The Met Museum (Manila) and some notes on Museum Photography …

The Metropolitan Museum of Manila had an Open House at the last Saturday of August this year. I had been meaning to visit this museum for a couple of years now but I kept putting it off because Met is not that accessible (or so I thought). To my surprise, it was not actually hard to reach via public transportation. There was heavy downpour that day so I just settled for a short but sweet visit (and also partly because I was terrified of one of their curators).

Getting there

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Luckily, the museum is not so hidden in plain sight. The monolithic BSP building where it resides is impossible to miss.
  1.  Take the LRT and alight at Vito Cruz Station.
  2. Walk straight towards the street of the Philippine sports center. You would see the Philippine Tae Kwon Do (huhu my previous home) center as you walk along. This may take around five minutes or roughly ten.
  3. You would see orange shuttles going to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The fare is minimum; just 8 pesos.
  4. Get off at CCP. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), where the Metropolitan Museum is housed, is at the same side as the CCP.
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I came from a low income family though we never had a home as dire as what is portrayed here. But, I am not a complete stranger to the plight of the urban poor (I’ve been there, still slightly there) so it always surprises me to see works like these in museums since this is like a daily sighting pour moi (eh, nakikita ko rin naman ito sa inaraw-araw). 

Rookie Mistake: I got off CCP but instead of walking forward by the front of the buiding, I tried to reach BSP from the back. This is not safe because going this route, you would have to pass by a creek where no other pedestrians usually go. This being Manila, it’s better to walk in places where there are many people.

The Metropolitan Museum of Manila

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Artist: Alwin Reamillo Title: Padapo/Palipad (Alight/Aflight)

The Met Museum is divided into three levels – the basement, ground, and second floor. I was unable to check the basement level. The ground and second floors are wide space areas with barely any dividing walls so they look vast and expansive. One floor alone can hold several exhibitions (I did not count). The wide space allows visitors to browse around without worrying so much about bumping into other visitors or art pieces. The minimalist design (i.e. mostly white) focuses the visitor’s attention to the artworks on display.

I only stayed for an hour and it got pretty overwhelming. The museum, at first, did not appear that huge (at least if you would compare it to Ayala Museum which has four levels). But, they efficiently packed their rooms with so much artwork. An hour of stay may not be enough to sufficiently take in everything or most of what they have to offer.

Some Gripes…

Photography is strictly prohibited on the second floor. There are small signs indicating that – mostly they are tiny square symbols in red showing a camera topped with a barred sign (supposedly, a universal symbol meaning “do not take photos”). There are several of them but they are so tiny that one could easily miss them.

I have my personal opinions regarding photography in museums. I do not totally get why museums would restrict visitors to take photos (I know this is a much debated topic with both sides having their reasons). Photos are good for publicity and as long as visitors exercise proper etiquette and stay mindful of the safety and preservation of the artworks (e.g. no flash photography) and the convenience of other visitors, then I think it is fine. Most museums compromise by allowing photography in some areas while forbidding it in some. I get that. I respect that.

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Martino Abellana : Boy with Instrument (1972)

But, this control took an ugly turn during my visit at the Met Museum. There were some visitors on the second floor who apparently did not notice the “no photography” signs. In my experience, in Ayala Museum, if you are seen doing this – their tall, dark, and handsome (yes, all or most of their security guards are good looking. I know because whenever I visit, I get distracted sometimes by their beauty and height. They also have a cute librarian but that is a different story.) would quietly and respectfully approach you to remind you of the rules (i.e. a simple tap and a gentle whisper). This was not the case in the Met Museum.

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This women did not mind being photographed 🙂 Artist: Roberto Roldan

One of the curators loudly berated visitors caught taking photos – “hoy! bawal yan!” (hoy, that is not allowed). She was so loud that people around her would take notice. There was one point when I saw her angrily approached one guy and she demanded that he show him his gallery “patingin ng gallery! Burahin mo yan!” (show me the gallery, erase those!). Everyone else in the vicinity were watching this took place. It was a little bit jarring to witness that to be honest especially in my “happy place”. I get why she was angry. But, did she really have to demean the visitors and embarrass them in front of other people? I get her but what she did seemed haughty and vindictive. I immediately left after that.

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Tomas Francisco: The Last Supper (details) Year: 1829

So yeah, I would suggest going to the Met Museum. They have great Philippine contemporary art and they have so many ongoing simultaneous exhibits. Just be wary and respectful of the house rules (as in any establishments) lest you get humiliated by some of their staff. 

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