I first visited the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in the mid-1980s. We went to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank) on a field trip, but I didn’t want to watch coins being minted. They gave us a choice of going to the bank or the museum—I chose the museum instead, and even if I went alone, I totally enjoyed it.
Touted as the “premier museum of modern and contemporary arts” in the Philippines, I believe the Met is more than that, and it is not just all about art, but about Filipino culture and its ties with other countries, as well. Though their Classical Gold from Pre-colonial Period gallery has since closed, there other fantastic exhibits.
Unlike other superstar museums like the National Museum and Ayala Museum, which has something for everyone, the Met has very specific and unexpected exhibit themes that might not be everyone’s cup of tea (like Junyee’s hair-raising cockroach sculptures at the Philippine Contemporary Art Group exhibit a few years ago). But they don’t care—they will put it out there, anyway.
I’ve never encountered an exhibit at the Met that I didn’t like—all of them satisfied me visually, intellectually, and emotionally. An example is the tiny exhibit of Philip Escudero’s photographs of Italian artist Francesco Riccardo Monti’s sculptures around UST. And the Volker Albus exhibit of the history of modern chairs, from Bauhaus era onwards.
Another eye-opening exhibit was of the innovative Japanese Design Today show of 100 Japanese-designed items that changed our lives forever. My all-time favorite was the International Festival of Extraordinary Textiles two years ago, not just because I love color and pattern, but because it showed that fabric really binds generations and nations together.
There are many other memories that I wish they’d bring back, like their museum shop curated by Rachy Cuna, which had a delightful rice harvest theme, and the museum café run by Ilustrado, where they sold sampaguita ice cream that tasted like melted flowers. But regardless of all the ever-changing exhibits, I will still enjoy the Met like how I enjoyed it as a child, looking in awe at huge sculptures in the middle of a cold, massive building.
The Metropolitan Museum of Manila is located at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Roxas Blvd., Malate; operating hours Mon-Sat 10am – 5:30 pm; the museum is temporarily closed because of the General Community Quarantine, follow them on Facebook for updates.