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REDISCOVER The Ayala Museum

I worked in the Philippines’ financial business district of Makati City for a combined 2 years and 10 months, and I have  been to a couple of attractions there, notably restaurants and hotels in the sprawling and environmentally-friendly Greenbelt district. On my way home, I went through the walkway and passed by The Ayala Museum, an art and history museum privately managed and curated by the Ayala Foundation.

This year started with my visits to well-known museums in Australia. And yet, I have never been to The Ayala Museum. So after my friend and I finished watching a feature screening in the 2011 Spanish Film Festival last October 15, I was able to drag her to the museum. For a (resident) adult price of PHP225.00, we were able to see the museum’s prized collections in under three hours.

The museum was envisioned by Fernando Zobel De Ayala y Montojo (or commonly known as Fernando Zobel, the Spanish-Filipino non-objective modernist painter), and the current building was designed by Leandro Y. Locsin, Jr. The museum was presented as a gift to the Filipino people on the occasion of its 170th anniversary.

The main attraction of the museum is its permanent exhibit of about 60, intricately handcrafted dioramas spanning the events in our history, located at the second level. While some dioramas are equipped with captions, and some events they are depicting are easily remembered, I had mental lapses recalling events featured there, since they were not familiar (or I am forgetting my Philippine History lessons) and they did not have captions with them. Some dioramas are supposed to be equipped with audio, but there was no headset available. But hands down to the skilled Paete diorama artists who put the finest detail even in the tiniest figure or object put together to create such visual, diorama experience.

Diorama of National Hero, Jose Rizal's execution

Also at the second level is the boat gallery showcasing miniatures of some of the watercrafts that contributed to the development of Philippine maritime trade and colonial economy. From pre-Hispanic sailboat, Chinese junk, Arabian Baghla, Lorcha, galleon, and caravel, the showcase breathes like real, as they are handcrafted out of baticulin, laniti, and apitong wood, and adorned with cloth, string, buntal fiber, bamboo, and bronze.

The Boat Gallery

The second level glass lane is the continuing Ninoy and Cory Aquino Exhibitions (in partnership with the Aquino Foundation). Perhaps for lack of space that was why it was there, however, it was sticking out like a sore thumb. A proper exhibition area outside the dioramas and the boat galleries would have been fitting for the Aquinos exhibit though. When we visited, the first level was reserved for a magazine launching if I remember, and I guess that level of the museum is really allotted for such.

We also found it quite puzzling to find the temporary partitions featuring how the Filipinos — from the first known man to roam the archipelago to Cory and Ninoy evolved, height-wise. Does height has something to do if a Filipino will be great or not?

On our way up to the third level was the array of ceramic ware from China and an ongoing DesignTalk by Brian Tenorio. Then we checked the exhibit of National Artist Jose T. Joya, noted as a leading master in Philippine abstraction. Personally, I am not a fan of abstracts thus I had little appreciation of the exhibit. But what caught my attention was that Joya’s works depict action, and were created out of vigorous brushwork. Prominent also was his fancy of the moon as fierce in red. We also saw samples of Damian Domingo’s works. Domingo established a school for artists in Tondo, Manila, and he became known as a painter of portrait miniatures and religious images.

Nuestra Senora Del Santisimo Rosario by Damian Domingo

Also, the works of Fernando Zobel merit its own gallery, the remaining exhibit under the Pioneers of Philippine Art series (I wasn’t able to see Juan Luna and Fernando Amorsolo as those exhibits were done for sometime already). Graduating magna cum laude from the Harvard University, Zobel was influenced by the Boston artists and he is best known for using surgical syringe to achieve the long, fine, and controlled line prominent in his ouevres, particularly the Saeta and Seria Negra series.

Quatro Lineas by Fernando Zobel

Up the fourth level, we were greeted by a huge vault which houses the Gold of Ancestors exhibit of more than one thousand gold objects dating back before the Philippines’ colonization in the 16th century. Our eyes feasted on golden sashes, necklaces, pectorals, diadems, earrings and finger rings, bracelets, and anklets. There were also funerary pieces made of the thinnest gold sheets. Our ancestors aesthetic sense are stamped in how they made those opulent gold pieces, and which designs are all can be seen in today’s jewelry and accessories. We were also even offered by the roving guard to see the audio-visual presentation regarding this exhibit, which lasted for about 15 minutes.

As it was nearing 7 p.m., we rushed to see Embroidered Multiples exhibit, featuring selections from the Leiden National Museum of Ethnology’s collection of Philippine garments like rare, embroidered silk trousers or sayasaya worn by Philippine elite men and nipis blouses for women. We only made a quick look at the vast Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics, about 500 of them. They could merit their own museum and for me, they all look alike (even those I have seen in Australia) that the collection was of little interest to me. The guard even politely asked us if we were already done touring the rest of the museum, and we said yes, as it was past 7 p.m. already.

Good thing that the Museum Shop was still open and I bought a bundle of 10 Bookmark Series and two magnetic bookmarks featuring Juan Luna’s Woman with Manton De Manila — all for PHP100.00 since they have a sale going-on. I love collecting bookmarks. My goal 1 bookmark : 1 book.

All 10 for PHP50.00 (formerly valued at PHP315.00)

If not under time pressure, I could have enjoyed the visit to The Ayala Museum more leisurely. After many years, I finally got to see this art and history jewel in the busy city of Makati. I am now even considering to become a member. We did not have dinner though at M Cafe (and it’s not connected with the museum), but it could have completed the artistic, historical — and gustatory experience for that day. And I look forward for more engaging exhibits soon.

All photos used here are from The Ayala Museum. Located at  Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa St., the museum is opened from Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.


Written by Lynda C. Corpuz

October 31, 2011 at 11:11 pm

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