Filipinos are a creative bunch. We have made a mark in the world with our innate creativity whether in visual arts, theater, movement, movies, and music. Our artistry naturally flows through and flood all of our five senses. So, it is not surprising that we can appreciate art and we can imitate life through arts.
For this week’s travel log, we will be going in and around Metro Manila to explore some of its visual art spaces. This covers popular spots frequently visited by social media users to humble artist’s homes turned into art galleries. This is the time where we get to relax, appreciate Filipino creativity, and learn to let loose our own creativity.
National Art Gallery, Ermita, Manila
The National Art Gallery is one of the four museums in the National Museum corridor in Manila. The building, where the gallery is located, is a historical landmark that witnessed the inauguration of President Quezon and the destruction of Manila during the country’s liberation from the Japanese forces. Originally designed as a public library, the re-constructed building housed the legislative branch of the government until 1996 but it was only in 2003 that the building was transformed to the country’s National Art Gallery.
The National Gallery is a repository of visual art works from renowned Filipino artists from the 17th to the 21st century. The collections include religious wooden sculptures from the 17the century, famous art pieces of Luna, Hidalgo, Tampinco, Francisco, Amorsolo, Tolentino, and other Filipino greats, and a gallery honoring Dr. Jose Rizal. It is the home of Juan Luna’s “Spolarium”, the largest painting in the country, that earned a gold medal in the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884.
The art space gives it visitors a 360-degree view of how Filipino artistry evolved through the centuries. It gave us a preview of how life was back then and the artist’s perspective at the time that it was commissioned. These artworks brought to life our colorful history and Filipino creativity.
Getting there: The National Art Gallery is along Padre Burgos Drive in Ermita, Manila. You can take the LRT Line 1 and go down at UN Avenue Station. The museum is a 10-minute walk from the station.
Angel Cacnio Gallery, Don Bautista Boulevard, Malabon
“Explore Manila” was a project that I started 5 years ago that aimed to explore the cities and lone municipality of Metro Manila. Little did I know that it paved the way for me to meet and be personally toured in his humble home/gallery by a great Filipino artist from Malabon, Angel Cacnio. The “surprise visit” turned out to be an hour of warm hospitality and shared stories by the artists as he gladly showed us the artworks made by him and his family.
A graduate of the UP College of Fine Arts, Angel Cacnio is the multi-awarded artists whose Php20 and Php100 bill designs were once in circulation. The artworks on display is a collection of his paintings, the artworks of his children, and the personal art collection of his wife, Amelia Cacnio, from other Malabon artists. His works have been widely recognized that he proudly showed us the recognitions and citations given to him by different organizations including the Gintong Parangal ng Malabon (1981) and the Gintong Ama for Arts and Culture (1996).
A visit to the Angel Cacnio Gallery needs to be coordinated with the Malabon City Tourism Office. We were lucky that he gladly entertained us when we visited his gallery unannounced. Again, his warm hospitality and humility made the visit to his gallery a memorable one for us.
You can also read my Malabon travel blog here: Explore Malabon!
Getting there: You can coordinate with the tourism office of Malabon City as visits are by appointment. The city has tricycle city tours that include the Angel Cacnio Gallery in the itinerary.
Gateway Gallery, Cubao, Quezon City
Located at the 5th level of the Gateway Mall in Araneta Center, the Gateway Gallery is an art museum that proudly outlines the rich history of the Philippines. It was a project that was launched in 2015 that fuses creativity and history.
The “Sining Saysay: Philippine History in Art” is a joint project of Araneta Center and the University of the Philippines. The exhibit has 30 artworks on display that depicts the different periods of Philippine history, from its pre-historic beginnings to the present-day Philippines. The artworks provide a visual representation of our colorful past that could easily connect with the younger generation of Filipinos. It provides visual marks of important milestones as a country and features past Philippine Presidents and their important contributions to nation-building.
The gallery is a good break from the usual humdrum of mall visits. It is a good opportunity to introduce kids and teens to visual arts while learning a thing or two about our country’s history. It is hitting two-birds with one stone - exploring one’s creativity and learning to be proud of our Filipino heritage.
You can read on my Quezon City travel blog here: Explore Quezon City!
Getting there: You can take the MRT or LRT and go down at Cubao/Araneta Station where you walk to the Gateway Mall. The Gateway Gallery is at the 5th Level of the mall.
Vargas Museum, UP Diliman, Quezon City
Located inside the serene campus of UP Diliman, the Vargas Museum is an unassuming art space in Quezon City. I guess it is safe to say that the whole UP Diliman Campus is an unassuming art space to start with. The museum stands in honor of the esteemed Jorge B. Vargas who entrusted the university his personal collections and memorabilia that are now on display at the museum.
The Vargas Museum is the repository of the Vargas’ collection of stamps, coins, artworks, and personal effects. Apart from these personal collections, the museum is also popular for its own collection of art pieces from Filpino greats like Juan Luna and Fernando Amorsolo. The art space also features the works of Filipino artists with their own kind of creativity.
The charm of Vargas Museum goes beyond its walls. The serene vibe of UP Diliman make the experience conducive to learning and creativity. It is a great place to visit if you are looking for a relaxed afternoon where you just want some peace and quiet.
Getting there: You can take a bus for Fairview and ask to be dropped off at Philcoa where you can take a UP-Philcoa jeep. Please ask the driver to drop you off at the Vargas Museum.
Yuchengco Museum, RCBC Plaza, Makati City
The Yuchengco Museum is one art space that you should not miss out when you find yourself in Makati. The museum is a repository, an art gallery, and a dedicated space that honors Jose Rizal. It is the repository of the family’s heirloom and the personal effects of the esteemed Ambassador Yuchengco from his years of government service. The museum also has an extensive collection of memorabilia that gives us a glimpse of Jose Rizal’s life. A gallery is solely dedicated to the great Filipino hero.
Not to be missed out are the visual artworks on display that includes paintings, sculptures, and architectural photographs. The museum has a wide collection of Amorsolo paintings, depicting rural life, in its main gallery. The second level gallery features artworks from prominent artists with a more modern approach in visual artists. A separate gallery was set for photographs of prominent architectural structures in the country designed by prominent architects of the country. One of its main attractions is its floating zen piece that had me appreciating it in awe.
The Yuchengco Museum is an interesting art space to explore. It does not overwhelm you but allows you to enjoy the space at your own pace. It gives you a good 60-minute walkthrough where you get to indulge yourself with a balance of history and creativity.
Read about my Makati City travel blog here: Explore Makati!
Getting there: You can take a bus headed for Gil Puyat via Ayala and ask the driver to drop you off near the RCBC Plaza. You can also take the MRT and go down at Ayala Station where you can take a jeep with the signboard “Washington”. You can ask the driver to drop you off at the RCBC Plaza.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Filipinos have a cool knack towards creative outputs. It is not surprising to find Filipino artistry on display in almost every corner of the country - from jeepney designs to wall murals or graffiti to our neighborhood karaoke joints. We are not afraid to express our creativity in whatever way that we can.
It does not come as a surprise, as well, that Filipino talent will always find its way to different art spaces. These galleries, whether home grown or institutionalized, provide us with a glimpse of an artist’s mind and how he sees society and the world. It fuses artistry and history to create a heritage that is uniquely Filipino. Again, take the time to explore these art spaces and appreciate these artworks that will make you a proud Pinoy!
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.