Saturday, February 16, 2008

museum dairies

it seemed to be a perfect day for some culture appreciation i said to myself! the sun was shining and the breeze was cool. i didn't mind that i was commuting today since i had no doubts that i was going to be comfortable in the jeepney. i dressed comfortably in jeans, a shirt and sneakers and with my trusty man-purse (i never leave home without it!), i set out to see the national museum!

i did my research the days prior to my little excursion. being the anal nut that i am, i naturally did not like leaving things to chance. i tried looking up the museum to see if it's open and where in manila it actually is. i had heard before that it was closed for renovation but have discovered that only parts of it still is. opening time was, according to the sites i found was at 8:30am. "perfect!" i then thought. entrance fee was P100, no problem, a small price to pay for a better appreciation of my country, i said, quite patriotically to myself.

coming from the ghettos of tondo, i decided to take baclaran via taft instead of taking the city hall jeep since i knew the museum came after it. i overshot by a block but thankfully, the walk wasn't as bad since the air was still pretty cool. got off at taft and started walking towards burgos to the front of the museum. there seemed to be buses lined up along the street so i figured there would be kids running about. no bother, i sincerely liked that fact that the youth is being exposed to art and history this early in their schooling. by the time i managed to get to the front, i found out that the museum was still closed. it was 9:30 already but it was still closed.... heh? turns out, they NOW start at 10am. grrr... (stupid site, can't even get the time correct!). i tried not to let this ruin my day though i do have a slight superstition that when things go wrong... they REALLY go wrong.

after finally getting in and surrendering my man-purse (they don't allow you to bring your bag in, lest you pilfer a CANON or any artifact for that matter. also, much to my dismay, taking pictures is also not allowed. have a story on that a little later), i made my way to the "main gallery". it actually has a proper name but sadly, my memory is bad and the museum doesn't have a brochure with a site map, only a floor plan in the main lobby. before i go on, i have to explain my original intention of going to the nat mue! it was basically going back to see an old friend, luna's spolarium. the last time i saw this behemoth of a piece was back when i was in 2nd year high school with my gang and my teacher in asian history, mrs. perez. we were doing research on how to go about building the social studies exhibit at school. being the perfectionist that we were, we wanted to blow the minds of the student body away with a fantastic exhibit! it was my first time to behold the luna masterpiece and all i could remember was how breath taking it was. its scale aside, the painting bore with it a power i could not explain. years later, i found myself standing in front of it again. i no longer feel the same awe and amazement. maybe such emotions are only reserved for first meetings. the painting still however generated a power, more than 200 years old and still it captivates me.

somehow, the rest of the paintings in the gallery failed in comparison with the luna masterpiece. though the entire hall only featured works by hidalgo and luna, all seemed unnecessary, even to a point, insulting, to share the same space with the spolarium. sorry, i am playing favorites here. you think i'm bad. i was in the gallery with an entire art class from DLSU and they all just talked about the spolarium, then left. the other painting must have been seething with envy!!!!

as the site that gave me the wrong opening time accurately said, some of the galleries were closed. i however did not realize that "some" meant "most". despite being the NATIONAL museum, it was rather sad that the state of the building, as well as most of it's exhibit did not bear any of that seeming high status. in truth, private collections like that of the ayala's fair so much better than this one. the building is currently undergoing a major paint job, but being a design graduate myself, i can definitely tell no amount of "make up" can hide the degree of wear in this building. the exhibits were not remarkable. besides the spolarium, all works within seemed almost like an art gallery for artists who sell their wares in megamall. i have to admit it was rather pleasant that the galleries adapted a more modern looking interior, but the quality of the pieces within, and how they are showcased, mmmm, i can't say i was very much impressed. to be quite honest, after going through all the galleries which were open that day, i found myself more intrigued by the architecture of the museum more than the pieces that were housed therein. sneaking out my cam-phone, i hastily took a snap of the beautiful staircase that wound along either side of the lobby.

in about an hour, i was done. a sorry duration if i may say so, but what to do, there was nothing else to see. i decided then to move to the opposite building to the museum, the museum of the filipino people (MFP), to see if there was anything new. ah yes, i remember why i wanted to go there. there was supposed to be an iranian art exhibit currently on-going. having worked in the middle east, i felt it was a good way to reconnect with those memories. unlike the nat mue, the MFP had more people, kids primarily. there were a few foreigners as well. a blond girl who looked irked; a cute looking bald guy who looked like he was looking for the irked girl; and a french couple whom i felt were getting too frisky in a place where kids were running about (i'm pretty sure they had the undivided attention of all the CCTV cameras in the area). also, unlike the nat mue, the MFP's many galleries are sponsored by private institutions, thereby being better kept and by far more presentable. my first stop was the gallery where they showcased the entries for the PLDT yellow pages cover contest, submitted by art students from all over the country. it was rather amusing to see the work of the students, so fresh and quite ingenious in their use of different media. there was one entry that was entirely done using push pins!

if the nat mue was built to house the spolarium, the MFP was built to house the artifacts from the san diego, a spanish treasure galleon that sunk in pinoy waters centuries ago. discovered by the french, they i think struck up a deal to showcase the loot both in france as well as here in the philippines. the galleries containing the remnants of the doomed ship, as well as many of its cargo and supplies cover at least half of the display in the entire building. having seen this exhibit for the third time, i decided to browse through it rather quickly. i doubt there would be anything new to discover about crusty earthenware and broken pieces of china. i did however manage to find an interesting arrangement that i took a pic of with my cam-phone. though supposed to be prohibited, i noticed another guy who had a digi-cam snapping away at almost every piece. i naturally thought it was ok. needless to say, the guy was apprehended by museum security and his cam, confiscated. i almost got myself into trouble as well but got away by saying that i was texting. lying and looking like a korean tourist got me out of hot water! i pitied that other guy though, he definitely did not look as oriental.

what almost got me into trouble... thank god i had chinky eyes!

there was a display, similar to the dioramas of the ayala museum, in the third floor that i rather liked. by far, this gallery presents the best picture of the filipino people to the world, containing articles of the rich history of the country, as well as many contributions from the myriad of ethnic groups that are found throughout our islands. i however was not able to appreciate it as much as i wanted to since this is where i discovered the very amorous french couple and later on, the kids running around. i just hope they did not think the foreigners were trying to "contribute" to our culture.

i learned that the iranian exhibit was housed on the fifth floor, where they had the changing exhibit hall. upon reaching the fifth floor, i was quite disappointed with how the museum chose to accommodate these guest to our country. for starters, visitors are greeted by a piece of bond paper stuck to the wall, haphazardly written in markers pointing where the exhibit was. the gallery was bathe in sunlight, exposing all the works to the detrimental rays and killing all chance of creating drama. the display, though not so impressive, felt disorganized and was laid out like i was at an art fair in the souks. i certainly felt reconnected but i definitely did not expect it to happen this way. thankfully, there were some works that offered redemption. i had almost forgotten that the iranians were famous for their fine works of islamic motifs and mosaics. their choice of colors were stunning to say the least and it reflected beautifully in many illuminated works that studded many of the displays.

i ended my museum day with a thought. the national museum and the museum of the filipino people is our heritage in a box. stored within its wall are the details that tell us where we came from, and most possibly, where we are heading. yet despite these valuable treasures within, their halls remain empty, their galleries cold and lifeless. stories, relics and artifacts only bear significance when they are entertained and received. without a recipient, they merely collect dust, crumble away and eventually forgotten. the condition of our museums is ominous of what is the filipino condition today. it has been said that we do not advance because we as a nation are quick to forget. we are quick to unlearn our mistakes and thereby, like broken records, repeat them over and over again. we re-elect dictators, ignoramus actors, political puppets back to power. we repeatedly condemn the ill effects nepotism yet come elections, practice it nonetheless. we are a people who adapted a national form of amnesia and thereby greatly disrespect our history, rich as it may be. it apparently is easier for us to forget and regret. a sad though, a sad though indeed.

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