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An ancient Maranao bracelet from the early Filipino people in Mindanao. Archaeologist claims that
these relic is dated for about century.

Elmo Zugwalt
Philippine National Treasures

What others are saying


An ancient Maranao bracelet from the early Filipino people in Mindanao. Archaeologist claims that these relic is dated
for about century.
Asian and Tribal Art
ca century CE.
An ancient Maranao bracelet from the early Filipino people in Mindanao. Archaeologist claims that these relic is dated
for about 19th century.

The National Museum of Fine Arts houses an extensive collection of works by


esteemed Philippine artists, from masters like Juan Luna, Felix Resurrection
Hidalgo, and Fernando Amorsolo to modernist painters such as Vicente
Manansala, José T. Joya, and Hernando R. Ocampo, among many others.
Here is our list of the top 12 works you must see at the National Museum.
1. Spoliarium by Juan Luna (1884, Rome)
IMAGE ROSANNA PERIQUET
Painted by Juan Luna, one of the first internationally recognized Filipino artists,
the Spoliarium is the most famous artwork in the National Museum. The painting
is impossible to miss, as it is 6.75 meters tall by 4.22 meters wide, the largest
painting in the Philippines. The Latin word Spoliarium refers to the basement of
the Colosseum in Rome, where dying gladiators were stripped of their garments
and weapons after battle and left to take their last breath. It took Luna eight
months to paint this scene in Rome. Trained in the Western style of painting in
19th century Spain, Luna eventually won the Philippines’ first gold medal for
the Spoliarium at the Exposition de Bellas Artes in May 1884.
2. El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante (The Assassination of
Governor Bustamante) by Felix Resurrection Hidalgo (1898-1904,
Paris)
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Hidalgo’s painting presents a theatrical portrayal of the shocking assassination of
Governor General Fernando Bustamante in 1719 by a mob of friars in a conflict
between church and state. Hidalgo highlights the dramatic event with the use of
bold color, dramatic lighting and dynamic movement. Fearing that the artwork
would spark controversy, Hidalgo never showcased it in Barcelona. He later won
a silver medal for it at the 1905 St. Louis Exposition in Missouri. The painting is
now known as a national treasure, with its place in the museum right across
Luna’s Spoliarium.
3. Ruins of the Legislative Building by Fernando Amorsolo (1945)

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Known for his idealized portrayal of Philippine rural life and beautiful scenic
landscapes, Fernando Amorsolo’s depictions of the World War II devastation of
Manila were in stark contrast to his usual subject matter. Amorsolo was known
to have spent his time during the war in his home in Manila, which was near the
Japanese garrisons. From here, he sketched vivid images of the city’s destruction
which he managed to see from his window and rooftop. The picture showcases
the usual spectrum of gentle colors seen in Amorsolo’s landscapes. However, the
ruins of a once impressive structure give the viewer an idea of the incredible
aftermath of the war. The Legislative Building was said to be the grandest and
most impressive structure of all public buildings constructed during the
American occupation. It is now the National Museum of Fine Arts.
4. Portrait of a Lady by Juan Luna
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Juan Luna’s Portrait of a Lady was long-believed to be a portrait of his wife, Paz
Pardo de Tavera, but is more likely a depiction of one of his favorite models. The
painting portrays an idyllic image of a beautiful fair-skinned Spanish mestiza
reclining in her bed. The portrait carries with it a legend that it brings bad luck to
each of its owners, with its last proprietor being the former Philippine First Lady,
Imelda Marcos. The picture was once displayed at Malacañang Palace before it
was eventually donated to the National Museum by the Marcos family.
5. Relief carvings in the Senate Hall of the Old Legislative Building
by Isabelo Tampingco
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A gifted sculptor, Isabelo Tampinco began to carve at an early age in tiny
workshops in Binondo and Santa Cruz. His talent in creating lifelike figures and
decorative carvings that incorporated Philippine motifs, especially the anahaw
leaf, was not a surprise, as he was a descendant of Chinese sculptors based in
Binondo.
Tampinco later decided to open his own studio in Quiapo, Manila. Adorned with
intricate carvings of classical figures and motifs, the Old Senate Session Hall at
the National Museum should not be overlooked. The hall was the setting for
various Senate hearings and debates during the American occupation. Benigno
“Ninoy” Aquino Jr. delivered his privilege speech leading up to martial law in
1972.
6. A Copy of De La Imitación de Cristo y Menosprecio Del Mundo
(The Imitation of Christ) by Thomas Á Kempis (Barcelona, 1895)

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This is a rare relic that tells a tragic story and gives viewers a look into the life of
Philippine national hero Jose Rizal. This Christian devotional book written by
German-Dutch priest, Thomas Á Kempis was once owned by Jose Rizal and given
to his wife, Josephine Bracken in 1896, the year of his execution.
The book is one of the most widely-read Christian devotional works after the
Bible. It was given to Josephine Bracken after her marriage to Rizal in the Fort
Santiago cell where he was held captive. Only a few hours later, Rizal was
executed at Luneta, with this book being one of the last possessions he had with
him before his death. The book was inscribed with the dedication, “To my dear
and unhappy wife / Josephine / December 30, 1896 / José Rizal.”
7. The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines by Carlos “Botong” V.
Francisco

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This four series painting by National Artist Carlos “Botong” V. Francisco depicts
the history and development of Philippine medicine over the centuries. Francisco
was a muralist painter, known for his historical works, and one of the first artists
known to veer way from Amorsolo’s romanticism of Philippine subject matter.
Originally located in the Philippine General Hospital, the mural was restored
several times in 1974, 1991, and 2006. Each panel portrays medicine in a
different era, with the first being the pre-colonial period, followed by the Spanish
colonization, the American colonization and lastly, the modern era. The series is
a must-see, as it was declared a national treasure in 2011.
8. Mission Accomplished by HR Ocampo
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National Artist for the Visual Arts HR Ocampo was a member of the pre-war
“Thirteen Moderns,” a group of artists established by Victorio Edades in
1938. Their works often showcasing the jarring realities of the Philippines post
World War II.
Ocampo was one of the artists who paved the way for modern art in the
Philippines and was known for his use of bold and intense colors and abstract
shapes. This painting is one of the few Ocampo works where figures are still
distinguishable, the battlefield and planes in the artwork depicting the reality of
war. His later works fell more in the abstract spectrum, with his drawings
becoming even more unorthodox in manner.
9. Planting of the First Cross by Vicente S. Manansala

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Vicente S. Manansala often portrayed Philippine historical events, and was also
known for his ability to successfully depict Philippine city and rural life. This
picture represents one of the most significant events in Philippine history: the
1521 planting of a cross in Cebu by Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan,
who encountered the Philippines in the 16th century.
Blending traditional and modern techniques, Manansala’s technique of
“transparent cubism” has become one of the most recognized painting styles
among Filipino artists.
10. The Hills of Nikko by Jose T. Joya

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A pioneer of non-figurative abstract expression in Philippine visual art, Jose Joya
was known to have spearheaded the growth of abstract expressionism.
Joya’s Hills of Nikko depicts the snowy wintertime in Nikko, Japan. After Joya
visited Nikko, he painted this balanced image of hues and strokes as an
expression of his aesthetic experience. The painting is said to be a representation
of human imperfections, with the earthly colors symbolizing humanity and its
limitations. On the other hand, the blues and greens are meant to epitomize hope.
The artwork was shown at the Venice Biennale 1964.
11. Lady in Distress by Benedicto R. Cabrera “BenCab”
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National Artist Benedict R. Cabrera, also known as “BenCab,” is the most
distinguished painter of his generation, recognized for his portraits of women in
bundled fabric. The influence of his older brother Salvador, also a painter, and
and Jose T. Joya at the University of the Philippines gave BenCab both an early
start and an edge as an artist. This eye-catching monochromatic painting
portrays a woman in deep stress with bold strokes, conveying a powerful image
and emotions.
12. Personalities by Federico Aguilar Alcuaz

National Artist Federico Aguilar Alcuaz was known for his modernist abstract
paintings with influences of cubism. Alcuaz spent some time in Spain, where he
maintained a studio in Barcelona. On the third floor of the National Museum, a
long bright-colored hallway is filled with a series of portraits painted by Alcuaz,
which is part of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Collection.
Depicting well-known Philippine personalities, these portraits encompassed
politicians, socialites, actors, and artists.
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Seen here are three pictures from the series: artist HR Ocampo, Philippine
President Fidel Ramos, and comedian Rodolfo “Dolphy” Quizon