When a Milan-based friend called me to say that her boss, celebrated Italian visual artist and sculptor, Carla Tolomeo, was going to be in Manila for a few days and wanted to experience Philippine art and culture, I knew that I had my work cut out for me. The diversity of this archipelago means that the definitions and expressions of “art” and “culture” would be as vast as our seas, and that it would not do the Philippines justice to limit one’s experience of the country’s cultural gifts. Still, with only three half-days (and a lot of Manila traffic) to organize the tour, we prepared an itinerary that proved to be as full of surprises as it was with artistic juice.
Ayala and Yuchengco Museums: Proud bearers of Philippine history, art, and culture
Any museum and gallery hop in Makati ought to have, first and foremost, two of the country’s largest and most celebrated museums: the Ayala Museum(open Tue-Fri, 9AM-6PM; Sat-Sun, 10AM-7PM) and the Yuchengco Museum(open Mon-Sat, 10AM-6PM).
The Ayala Museum is perhaps the best the Philippines has ever seen, with historical dioramas, ethnic artifacts, and an exhibition of pre-Hispanic gold (many dating to a thousand years) that will leave its viewers in utter awe and amazement of everything that Filipino ancestors had been able to create and amass before the Spanish started labeling us “indios”. In the midst of our tour, our Italian guest, Carla, exclaimed that this was probably the best collection of gold she has ever seen. For someone who breathes art and who lives in the continent of museums and historical artifacts, you can tell that this is no exaggeration.
Meanwhile, the Yuchengco Museum, while more modest in its assets and approach, is by no means a cultural lightweight. Its Masters Collection houses pieces from some of the country’s most celebrated maestros, including Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, and Carlos “Botong” Francisco; as well as pieces by National Artists Vicente Manansala, Ang Kiukok, Napoleon Abueva, Victorio Edades, Cesar Legaspi, and Jose Joya; among others. Our group also witnessed the homecoming exhibition of Edd Aragon (who you will find has an interesting connection to the museum’s patrons), who uses ultraviolet (UV) light to make his works come alive.
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