I HAVE always wanted to visit one of the National Museums in Manila City. However, my schedule when visiting the capital tends to be tight and gives me no time to visit the museums.

During a trip to Manila in July, I was lucky to find time to make a quick visit to some of the museums under the National Museum. While I was able to make time, unfortunately, I only have two hours to enjoy the museum that I may be visiting before it closes.

I opted to visit the National Art Gallery or the National Museum of Fine Arts (Mofa) during my trip to Manila.

The Mofa is housed under the former Legislative building, which was originally designed as the public library by Ralph Harrington Doane. At a glance, you can say that the building holds a lot of history.

The first gallery I visited was where the Spoliarium is. The gallery is the first you will see after writing down your name on the logbook.

You will be greeted by Guillermo E. Tolentino’s Diwata. According to its description, the “statue is an example of how the sculptor intended to forsake that sculptural tradition but could not. It is a reminder that the National Artist continued to accept commissioned private work despite his then newly acquired fame.”

After turning the corner, I was finally able to see for the first time the famed Spoliarium by Juan Luan. At 4.22 meters by 7.675 meters, this is the largest painting in the Philippines.

Painted in 1884, the National Artist’s “painting features a glimpse of Roman history centered on the bloody carnage brought by gladiatorial matches.”

I have seen photos of the Spoliarium but seeing it in person, I was in awe. I am not someone who is well versed when it comes to visual arts, but a regular person like me can say that this is one magnificent artwork.

I spent a few minutes just appreciating the artwork or trying to get a great photo of it. However, my photos could not do justice as to how beautiful the Spoliarium is.

Remembering that I only have less than two hours to enjoy the museum, I continued my exploration of the museum, visiting one gallery after another.

I eventually found myself in a gallery showcasing Philippine fashion. The gallery features 116 years of Philippine fashion pieces from the house of R.T. Paras. From ball gowns to Filipinianas to wedding dresses, the gallery gives visitors a glimpse and taste of the beauty of Philippine fashion.

Another area of the museum that stood out to me was the old session hall of the former legislative building. Here you will find the History of Manila, also known as Filipino Struggles Through History, by National Artist Carlos V. Francisco.

According to its description, the work “was the culmination of the artist’s acclaimed efforts towards depicting the sweeping history of the Filipino people.” Considered as his “most monumental” work, the History of Manila was Francisco’s last work before he died in 1969.

What I love about exploring the Mofa was art is not only found within the galleries but there are also artworks like paintings and sculptures along the hallway.

You will also find in the museum the unfinished portrait of Florencia “Nena” Singson Gonzales-Belo by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo.

My trip to the museum does not end here. There are more things that I would love to share with you guys before I wrap things up. But that has to wait until next week.