The halls of the National Museum of the Philippines have seen the prized works of the country's most sought-after artists. Through the years, it served as a home for lovers of the art and those who seek to feed their souls with colours and rich cultural history

The striking architecture of the National Museum of the Philippines is impossible to miss, even when you're in a city as busy as Manila.

Designed by Ralph Harrington Doane, Antonio Mañalac Toledo, and Juan M. Arellano between 1918-1926, the structure thrives and cradles some of the Philippines' most famous artworks, including Juan Luna's Spoliarium (1884), Guillermo Tolentino's Lualhati, Jose Joya's Hills of Nikko, and more. 

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In this write-up, Tatler lists some things you may not know about the building: 

1. It used to be an old legislative building

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The old legislative building (Photo: Nostalgia Filipinas)
Above The old legislative building (Photo: Nostalgia Filipinas)

Before it was a place for arts, the National Museum used to be a legislative building until 1973, when former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. abolished Congress and declared Martial Law. 

When members of the Senate and the House of Representatives moved to different locations, the legislative building turned into the permanent home of the Philippine National Museum in 1998. 

2. Three former PH Presidents had been inaugurated here

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Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina , a Filipino statesman, soldier and politician who served as president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines from 1935 to 1944. He was the first Filipino to head a government of the entire Philippines (as opposed to the government of previous Philippine states), and is considered to have been the second president of the Philippines, after Emilio Aguinaldo (1899–1901). (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Above Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina , a Filipino statesman, soldier and politician who served as president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines from 1935 to 1944. He was the first Filipino to head a government of the entire Philippines (as opposed to the government of previous Philippine states), and is considered to have been the second president of the Philippines, after Emilio Aguinaldo (1899–1901). (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

In 2022, the National Museum is once again the talk of the town when the transition team of Ferdinand 'Bong Bong' Marcos Jr, announced that the building will serve as the elected President's inaugural site. 

He will be the fourth President to do so after Presidents Manuel L Quezon (1935), Jose P Laurel (1943), and Manuel Roxas (1946).

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3. The national collections were destroyed in 1945

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Painting depicting a scene from the Battle of Manila Bay by Willy Stower (1864-1931) a German artist, illustrator and author during the Imperial Period. Dated 19th Century. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Above Painting depicting a scene from the Battle of Manila Bay by Willy Stower (1864-1931) a German artist, illustrator and author during the Imperial Period. Dated 19th Century. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The Battle of Manila, which transpired in February 1945, caused significant damage to the city. One of its most devastating aftermaths included the knockdown of the national collections in the Legislative Building, where most items were placed for safekeeping. 

When the war ended, the Natural History Museum Division in 1945 was reconnected into the National Library's Fine Arts Division. This would later become the National Museum.

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4. You can tour the place digitally

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The National Museum of the Philippines launches its new website (Photo: Toshio/Flickr)
Above The National Museum of the Philippines launches its new website (Photo: Toshio/Flickr)

The National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) has decided to reach its patrons through an innovative website that features all of the museum's art collections, articles, exhibitions, and services. The new website, accessed through nationalmuseum.gov.ph, was launched on September 27, 2021, in time for the museum's 120th anniversary. 

5. National Museum of the Philippines can trace its history to the establishment of the Museo-Biblioteca de Filipinas

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The National Museum of The Philippines (Photo: Official Gazette)
Above The National Museum of The Philippines (Photo: Official Gazette)

The rich history of the National Museum of the Philippines can be traced to the establishment of the Museo-Biblioteca de Filipinas, erected on August 12, 1887, by the royal order of the Spanish government. 

It opened at the Casa de la Moneda on Calle Dabildo in Intramuros, Manila but was later abolished in 1900 when the Americans occupied the Philippines. The "direct precursor" of the National Museum, the Insular Museum of Ethnology, National History and Commerce, was established afterwards under the Department of Public Instruction by the Philippine Commission on October 29, 1901.

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