Before starting my museum hopping adventure in Manila, I figured that it would be better to have a little “appetizer” in order to get the feel of a museum setting once again. And what better place to see than the University of the Philippines’ very own Vargas Museum!
The Vargas Museum is located at the UP academic oval, beside the College of Arts and Letters. It was named after the first executive secretary of the country, Jorge B. Vargas, who served during the Commonwealth period. He donated his collection of artworks and other memorabilia of cultural significance to his Alma Mater (University of the Philippines) in 1978, but these items were transferred to the Diliman campus only in 1986 and the museum building was inaugurated in 1987 by then President Corazon C. Aquino.
There were seven exhibits at the Vargas Museum when I went there yesterday morning, May 25. I arrived at 9:30am and finished at 11:45am. I was able to see six of the seven exhibits (because I didn’t know how to go to the basement where the last one was and I was very hungry already. haha). Here are the exhibits I would like to highlight:
Bliss Market: Exchange in Time | Space of Transience
I did not understand what this exhibit was about when I was reading about it the night before my visit. Apparently, a group of artists collaborated and did different art projects that promoted community interaction between the residents of UP Bliss. I’ve only been to UP Bliss once when I went to my classmate’s unit in one of the twenty-three buildings of the complex. If I understand correctly, UP Bliss was one of the housing projects during the Marcos regime. The place looked really nice in the old photos displayed at the exhibit- so different from the dark, eerie, and almost worn out building I saw when I went there a few years back.
One of the artists in the exhibit proposed having a UP Bliss Plaza to encourage people to go outdoors and socialize instead of spending their whole day indoors watching TV or surfing the Internet. The artist feels that technology has lessened community interaction. Another project I liked was the one where two artists would go from one residence to another to interview about people’s life in UP Bliss then after each interview they would give an artistic sign saying, “God Bliss Our Home,” which people could hang on their front doors. There was also an interesting part of the exhibit where several family pictures of UP Bliss residents showed the common practice of having a carpet-turned-wall-decor in their houses. Drawings, murals, and artworks of UP Bliss children were also on display. I left the exhibit with a strong sense of community and it reminded me that art can be an effective means to bring people together.
Urban Legend (Lawrence Dizon Sumulong)
This exhibit showcased photographs of the Parthenon-inspired Manila Film Center. The pictures were all black-and-white which I think helped to fulfill the artist’s objective of showing that this building has been neglected (the pictures gave me an impression of an abandoned building), but is being revived as the site of the Amazing Show by transvestite performers.
If there is one thing I love about Imelda Marcos that would be her influence in the propagation of Filipino arts and culture during her husband’s rule. This exhibit features photographs of different buildings built under the former First Lady’s supervision- CCP, PICC, Philippine embassies, Zamboanga International Airport, and many others. The structures were truly impressive with their local touch and creative architectural designs.
Drawing (Jose Legaspi)
“Oh my goodness, this is one talented but terribly disturbed artist” was what I kept telling myself as I looked at countless drawings depicting dark and gory images. I really think that if you look at that exhibit and then went directly to sleep afterwards, you would most likely have a nightmare! There was a naked woman eating a baby, a naked man with a sword stuck in his ass, a naked woman who seemed to have been crucified because blood was flowing from holes in her hands and feet, and she was vomiting too! There were, however, two life size drawings of the artist that were really awesome. The details were great in that one would think it to be a photograph rather than a pastel drawing. But still it was a bit creepy because it resembled the framed photos found in horror films- the type that would rotate its neck to follow you when you walk by. For goodness sake, I was alone in the room! :)))
The Vargas Collection
This permanent exhibit at the second flor Main Gallery features Jorge Vargas’ collection of paintings by Fernando Amorsolo, Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, and many other artists. They say that if we want to create or think of beautiful things, we should surround ourselves with the beautiful. This gallery is certainly one of the best places to be for such inspiration and beauty. I particularly like Fernando Amorsolo’s Fishing Scene (1942) and Cirilo Salonga’s Going to the Misa de Gallo (1942). The former is a large painting (about 1.5-2 meters in length and maybe 1 meter in width), which makes me feel as if I were actually by the shore looking at the man and woman carrying the fish basket with a fishing boat nearby and a beautiful view of the mountains and clouds at a distance. Salonga’s painting, on the other hand, depicts a family going to the church for Misa de Gallo. One of them is riding on a carabao, while the rest are standing inside a cart that is being pulled by the carabao. They have two traditional star lanterns to light their way. I like it because it shows how important Christmas is to the Filipinos and that this season is always a time to be with loved ones, especially our family.
After my museum visit, I went to the UP Shopping Center (SC) to grab a bite at the turo-turo stall (beside Alicia’s if I’m not mistaken), which serves my favorite fried talong with garlic soy sauce. I also tried their tofu because my other favorite, the tasty and FAT longganisa, wasn’t available. With this, I had a satisfying vegetarian lunch for only PhP50. Yum!
Before heading back to the college of engineering from SC, I stumbled upon this second hand bookshop by the waiting shed behind the Coop. I was totally thrilled to find several volumes of Peanuts Comics! My brother has two volumes at home, which we have read so many times already because we don’t know where to get other volumes locally. Now we know where. Hooray!
*You can visit the Vargas Museum blog here for more information on the latest exhibits, schedules, and rates. :)