I have always wanted to visit the National Museum of Fine Arts because I want to see Juan Luna’s Spolarium. While I do appreciate art (I think), I don’t understand all art so I veer towards the art that has cultural and/or historical significance. And the Spolarium was one thing I wanted to see.
When Joel and I visited Manila in February, the National Museum of Fine Arts was our top must-do activity. I wanted to squeeze the National Museum of Fine Arts after our Museum of Anthropology visit but there was not enough time that day. We just postponed our visit to the following day. We arrived at the museum past the opening time but there were still not a lot of people inside. It was a Friday and a school day so that might have explained why there were not many people inside the museum.
When we stepped inside the first room, the Spolarium greeted us. Aside from being awed by its sheer size, I was swept with a sudden sadness — as if it suddenly went silent and I could hear a dying man (or a dying race) crying for help. I showed my picture of the Spolarium to my four-year nephew and he asked if the man is Jesus and if he is killed by humans.
There are numerous artworks inside the museum and construction and renovations are even still ongoing to add more art. The best way to appreciate all the art inside the museum or appreciate the art you like best is to know in advance how the museum’s collections are grouped. The way to go is to start at the Spolarium and walk counter clockwise and to go from Floor 1 to the top most floor. This is because the museum groups the collections according to the decade the arts were made/produced. So as you go up, the arts would be more modern and current.
Probably my favorite gallery would be the gallery of portraits. It was also the gallery with the most number of people, mostly students, at the time we visited. This gallery was my favorite because most of the paintings were famous people — heroes, former presidents — and they seem so different in paintings from my imagination. This would be the same as the sentiment of a couple of girls inside that gallery when they saw a portrait of Rizal, our national hero. “Is that Rizal?,” one of the girls asked. “Ang pangit pala nya.”
My husband’s favorite gallery would be the gallery dedicated to Fernando Amorsolo’s pencil and pen sketches. I also loved that because it showed his process and my husband is into sketching.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the National Museum and would have stayed longer, if not the whole day, if there was somewhere we could get food nearby or inside the museum. You can visit the National Museum of Fine Arts together with the National Museum of Anthropology and the newly opened Museum of Natural History. The museum is free. There are some things though that I think the museum could improve upon: (1) more art made/produced by women; (2) guided tours because there was no one we could ask questions to; (3) audio tours, if guided tours are not easily achievable, because most of the paintings mean nothing without any background.