A few years ago, Philippine National Artist, BenCab, established a foundation with his friends and donated an art classroom for an elementary school in his neighborhood in Asin, Baguio City. Before the start of classes each school year, the foundation donates school supplies to these young students. To further expose and encourage them in art, the neighborhood kids can visit the multi-level BenCab Museum for free. There they can immerse themselves in what is considered the best and biggest collection of BenCab’s art.
Education should be a lifelong process in which we adopt new attitudes, values, skills, and knowledge from our daily experiences. Museums provide a wonderful way to enhance learning with educational influences and curated knowledge.
Museums also contribute to local communities. They provide a sense of place and a collective heritage; they are open to everyone regardless of class, gender, religion, or ability. Museums assure that marginalized voices are heard and integrated into history. They are places where we preserve our past, reflect on our present, and think about our collective future.
Ready to explore? These museums in and beyond Metro Manila offer a variety of themes from art and history, to culture and the natural world.
In 2017, Baguio was named a member of UNESCO‘s Creative City Network. One of the best places in the city to view indigenous and contemporary art is the BenCab Museum. Built by Philippine National Artist, BenCab, this museum is his way of giving back. Situated on Tuba Road where the city’s famous woodcarvers live, this museum has many galleries. The most distinctive would be the Cordillera (the name of this highland region) Gallery, which showcases a rare collection of indigenous crafts from wooden sculptures of rice gods to weapons used by highland tribes. Besides being a gallery of BenCab’s own works, two additional galleries are devoted to other top Filipino artists. For a respite, the café at the museum overlooks a garden and a mini-forest with a duck pond. If you’re lucky, then you might spy on the national artist puttering around caring for his plants, flowers, and building a stream.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
Located within Manila’s iconic Luneta Park, it’s one of the most stunning museums in the country. This historic, remodeled neoclassical building houses natural wonders from around the Philippines.
Discover specimens of native flora and fauna, recreated natural habitats, geological formations, and significant fossil findings. At the heart of the museum is a sunlit courtyard with a six-story-high, modern architectural feature called the Tree of Life.
Another highlight of this museum is the 6.17-meter skeletal remains of Lolong, the world’s largest captive crocodile from Agusan del Sur. Throughout the museum’s 12 galleries, you will find interactive displays, documentary film showings, and original artwork of native orchids and other Philippine specimens.
Binondo was once the cultural and commercial center of the Philippines. Originally a hub for Chinese merchants and artisans, it eventually became integrated into Filipino society, and is known today as one of the world’s oldest Chinatowns.
The Chinatown Museum, located in the heart of Binondo, is a community space that highlights the area’s heritage and history. On display are recreations of the country’s many firsts: from theaters, panciterias (simple restaurants that specialize in stir-fried noodles), pharmacies, and department stores– all of which had origins in Binondo. You will discover 400 years of history that make Binondo so significant; including the origin of the revolutionary Katipunan in 1892 which aimed to reform Spanish political, moral, and civic rule. The museum is a space to learn about the evolution of Tsinoy (Chinese-Filipino) culture and its enduring influence in all aspects of Filipino life.
MUSEO DE INTRAMUROS
Once the capital of the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period, the walled city of Intramuros is rich in history and Filipino heritage. At its center is the historic San Ignacio Church and Convent which now houses the contemporary Museo de Intramuros. The museum has a wonderful collection of religious colonial paintings, furniture, vestments, textiles, and unique artisanal carvings of patron saints.
With roughly 80 percent of the Philippine population being Roman Catholic, the six permanent exhibitions at Museo de Intramuros tell the story of the country’s evangelization
from the perspective of Filipinos. A highlight of the Intramuros Administration’s collection are the well-kept icons of The Immaculate Conception and The Religious Orders that can be seen when you first enter the museum.
Beyond Manila, a couple of hours drive to the north will bring you to Baguio City, known for its mountain location and nippy climate. The area is a gateway to the culture rich Cordillera mountain region.
Start at Museo Kordilyera, located at the Baguio campus of the University of the Philippines, for a unique look into the lives of the indigenous Cordillera people.
This first ethnographic museum in Northern Philippines is dedicated to the preservation of traditional artifacts and even houses a complete, genuine Ifugao hut.
Ifugao is one of the provinces of the region. Well-produced video presentations and elegantly-presented information panels allow you to deepen your understanding of their culture. Don’t miss the impressive hagabi, a traditional Ifugao bench, or the beautiful ethnographic photos decorating the walls. Aside from the amazing artifacts on display, Museo Kordilyera has a large collection of hard-to-find books and research materials in their bookstore. You won’t regret spending an hour here learning about the rich culture and history of this region.