Manila and Her Stories: The National Museum and the Luneta


Housed in two neo-classical American buildings along the so-called “Neo-Classical Corridor” of Manila, the National Museum is divided into two divisions, the National Art Gallery and the Museum of Natural Sciences. The former is located in the majestic old Congress Building finished under the supervision of celebrated architect Juan Arellano in 16 July 1926.

The entrance of the building is historic as it was from the very steps of this building when Manuel L. Quezón declared the beginning of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935. The museum features some of the finest samples of Philippine paintings by Filipino Masters such as the famous Spoliarium of Juan Luna, the Assassination of Governor Bustamante by Félix Resurrección Hidalgo and works by the first National Artist Fernando Amrsolo y Cueto. Located across, in the old Finance Building, is the Museum of the Filipino People. Here, visitors are charged a fee of 70 Pesos unlike in the National Art Gallery where visitors can enter for free. On display in the Museum of the Filipino People are anthropological collections that showcase the Philippines’ Pre-Hispanic environment, the remains of the sunken San Diego galleon and other historical artifacts such as burial urns and chinaware.

Not many know though that a pre-war National Museum was sadly destroyed due to heavy bombardment by the Americans and the Japanese soldiers’ ruthlessness, and along the thousands of civilians who perished were countless other artifacts that detail and showcase the grandeur and color of Philippine history and heritage. Many works of scientists, artists and thinkers were destroyed due to the last war including studies on thousands of Philippine flora and medicinal plants. Many tourists and Filipinos fail to realize the great injustice done to the Philippines by the War; many products of our cultural heritage were forever lost after the “Liberation” of Manila in February 1945. The rich and expansive collection not only of the National Museum but also of the many schools, convents and monasteries of religious orders within Intramuros and the districts of Ermita (e.g. Ateneo de Manila) and Malate, collections accumulated by the missionaries through the centuries, were forever gone after the War.


Rizal Park is a spacious national park located near the Manila Bay and the old walled city of Intramuros. The area used to be referred to as Bagumbayan (Nuevo Barrio) because of the presence of a small town there that dates back to 1601. The town, however, was cleared after the British attack. Later, the Paseo de Luneta was located there, named after the crescent-shaped (lunette) defensive structure built by the Spaniards. The Paseo de Luneta became Manila’s center of social activity, the venue of early evening paseos or walks. It was an ideal site as it was located very near the beach where the sea breeze of a calm Manila Bay cooled the people as they strolled in their finest clothes.

Ironically, Luneta was also the execution site of the Spanish colonial government. Some of the more famous ones executed here were the three Filipino priests named as GomBurZa. It was here though, in 30 Dec. 1896, where nationalist Dr. José Rizal was executed thus sparking the national movement for freedom from Spain. In 30 December 1913, the monument in honor of Rizal by the Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling was officially erected and unveiled on the site in the Luneta where Rizal was shot. Today, Filipinos flock to the monument to pay homage to the national hero. In front of this shrine, where Rizal’s body is buried, is Kilometer Zero, which serves as the point from which all roads and distances are measured.

Located also in Rizal Park are the Chinese and Japanese gardens, the National Museum, the National Library, the Orchidarium and Butterfly Pavilion, Relief Map of the Philippines, a dancing musical fountain, the National Historical Institute, the Quirino Grandstand, where Presidential inaugurations are held, and many gardens where visitors can play traditional folk games and have picnics.

Here is a link to the National Museum (which is located very near the Luneta):


About hechoayer

Things made yesterday still influence us until today. Things made today will influence us tomorrow. Things of the essence such as faith, culture, food, music and values should never disappear nor eroded by the times. Instead, these must be recorded, lived and shared. Something made yesterday - hecho ayer - can be tomorrow's saving grace. Never ignore the past.
This entry was posted in CULTURA, GUIA: TOURS, HISTORICA, LA VIDA FILIPINA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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