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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, January 24, 2019
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Tour of the museums

Ninfa Leonardia

Every time I come to Manila, I couldn’t find enough time to explore. I had to free my schedule and asked around where the museums are.

A security guard of the National Historical Commission helped me. I passed by the 1919 Luneta Hotel, the seaman’s shed marker which obviously was filled with men along the sidewalk. The Museum of Natural History was in an imposing neoclassical building with Corinthian columns and about 27 steps, right in front of the Teodoro F. Valencia Circle where the monument of Lapu-Lapu stands tall. Ka Daroy to many, Teodoro F. Valencia was regarded as the dean of Filipino journalists. He was the builder of Rizal Park that is one of the best parks in Asia.

Visiting the National Museum of History for the first time, the front office staff asked me to write my name on a ledger and he was practically taking notes on the gender of the visitors and where we come from. It is best if you bring less luggage for your visit so as not to go to the luggage area and leave your bags.

The museum has six floors and five of which are for exhibits. The first floor is the introduction to the museum with the Tree of Life in modern design that symbolizes the encompassing embrace of life on earth under God and nature where the central structure and the landmark connect to all exhibitions.

The second floor is about our natural inheritance, the third floor has a display of mangroves, beaches and intertidal zones - the marine realm - while the fourth floor is about mossy, montane and pine forests, wetlands, lowland and evergreen rainforest, while the fifth floor is very interesting with Philippine biodiversity, geology, minerals, energy resources and “Life through Time”. There are replicas of dinosaurs, a huge picture of the tarsier, the eagle and the Philippine tamaraw. I saw a lot of high school students around.

There are more than 40 employees taking charge of the museum, from ensuring cleanliness to guarding the displays, and asking visitors not to touch.

I proceeded to the other building, also of neoclassic Romanesque architecture with Corinthian columns, which I presume to be the works of the first architects of the Philippines, like Tolentino and known contractors who reconstructed the Museum of Anthropology like A. M. Oreta and Co. Inc. This was funded by the USA then under the Philippine Rehabilitation Act of 1946.

The museum features the rich culture and history of the Philippines in five stories. I made use of the elevator in both museums. First floor is the Ifugao house, courtyard and the National Museum Library. The second floor features an exhibit of the “Philippines at the Crossroads”, ivory trade, treasures of San Diego where we can find pottery, earthen jars, and kitchen ware in clay. The third floor pays tribute to our National Living Treasures, the Lantaka and the Bell of War and Peace, Bangsamoro Art, Lumad Mindanao and the very well-laid Biyay that tells the story of Negrito community and traces of its beginnings in the Philippines. The fourth floor is the Baybayin, a Filipino textile exhibit, with mats and baskets as containers, and costumes with the Pinaseda.

Both museums are open Tuesday to Sunday, until five in the afternoon, for free. There are prohibitions in the museums, such as bringing of backpacks, bags larger than a short bond paper, caps, hats, and bonnets. Smoking is not allowed as well as touching artifacts and displays, videography, including pens and art materials.

So when you come to Manila, visit the museums and walk around Rizal Park.*

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