The National Museum celebrates its 119th Foundation Day with a 360 virtual tour

October 29, 2020



Gabrielle De La Cruz

Concurrent with the declaration of October as the Museum and Galleries Month, the National Museum of the Philippines announced its 119th Foundation Day in a Facebook post earlier today, October 29, 2020. The post read that the museum was originally established as the Insular Museum of Ethnology, Natural History, and Commerce on this day in 1901, a foreshadowing of how it is now distributed in three: the National Museum of Fine Arts, the National Museum of Anthropology, and the National Museum of Natural History.

Originally the 1926 Old Legislative Building, the neoclassical National Museum of Fine Arts was designed by Filipino architect Juan Arellano. It is probably the most prominent branch of the National Museum, as it stands as a vision in Padre Burgos Avenue in Manila and is within the vicinity of cultural and historical landmarks such as Intramuros and Rizal Park. The museum has provided free admission to Filipinos through the years, boasting a collection of renowned artworks, paintings, and sculptures by famous Filipino artists such as Juan Luna, Felix Hidalgo, Fernando Amorsolo, and Vicente Manansala. 

National Museum of Fine Arts facade- virtual tour
The National Museum of Fine Arts in Padre Burgos Avenue.

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With travel and quarantine restrictions brought by COVID-19, the National Museum launched its #MuseumFromHome program. The 360-degree virtual tour of the National Museum of Fine Arts was made possible through the Museum Foundation of the Philippines’ Sulyap Museo project and the photography of founder Fung Yu. A total of nine galleries can be enjoyed by the audience, with navigations that allow them to transfer from one location to another. Throughout the tour, the Visayan love song, Usahay, performed by the University of the Philippines Manila Chorale plays in the background. As the kundiman was written to depict the writer’s longing for his past love and is continued to be sung as a lullaby to children in Visayas and Mindanao, it serves as a musical complement to the entire virtual cultural experience. 

National Museum of Fine Arts - Spolarium
The Spolarium Hall, as featured in the 360 virtual tour.

The 360 tour starts with an aerial view of the National Museum of Fine Arts, leading to the building’s facade. This first scene captures an image of Padre Burgos Avenue, depicting the museum as a street centerpiece. Welcoming participants of the virtual tour in the museum’s interiors is the legendary Spolarium painting of Juan Luna, which is located in the first hall named after it. A clickable PDF icon is embedded in each immersive scene, which reveals information about the hall once opened. Virtual marks are also placed near each artwork, which read the description of the piece once clicked. The virtual experience gives the illusion of walking through the halls of the museum, with interactive arrows that lead to the next location. Users are able to zoom in on each piece, enabling them to appreciate and examine the detail of each artwork. 

SEE MORE VIRTUAL TOURS: Heritage travel from home: 5 virtual heritage tours to explore amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

National Museum of Fine Arts - Filipino Struggles through History
Botong’s Filipino Struggles through History. The seven-panel masterpiece is considered to be his greatest extant artwork, which he finished a month before his death.

One of the famous pieces inside the National Museum of Fine Arts is Carlos “Botong” Francisco’s stretch of paintings in the Session Hall. This visual narrative demonstrates Filipino struggles through centuries, including the execution of GOMBURZA, the Cry of Balintawak, and the entry of Americans in the Philippines. This part of the tour basically sets the mood of the virtual experience, with the succeeding parts elaborating on stories of war, courage, and faith. 

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ collection of Sacred Art in the Del Rosario Family Hall. This hall highlights “how art was used to propagate Catholic faith” and how “the church served as the sole patron of arts during the Spanish colonial period.”
Gallery of over 100 paintings by artists Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo.
National Museum of Fine Arts - war paintings in the Laya Hall
War paintings in the Laya Hall. This collection features how Filipino artists depicted scenes of conflict and suffering during World War II.
A collection of National Artist Guillermo Tolentino’s sculptures inside the Security Bank Hall.

The remaining halls center on various art forms and themes, with the last scene presenting a collection of large-scale paintings by Vicente Manansala and the Narra reliefs installation by Jose P. Alcantara inside the International Rice Research Institute Hall. Both declared as National Culture Treasure and Important Cultural Property, these works “bear the themes of rice cultivation in the Philippines and the rituals, festivals, and local belief systems that surround it.” The tour ends with a festive portrayal of Philippine culture and progress, an artistic testament to how it survived the tests of evolution. 

National Museum of Fine Arts - Emilio Aguilar Cruz hall
The Emilio Aguilar Cruz Hall celebrates the contemporaries of Emilio “Abe” Aguilar Cruz, with artworks focusing on lessons of courage and determination.
Botong’s series of paintings, “The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines” was incorporated inside the Philippine General Hospital hall.
Click here to explore the creative halls of the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Yu of said that this National Museum of Fine Arts tour was an endeavor sought to be produced even in the midst of the pandemic. The entire production took a total of almost three months, “from conception to execution, and finally, to the exhibition.” The photographer shared with BluPrint that this tour is the first of three, with virtual tours of the National Museum of Anthropology and the National Museum of Natural History to be released in the coming weeks. 

National Museum of Fine Arts - narra piece Jose Alcantara

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