Treasure Hunt: The Best Museums in the Philippines

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A visit to the Philippines is never complete without walking through its museums and experiencing the country’s rich history and heritage first hand. As a country colonized by Spanish, American and Japanese powers in the past, the Philippines holds a vast collection of artifacts and art related to these years plus a dozen other things that show what it is like to live in these wonderful islands. Take a tour through any one of best museums in the Philippines or visit them all to witness Filipino courage, creativity and religious devotion.

National Museum

P. Burgos Street, Metro Manila

National Museum Metro Manila Philippines

The National Museum is the main repository of the Philippine’s cultural and natural heritage, making it one of the most sought-after museums for history buffs. The imposing structure on Padre Burgos Street welcomes thousands, if not millions, of visitors every year. It houses valued artifacts and artworks by famous Filipino artists like Juan Luna’s Spolarium. The museum is also home to national treasures including those recovered from the San Diego, a Spanish Galleon that sunk during the year 1600.

There are three main galleries in the National Museum. The National Art Gallery contains the Hall of Masters where the famous works of artists Felix Resureccion Hidalgo and Juan Luna. Another gallery is the Museum of the Filipino People which houses the San Diego Collection and some other archaeological treasures. The third gallery is the Planetarium which showcases true-to-life celestial bodies and an actual observatory.

Admission to the National Museum’s galleries is cheap at P100 for the Museum of the Filipino People and P50 for the Planetarium. Special rates apply for senior citizens, students and groups. Entrance to the museum is free of charge during Sundays.

The Mind Museum

Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

Considered as the country’s first world-class science museum, The Mind Museum is a perfect playground for kids age 6 to 96. It is perhaps the most-visited among the best museums in the Philippines. It is situated in one of Metro Manila’s most developed areas, Bonifacio Global City and stands proud with its ultra-modern architectural design. The Mind Museum has five galleries that visitors are expected to explore within three hours. With all the interactive exhibits, it is going to be hard to squeeze everything during the given time!

Visitors are greeted by Aedi, a robot whose name is “idea” spelled backwards. At the center of the museum is the Hall of Philippine Science which features scientists from all over the world. The museum’s first level is occupied by four main galleries: The Atom Gallery, The Life Gallery, The Earth Gallery and The Universe Gallery. All these galleries include interactive and interesting exhibits like the Shadow Box, Stan the T.rex and even a fossilized dinosaur poop. The second floor is occupied by the Technology Gallery which is patrolled by an obstacle-avoiding robot named MIMO. This gallery features a laser harp, night vision goggles and a Timezone arcade, among others.

Tickets to the Mind Museum costs P650 for adults, P450 for children and private school students and P150 for public school students and teacher with valid IDs. An all-day pass costs P750.

Rizal Shrine

Calamba, Laguna

Heading south from Metro Manila, history buffs will take delight in the exhibits displayed in Jose Rizal’s ancestral home. Rizal, hailed as the national hero, once resided with his family in Calamba before embarking on worldwide travels, making him educated enough to write books of propaganda against the Spanish colonizers of his time. His famous novel, Noli Me Tangere (Do Not Touch Me) is said to have spiked the revolution that lead to independence from the Spaniards. The Rizal Shrine contains some of the original bedrooms of the Rizal children, photographs, Spanish artifacts and the black coat worn by Jose Rizal during his execution in Bagumbayan.

There is a gift shop on the ground floor where visitors can buy copies of Rizal’s works already translated to English, some trinkets and other souvenirs. Admission is free but the Shrine welcomes donations for its upkeep.

Cebu Cathedral Museum

Cebu City, Cebu

Since Cebu City is known as the birthplace of Filipino Catholicism, it is only fitting that it dedicates a museum for showcasing this heritage. Located just a few steps from the Sto. Nino Basilica and the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the Cebu Cathedral Museum is a must-see for those who are interested in knowing the roots on which the country’s widespread faith grew. The museum houses various artifacts collected from different parts of the province including the Carmen Collection, a wooden pre-Vatican II altar plated with bronze. There are also some antique images of saints whose parts were mutilated by thieves who were after the valuable ivory they were made of. The museum’s second level is filled with treasures made of gold, silver and ivory.

A guided tour of the museum and its gardens costs P50.

Ponce Suites

Bajada, Davao City

Fans of unconventional art will not only find an attraction but also unique accommodations in Ponce Suites, a little inn owned by Min Ponce, mother of the famous Mindanao artist Kublai Millan. Towering sculptures of different themes dot the street leading to the inn, as if asking the visitor to follow a trail that ends in a vast collection of Kublai’s works. Most sculptures depict the Bagobo Tribe in various settings. The inn itself is a barrage to the senses with different paintings, sculptures and art installations including giant ants crawling all over the low ceiling. Some visitors find Ponce Suites a bit eerie but for the art aficionado, it is a paradise. The rooftop has a restaurant serving continental cuisine and of course, more art.

Guestrooms in this inn/art gallery/museum start at P1,250 and special discounts may be given during certain periods.

The Philippines is a cornucopia of art, history, culture and religious heritage just waiting to be unearthed. With its welcoming atmosphere to back it up, visitors will soon find out that the country is a treasure chest of discoveries that will not soon be forgotten. The museums do not only house mere artifacts, science exhibits and artworks, they are also standing testimonies of Filipino courage, ingenuity, faith and creativity.

Have you visited any of the best museums in the Philippines? Have a favorite that is not on the list? Tell us about it by commenting below.

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