Makati’s Cultural Soul: A Visit To The Ayala Museum

Whenever we hear about Makati and the Makati Central Business District (CBD), we usually associate it with the tall buildings, the swanky hotels, and the classy shopping malls. But in the midst of this modern center of commerce lies a cultural soul of the business district that has managed to thrive to be a landmark in its own right and helped make this part of the metropolis more than just a business hub but a cultural hub as well. Of course, we are talking about the Ayala Museum, one the most well-known museums in the metropolis and the country as a whole.

And as Ayala Museum marks its 50th birthday in 2017, the Urban Roamer invites you to roam this museum as we learn the history and the heritage preserved in this storied structure.


Ayala Museum was conceived about the same time as Makati began to grow as a business hub. The concept for such a museum came about even as early as the 1950s as an idea brought about by Fernando Zobel Y Montojo, who was not only a prominent member of the rich Zobel de Ayala family who owned and developed the land that became the Makati CBD but also an accomplished painter and an avid patron of the arts as well. But it was not until 1967 when the idea finally came to life when the Ayala Museum was formally established as the project of the Filipinas Foundation (now known as the Ayala Foundation) through the efforts of Mercedes Zobel-McMicking, foundation head and sister of Fernando Zobel Y Montojo.


The museum was originally located at the Insular Life Building at the corner of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas where it remained until 1974, when the museum moved into a building of its own along Makati Avenue near Greenbelt Park, designed by no less than Leandro V, Locsin, the National Artist for Architecture, As can be expected from Locsin architecture like the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the first Ayala Museum building was all concrete, or what some would call “brutalist architecture,” with the appearance of geometric shapes stacked on each other. For almost 20 years, this would serve as the museum’s home, bearing witness to the changing landscape in the area around it and eventually be incorporated, alongside Greenbelt and the Quad 1-4 (now Glorietta), into the city’s greater commercial complex that is the Ayala Center.

The first Ayala Museum (courtesy of

As the 21st century dawned, Ayala banked on a redevelopment project of the Greenbelt area which included not only the original Greenbelt mall, but also the park and Ayala Museum. Under the plan, Greenbelt was to be expanded further, the park to be redeveloped, and a new Ayala Museum was to be built to meet the growing demands of the area as a whole. Thus, the old museum had to be demolished in 2002, with the blessing of the family of Leandro V. Locsin (who passed away in 1994), to give way to a bigger home for the museum that will be built.

For the new Ayala Museum, Ayala approached Leandro V. Locsin Partners, Locsin’s architectural firm, to come up with the design. The result was a 6-storey structure whose design was conceptualized by Leandro Y. Locsin Jr., incorporating concrete with steel and glass. The new Ayala Museum opened on September 28, 2004, about 30 years since its predecessor structure first opened to the public, signifying a new chapter in the museum’s history.


The Ayala Museum today stands at the corner of Makati Avenue and Dela Rosa Street as forms part of the Greenbelt-Ayala Museum loop of buildings encircling the redeveloped Greenbelt Park and the Greenbelt Chapel in the middle. While the museum building itself has six floors, the museum space occupies four of them, with the topmost (sixth) level housing the Filipinas Heritage Library, which relocated there in 2013 from its old home at the Nielson Building. Leading to the entrance, one can actually find a couple of what I think are Arturo Luz artworks.

The freeform sculpture in front of the museum, said to be part of the “paperclip” series of sculptor Arturo Luz, who is also the National Artist for Visual Arts
Museum Cafe at Ayala Museum

The ground floor serves not only as the reception area but also a venue for special or temporary exhibits, as well as an events venue for lectures, product launches, and other presentations. On the opposite side of the reception area is the Museum Cafe, with indoor and alfresco dining surrounded by greens and a centuries-old cannon.

Spanish era cannon located outside the museum

The second floor is perhaps the most well-known and most visited area of the museum as this is the floor that houses the 60 dioramas that depict the various events of Philippine history from prehistoric times until the postwar years, with a special audiovisual presentation of the first People Power Revolution. Carved by skilled woodcarvers of Paete, Laguna, the dioramas have become the “must-see attractions” of Ayala Museum ever since they became part of the museum’s collection in 1973. While some of the events depicted in the dioramas are no longer considered historically accurate today, (such as the first shot of the Philippine American War which is now considered to have happened at a checkpoint in what is now Sociego Street rather than the San Juan Bridge which the diorama recreated) these dioramas still provide a great visual learning experience not only on what happened on the day these events took place, but also provide snippets on the way of life before.


The third floor is dedicated to the museum’s visual art collection for both permanent and special exhibits; some of the artworks of Fernando Zobel can be found here. There is also the museum shop where one can find items inspired by the museum’s collection, as well as books published by the Ayala Foundation.

The fourth floor is where one can find the museum’s most valuable collections, so valuable that you are not even allowed to take photos here. This is because this is where its extensive Asian ceramic collection and pre-Hispanic gold artifacts are displayed. In fact, the gold collection is housed in its own facility in the floor secured by automated doors that take the form of a vault. One can also find here the museum’s collection of indigenous clothing and textiles as well.

With so manyspecial exhibits and events happening at the Ayala Museum, there is something new to check out with each visit. It is one of the many places in the metropolis you should definitely check out. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 AM to 6 PM, while the Filipinas Heritage Library at the 6th floor is open at the same times from Tuesday to Saturday. Regular admission is at P150 (which gives you access up to the third floor only) up to P225 (with access to the fourth floor). For more information, visit the Ayala Museum’s website at


At the time of writing, there was also one special exhibit found at the third floor of the museum. It is an exhibit of old Manila structures built with Lego toys. A special exhibit by Philippine Lego Users Group (PHLUG) and Viva Manila, they are on display for a limited period, so do check them out now while you still can.


El Hogar Manila
Metropolitan Theater
Paco Railway Station


On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone who have read and made viral my last post on Harrison Plaza. Thank you for the support and appreciation for my work and rest assured the Urban Roamer will keep on roaming as it approaches its 7th anniversary and beyond!


Acknowledgements as well to the Ayala Museum at Google Arts & Culture and Wikipedia.


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