The National Museum
The National Museum, a Trust of the Government, is an educational, scientific and cultural institution that acquires, documents, preserves, exhibits, and fosters scholarly study and public appreciation of works of art, specimens, and cultural and historical artifacts representative of our unique to the cultural heritage of the Filipino people and the natural history of the Philippines.
It is mandated to establish, manage and develop museums comprising the National Museum Complex and the National Planetarium in Manila, as well as regional museums in key locations around the country. Currently, the National Museum national network comprise nineteen regional, branch and site museums throughout the archipelago.
The National Museum manages and develops the national reference collections in the areas of cultural heritage (fine arts, anthropology and archaeology) and natural history (botany, zoology, geology, and paleontology), and carries out permanent research programs in biodiversity, geological history, human origins, pre-historical and historical archaeology, maritime and underwater cultural heritage, ethnology, art history, and moveable and immoveable cultural properties. Appreciation of the collections and research findings of the Museum, as well as technical and museological skills and knowledge, are disseminated through exhibitions, publications, educational, training, outreach, technical assistance and other public programs.
The National Museum also implements and serves as a regulatory and enforcement agency of the Government with respect to a series of cultural laws, and is responsible for various culturally significant properties, sites and reservations throughout the country. It is the lead agency in the official commemoration of Museums and Galleries Month, which is the month of October, every year.
The National Museum of the Philippines can trace its history to the establishment of the Museo-Biblioteca de Filipinas, established by a royal order of the Spanish government on August 12, 1887. It opened on October 24, 1891 at the Casa de la Moneda on Calle Cabildo in Intramuros, then home of the Philippine Mint, later moving to Calle Gunao in Quiapo. The Museo-Biblioteca was abolished in 1900 at the onset of the American occupation of the Philippines, and what is considered the direct precursor of the National Museum, the Insular Museum of Ethnology, Natural History and Commerce, was soon afterwards established under the Department of Public Instruction by the Philippine Commission on October 29, 1901. One of the reasons for the creation of the Insular Museum was to complement the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes, and it was subsequently integrated with the Bureau of Ethnological Survey under the Department of the Interior.
In 1904, after the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition at St. Louis, Missouri, the name of the Museum was changed to the Philippine Museum. At the same time, the Bureau of Ethnological Survey became the Division of Ethnology under the Department of Public Instruction in 1905 and then under the Bureau of Science, which housed considerable natural history collections, in 1906. A decade later, in 1916, the Fine Arts Division of the Philippine Museum was merged with the Philippine Library (precursor of the National Library and National Archives) to create the Philippine Library and Museum under the Department of Justice. The Natural History Division and Division of Ethnology were maintained in the Bureau of Science.
In 1928, the National Museum of the Philippine Islands was created and placed under the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and housed in a building in the Port Area adjacent to the Manila Hotel. The National Library was also established as a separate institution. The Museum consisted of the Ethnology Division and the Division of History and Fine Arts (the Division of Natural Science was not included in the organization). However, this was reversed in 1933, when the Division of Fine Arts was transferred to the National Library, and the Division of Ethnology and the Division of Anthropology, which included archaeology, ethnography and physical anthropology, were combined with the sections of natural history of the Bureau of Science and organized into the National Museum Division of the Bureau of Science. In 1939, the National Museum Division was renamed the Natural History Museum Division of the Bureau of Science under the Ofce of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce.
During the Battle of Manila in February 1945, virtually the entire national collections were destroyed when the Legislative Building, where most items were placed for safekeeping, as well as the Bureau of Science building, were reduced to ruins. After the war, the Natural History Museum Division in 1945 was reunited with the National Library’s
Fine Arts Division to become the National Museum – its final change of name – under the Office of the Executive Secretary. In 1951, the National Museum was placed under the Department of Education.
Regulatory functions were added to the National Museum, starting in 1966 with the passage of Republic Act No. 4846, which provided for the protection and preservation of Philippine cultural properties, and continuing through the 1970s, including management of important cultural sites around the country. In addition, the National Planetarium in Rizal Park was established under the National Museum in 1975. During this time, the National Museum was housed in one floor of the Legislative Building, as well as in a government building in Ermita, Manila. The establishment of the National Historical Institute in 1972 led to the transfer of diverse historical collections from the National Museum.
In 1996, President Fidel V. Ramos established a presidential committee to oversee the creation of a National Museum complex. Earlier in 1994, he had instructed the Secretaries of Finance and Tourism to prepare for the eventual transfer of their neo-classical buildings in Rizal Park to the National Museum, and in 1995, the Finance Building was turned over. The Department of Tourism was scheduled to transfer custody of the Tourism building by the end of 1997, but this initiative was delayed. In a historic move, the Senate of the Philippines also vacated its chambers in the Executive House to allow for the landmark building to be incorporated into the National Museum precinct.
On February 12, 1998, Republic Act No. 8492, The National Museum Act of 1998, was approved as the new charter of the National Museum that reestablished the institution as an autonomous government trust instrumentality under a Board of Trustees, and which designated the President of the Philippines as the Honorary Chairman and Patron of the National Museum. Later that year, the rst stage of the National Museum complex was realized with the formal inauguration of the Museum of the Filipino People in the converted Old Finance Building, a key part of ofcial commemoration of the centennial of Philippine independence that culminated on June 12, 1998.
Under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III, the vision for the National Museum complex in Manila as formulated in the 1990s was revived, with the turnover of the Tourism Building that will allow for the establishment of the permanent home of the national natural history collections, in line with the housing of the national anthropological and archaeological collections in the Old Finance Building and the national fine arts collections in the Old Legislative Building. Together these collections all encompass a significant and considerable part of the national patrimony that the National Museum preserves in perpetual trust for the Filipino people.
111th founding anniversary
On October 29, 2012, President Benigno S. Aquino III attended the 111th anniversary celebration of the National Museum. As Guest of Honor, he led in the unveiling of the marker for the restored Old Senate Session Hall and delivered a speech articulating his administration’s cultural policies. As part of the ceremonies, the President witnessed the formal turnover of the GSIS Art Collection to National Museum in order to consolidate the state’s art collections. Furthermore, the President announced the implementation of the National Museum Plan of 1998, which will establish a natural history museum.
Old Legislative Building
This historic building was first designed by Bureau of Public Works Consulting Architect Ralph Harrington Doane as the Philippine Library in line with the Burnham Plan for Manila. When the Capitol Building envisioned in the same urban plan was abandoned and the Library site chosen instead to house the Philippine Legislature, Doane’s plans were substantially modified by Juan Arellano for this new purpose.
On July 16, 1926, the impressive structure, dominating the approaches from both the Luneta and Plaza Lawton along Padre Burgos Avenue, was inaugurated during the opening of the second session of the Seventh Philippine Legislature. In the presence of Governor-General Leonard Wood, Senate President Manuel L. Quezon, House Speaker Manuel Roxas, all the legislators and the cream of Manila society and officialdom, the envoy of President Calvin Coolidge of the United States, Colonel Carmi A. Thompson, observed that “You have this day consecrated a new home for your deliberations, and your friends across the sea will point with pride to this structure as an index of your material progress.” Indeed, the pro-Independence lobby in Washington, D.C., would refer to the Legislative Building as having been “designed by Filipino brains and built by Filipino hands”—a sure sign of the readiness of the Filipinos for self-government and independence.
The grandest of all public buildings built under the American occupation, with perhaps the exception of the Post Office Building—also by Arellano and inaugurated in the same year—the mighty edifice was pummeled by heavy artillery in February, 1945. It was rebuilt by the U.S. Philippine War Damage Corporation to the same dimensions, though with far less exterior and interior ornamentation than the original, renamed “Congress – Republic of the Philippines” and made ready for use again in 1949. Closed down with the abolition of Congress after Martial Law was proclaimed in 1972, the building was re-inscribed with the name “Executive House” and given over to various government offices, such as the Office of the Prime Minister on the fourth floor, the Tanodbayan or Ombudsman on the third floor, the National Museum on the second floor, and the Sandiganbayan on the ground floor. The Senate Session Hall remained closed and the old House Session Hall converted as the main art gallery of the Museum, featuring Juan Luna’s Spoliarium which was moved from the Department of Foreign Affairs at Padre Faura (today the Supreme Court).
After the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986, the mixed use of the building continued—with the addition of the restored Senate after 1987. The Office of the Vice President took over the Prime Minister’s Office. This state of affairs continued for the next decade, until the various agencies were relocated to other premises which in time left the National Museum as the sole occupant of the building, a status confirmed by the passage into law of the “National Museum Act of 1998” (Republic Act No. 8492) that appropriated the building—together with the adjacent buildings of the Department of Finance and the Department of Tourism—for the museum as its exclusive home for purposes of establishing the National Museum Complex to appropriately house the nation’s patrimony. In the Museum’s master plan, the Old Legislative Building was designated as the home for the fine arts galleries, and eventually a National Museum of Art—a purpose that is being steadily realized.
In 2010, the Old Legislative Building was declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
The Session Hall
The Old Session Hall of the Senate of the Philippines is a chamber like no other in the country. Soaring three stories to the top of the Old Legislative Building, the hall was clearly intended to be nothing less than a secular cathedral – a temple of wisdom for enlightened debate and the making of laws.
During the early 1920s in the American colonial period, when the architect Juan Arellano was revising the plans of Ralph Harrington Doane in order to convert the building from the museum and library it was originally designed to be the seat of the legislature, the Senate was led by Manuel L. Quezon, the leader of the movement for Philippine independence from the United States. It is highly probable that Senate President Quezon exercised much influence over the design of the chamber where he would preside over the body that he himself had helped establish in 1916. With his strong personal aesthetic, well-known taste for grandeur, and deep belief in the need to promote confidence and respect by the Americans in the nascent all-Filipino institutions, it is easy to picture Quezon working with Arellano on the dimensions and decoration of the Session Hall. Whatever the case, the result was breathtaking with the combination of the lofty space with its mezzanine galleries for the public and the dizzying range of precast ornamentation crowned by a magnificent hardwood ceiling.
The most impressive features of the hall, taking full advantage of the architectural space, are undoubtedly the series of Corinthian columns and pilasters, the main wall above the rostrum with its fretwork and garlands, and most of all, the sculptural groupings surrounding the top of the hall. This ornamentation and all other decoration in the Hall was the work of the most celebrated Filipino sculptor of the time, Isabelo Tampinco—a contemporary of Juan Luna and Jose Rizal—and his sons Angel and Vidal. Tampinco gave full rein to his deep knowledge of classical sculpture, as well as to his personal artistic mission of Filipinizing many of the traditionally Western elements and motifs of the neoclassical style. The result, an entablature of great lawmakers and moralists through history and allegorical groupings, was and remains to this day an outstanding and unique achievement in Philippine art.
The standing figures of the entablature represent great lawmakers and moralists of history ranging from antiquity and Biblical times to the twentieth century, and include Kalantiaw and Apolinario Mabini on the East (Main) Wall; Pope Leo XIII and Woodrow Wilson on the West (Rear Wall); Moses, Hammurabi, Rameses the Great, Li Si, Augustus and William Blackstone on the North (Right) Wall; and Solon, Averroes, Justinian, Manu, Charlemagne and Hugo Grotius on the South (Left) Wall. Surrounding the cartouches on all four walls are allegorical groupings representing sovereignty, progress, arts and culture, industry, trade, farming, education, and so on.
Presided over by Senate President Quezon, the Senate in this hall served as a primary forum for the promotion of Philippine independence, which culminated in the acceptance of the Tydings-McDuffie Law in 1934 that provided for a constitution, a transitory autonomous Commonwealth, and full independence in 1946. Here the last American Governor-General, Frank Murphy, gave his final address to the legislature, on the day before the Commonwealth of the Philippines, and Manuel L. Quezon as its President, were proclaimed and inaugurated on the front steps of the building.
During the Commonwealth, when the legislature became a unicameral National Assembly, the sessions alternated between here and the old House Session Hall below, before settling in the upper chamber. In the years of the Japanese Occupation, the Senate Session Hall was the seat of the National Assembly under Speaker Benigno S. Aquino, Sr., and the venue for many historic addresses to the country by President Jose P. Laurel.
When the Battle of Manila was fought in February, 1945, the imperial Japanese forces used the Legislative Building to make one of their last stands in the city in the face of the American assault. After pummeling by heavy artillery, most of the building lay in complete ruin. The central core of the building, including the Session Hall, however, survived basically intact, although burned out and heavily damaged. When the building was rebuilt in 1949, the Session Hall was repaired according to the original designs, but at some point, plans were changed and the hall was segmented vertically into two parts through the addition of a wooden floor laid across at the level of the top of the balustrades of the mezzanine galleries. The ornamentation of the main wall was segmented and truncated. Over time, more interventions took place, obscuring further the sense of the architectural space. Nonetheless, the hall continued to serve the Philippine Senate between 1949 and the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, and after the restoration of democracy, from 1987 until 1996, when the Senate transferred to the GSIS Building in Pasay City. The hall, together with the entire building, was subsequently entrusted to the National Museum, together with the mandate, enshrined in its 1998 charter, to “preserve the Senate Session Hall as a tribute to the legacy of the great men and women of the Philippine Senate for their invaluable contributions to the Filipino people, and as a relic where democracy and freedom reigned and events of national significance transpired.”
In 2010, the National Museum embarked on a full scale restoration of the Session Hall, with the objective of returning it to its original dimensions and grandeur, celebrating its unique importance as a monument of architecture and art, and reestablishing important historical associations, above all the pre-war period that was defined by the peaceful movement for national independence.
His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the 111th anniversary of the National Museum
[Delivered at the Old Legislative Building, National Museum, Manila, on October 29, 2012]
Thank you. Please sit down.
President Fidel Valdez Ramos; Secretary Armin Luistro; Secretary Mon Jimenez; Mayor Alfedo Lim; Mr. Ramon del Rosario, chairman of the board of trustees of the National Museum; Mr. Jeremy Barns, Director of the National Museum; Ms. Maribel Ongpin; Chairman Daniel Lacson of the GSIS; President Robert Vergara of the GSIS; Board of Trustees of the GSIS; officers and staff of the National Museum; fellow workers in government; honored guests; mga minamahal ko pong kababayan:
Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.
The continuing challenge of history weighs heavily on this place. In this building, the 1935 Constitution was written. Its guarantees of rights and freedoms, as my father reminded us in 1983, represented “the most sacred legacies from the founding fathers.” Three of my predecessors were inaugurated on these grounds, marking three chapters in our development as a nation: from the Commonwealth, to the Second Republic, and then until the transition to the Third Republic. In this old Senate Hall, my grandfather served as Speaker of the wartime National Assembly, when our people faced great hardship in the hands of foreign oppressors. It was also here that my father, as a senator, stood his ground and spoke up against strongman rule. And it was here that the Senate, an institution I have belonged to, reconvened when Congress was restored in 1987.
In these building the unbroken record of what makes us Filipino can be found as well. From our earliest artifacts in clay, to our artistic treasures on canvas, and this room itself, are concrete reminders of what Rizal said, “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalinan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan.”
I take great pride in coming here as your President to pay homage to all those who have sacrificed to win and protect our right to exist as a free people. It is fitting, therefore, that we unveil the marker of our Old Senate Hall today—a reminder that the enduring flame of history, and the many shining examples of the genius of our countrymen, serve as a guide to one united Filipino nation that moves on the straight path to progress. I am also here to remind all our countrymen that when we praise Rizal, Bonifacio, and our other heroes, we do so not because the best is already behind us. We do so, because they challenge us to build a better future. In this effort, culture and the arts are vital to our national advancement.
After all, nothing less than our Constitution commands us to view culture and the arts, our history and natural resources, and those of you who have dedicated your lives to its study, protection, dissemination, and development, as national priorities and responsibilities. Our Constitution views culture and the arts not as a luxury, but as a necessity if we are to have a vibrant national life. It is through education, research, and the arts that we can achieve “total human liberation and development” as a democratic society.
Our people deserve better than to have our national heritage treated as an afterthought. Art and culture must be treated as part of a strategy for increasing national competitiveness.
Our plan is straightforward and has three parts.
First, to concentrate our efforts on our core competencies. I am happy to see government institutions working together to achieve efficiency, enabling each other to focus on their core mandates. The decision of the GSIS to entrust its collection of art to the National Museum is an example of this. It gives our people the opportunity to enjoy the marvels of our various heritages, while allowing the GSIS to focus more on its task.
Second, we are giving you the means to do your jobs. The budget increases we have given to our centers of heritage are significant. For the National Archives, from 76 million pesos in 2011, we raised their annual budget to 85 million pesos. For the National Library, we increased their budget by 47 million for 2012, totaling to almost 138 million pesos, which thus helps our lead institutions protect the many national documents they maintain for the benefit of later generations. To ascertain the conservation and protection of our historical sites, and to advance scholarship, we gave an almost 100 percent increase to the budget of the National Historical Institute, bringing it to 174 million pesos for this year. For our National Museum, we allocated 238 million pesos for 2012, which is 95 million pesos higher than your budget for 2011. And for 2013, we intend to give you 556 million pesos, so that you may carry out the necessary restorations for our historical and cultural collections. [Applause]
Our institutions must likewise have durable and permanent homes, for you to become effective in fulfilling your mandate to safeguard our nation’s cultural treasures. We are retrofitting the National Library and studying the transfer of the National Archives to the Intendencia in Intramuros, which will allow them to better address the needs of scholars. Now we are gradually implementing the National Museum Plan of 1998, which will finally pave the way for the establishment of our National Museum of Natural History, not just as a showcase for the richness of our natural resources and biodiversity, but as a place of research and education to help build a more scientifically literate society. For this, we have allocated 500 million pesos, which will cover the necessary construction expenses of the museum.
The third part of our plan is to empower institutions to work with our people and with each other. With the help of groups like the Philippine National Museum Foundation, which through the years has shown great support to the National Museum, we are working hand in hand to preserve our cultural artifacts and to advance the understanding and appreciation of our people for these. I understand that discussions are taking place between members of my Cabinet such as Ricky Carandang, Mon Jimenez, Butch Abad, and Cesar Purisima, and various stakeholders in our cultural community, so that your concerns can be raised. You will find all of us willing to listen and eager to help. On the other hand, you are all called to public service, and this means being part of the solution, and not part of the problem. Please use your budgets well, and responsibly: do not shortchange the public just so you can give bonuses to yourselves. We will take care of your bonuses. As government institutions, it is only fair to expect you to discard old habits the same way other agencies are discarding the old status quo.
Now, the fulfillment of our dream of our museums and libraries rivaling those in foreign lands can be seen on the horizon. But for our vision to be fully realized, we must work harder as far as the broader public, at home and abroad, are concerned. Our National Tourism Development Plan identifies the promotion of our culture as central in pursuing our national tourism agenda. We are optimistic that, through this, more Filipinos and foreigners will be enticed to tour our country. We know that the development of our cultural program is fundamental in achieving our tourism growth target of ten million international visitors and 35.5 million domestic tourists by 2016. Let us therefore embrace our countrymen, and always bear in mind that our cultural institutions cannot be independent of our people or their values, or worse, dismissive either of public opinion or the public itself, Filipino or foreign.
You have probably heard me say time and again: Talagang ang sarap namang maging Pilipino sa panahon ngayon. So much more can be achieved if we are a unified people. You now have the means to join hands with our countrymen to give them a chance to understand and appreciate our history and our society, and to inspire creativity and innovation in all areas of national life. I am confident that together, all our cultural institutions will become become part of the pulse of a nation of hardworking, determined, principled, and free Filipinos.
I congratulate the National Museum on your 111th anniversary.
Thank you and good day to one and all.