characters was supposed to represent.
In any case, the hall is still under renovation; I honestly didn’t think hubby and I should be there but the workers kind of forgot to close the main doors so we just assumed it was open for viewing (and only as we were exiting the place did we see the “No Entry” sign).

The Progress of Medicine

A recent addition to the masterpieces housed in the museum is Carlos Francisco’s Progress of Medicine – a set of four panels depicting the evolution of medicine in the country from pre-colonial, colonial, American and the Modern Era (up until the time it was painted in any case, back in 1953). These paintings were commissioned by Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, Dean Agerico Sison, Dr. Florentino Herrera Jr., and Dr. Constantino Manahan, and were originally installed in the entrance hall of the Philippine General Hospital.
The paintings should be viewed chronologically, clockwise, from top left
Obviously though, being exposed to the public in uncontrolled temperature and humidity had deteriorated the paintings so badly that several restoration works had to be done to salvage them, until finally, it was decided that they be transferred to the Museum where they can be better preserved for future generations. As a compromised, a detailed replica was installed in its original location.
Under Renovation
There are still lots more rooms under renovation; indeed, there are more closed rooms than open and I am almost giddy with anticipation for when they do finally open. I saw a note on one of the hallways that the renovation cost for the entire place is budgeted at Php10MM and I was, to be honest, dismayed. Even without much knowledge in construction, I knew that budget was too small to fully restore the museum to its old grandeur. That amount is barely enough to cover one floor, let alone a mammoth complex. I wish rich art patrons would donate to this cause because there’s a lot of potential for it to be really attractive and worth tourists’ money.

For those who haven’t visited yet, you can take the 360-degree tour here.

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