City of Manila

A Day At The National Museum (Part 2: Museum of the Filipino People and the future National Museum of Natural History)

Right across the National Art Gallery building of the National Museum, right in the northern part of Rizal Park, stands two neoclassical buildings with a shared history, from the style to the architect and their usage, past and future.

Both buildings were remnants of what Daniel Burnham had in mind for Manila to be a “city beautiful” with the area where the buildings stand was envisioned to be the equivalent to the “National Mall” of Washington DC. Also, both were designed by the same architect who helped design the current National Art Gallery, Antonio Toledo, who himself started as a partner of Burnham’s longtime associate William Parsons. Both were completed by 1940, damaged by World War II and were restored after the war. Now both these buildings serve to show a bright future for the National Museum.


Nearest to the Gallery is the building now known as the Museum of the Filipino People, National Museum’s unit that deals with Philippine archelogical and anthropological exhibits. But for a long time, the building was the home of the Department of Finance before moved out by 1998 for the National Museum to come in and utilize the building in time for the country’s centennial celebration that year.

If the National Art Gallery has the Spoliarium as its showcase exhibit, the Museum of the Filipino People would have the San Diego exhibit which showcased the different artifacts unearthed from the San Diego galleon ship which sank in 1600 during a naval battle between the Dutch and the Spaniards. The battle itself was part of a bigger conflict between The Netherlands and Spain which was the Eighty Years War, but that’s another story.

The museum also showcases the rich culture of the Filipino people, the customs, and way of living of the many ethnic groups in the country, as well as the influences of other countries in Philippine culture.

It also has a sizeable archeological collection showcasing the prehistory of the Philippines. It is interesting to note that mammoths used to roam our land but no dinosaurs unfortunately…at least from what has been discovered at this time.

If the archeological and anthropological collection seem to be not as extensive as one may expect, one thing to note that currently, the building is also where the museum’s natural history collection are currently placed, which is not yet as extensive as one may expect as well.

That may change in the next few years as plans are under way for the opening of the third branch of the museum complex, the National Museum of Natural History


The building where the National Museum of Natural History will be located used to be home for two government offices throughout its history, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Tourism until late last year.

At this writing, the building is undergoing an internal makeover as the building is being prepped to become the new home of the museum’s natural science collection. Hopefully, this would mean the public would see more not only of the museum’s natural science collection but also its archeological and anthropological collection at the Museum of the Filipino People.

With the positive reception given to the Mind Museum, it is appropriate that the National Museum would ramp up its efforts in cementing its prestige as the country’s premier museum by giving attention to the museum of natural history. Judging from the plans presented by the architectural team who will handle the renovation of the building, one cannot help feel optimistic about what is to come. One can check out the video link below.

perspective of the planned National Museum of Natural History by Dominic Galicia Architects who will spearhead the project

The target date for the opening of the museum is next year, 2015, in time for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting to be held in the country. This would also mark the realization of the National Museum plan with the former Legislative, Finance, and Agriculture/Tourism buildings now serving a new purpose for present and future generations as safekeepers of the country’s glorious, though underrated, heritage. Here’s hoping that the completion of the complex would mean more interest among the people to visit the museum and better appreciate the country’s heritage.

Acknowledgements as well to the National Museum

© The Urban Roamer

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