Last Updated: December 14th, 2017
The three pillars of the National Museum of The Philippines which are home to some of the country’s finest artworks and treasures became a reality by virtue of the National Museum Act of 1998. The country’s Museum complex now includes the National Museum of Fine Arts (Old Legislative Building), National Museum of Natural History (Old Agriculture, and Tourism Building), and the National Museum of Anthropology (Old Finance Building).
Having been established on October 29, 1901, the National Museum has definitely come a long way in preserving and protecting important cultural properties in the country.
National Museum of Natural History (Old Agriculture, and Tourism Building)
Designed and conceptualized by renowned Filipino architect Antonio Toledo, the National Museum of Natural History in Manila was originally built to house the Agriculture and Commerce Building. With the aerial bombardment during the Second World War, much of the structure was seriously damaged.
It first underwent restoration soon after the war which retained much of its original design. The building then housed the Department of Tourism, thus, making it well known as the “Department of Tourism” Building.
The ownership of this neoclassical structure was later transferred to the National Museum of the Philippines by virtue of Republic Act No. 8492, signed by former President Fidel V. Ramos on February 12, 1998.
In 2013, plans to transform the structure to house the National Museum of Natural History soon materialized. Having invited five architects to submit design concepts, the board of trustees of the National Museum awarded the project to the team of architect Dominic Galicia and interior designer Tina Periquet.
The winning design is supported by a stylized steel double helix representing our shared DNA with a glass dome that covers the central courtyard of the building. Dubbed as the “Tree of Life”, it rises six stories above the courtyard’s floor, which visually unites nature with art.
The estimated cost for the restoration and reconstruction is expected to be around Php 1 Billion and is set to finally open to the public by 2018.
National Museum of Fine Arts (Old Legislative Building)
As part of the vision of Daniel Burnham for his master plan for Manila, the Old Legislative Building was originally designed by Ralph Harrington Doane and Antonio Toledo. The building’s design is a perfect example of the neoclassical architectural style with its clean and elegant lines, free-standing columns, and uncluttered appearance.
Having commenced construction in 1918, it wasn’t until July 16, 1926, when the structure would finally be completed. Aside from lack of funds, revisions of the original plans had to be done by Juan Arellano, who, at that time was the supervising architect of the Bureau of Public Works. The estimated cost of its construction is said to be around Php 4 million pesos
Soon after its inauguration, the second, third, and fourth floors were occupied by the Senate and the House of Representatives, while the ground floor housed the National Library.
Here are some important highlights of its history:
- The engineering firm Pedro Siochi and Company supervised its construction
- The Second Regular Session of the 7th Philippine Legislature coincided with the building’s inauguration on July 16, 1926. In attendance were Governor-General Leonard Wood, then-Senate President Manuel L. Quezon, House Speaker Manuel Roxas, and Colonel Carmi A. Thompson, envoy of President Calvin Coolidge of the United States
- The inauguration of President Manuel Roxas was held outside the building in 1935
- The building was virtually destroyed by the aerial bombing of Manila during World War II
- It was rebuilt in 1949 by the U.S. Philippine War Damage Corporation
- It became known as the Congress Building until 1972, and as the Executive House for a short period after it housed the offices of the Prime Minister of the Philippines
- It also served as the office of the Vice-President before it was finally turned over to the National Museum of the Philippines in 1998
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared the building as a “National Historical Landmark” on September 30, 2010. A historical marker was unveiled on October 29, 2010.
National Museum of Anthropology (Old Finance Building)
Also known as the Museum of the Filipino People, this structure used to house the Department of Finance before it was transferred to the National Museum of the Philippines. It is said that the building was completed around the same time as the National Museum of Natural History although credible sources cannot be cited to support this.
The museum currently houses several artifacts from all over the country including:
- Artifacts recovered from the sunken trading ship “San Diego”
- The works of the country’s National Living Treasures (Manlilikha ng Bayan)
- Baybayin, an ancient Philippine script first recorded in the 16th century
- Bangsamoro Art
- Philippine textiles
The building also houses the Office of the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, National Museum Library, as well as the Archaeology, Ethnology, and the Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Division of the National Museum.
In its courtyard is a model of an Ifugao house with its pyramidal thatch roofs.
The Manila Project
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