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Arts & Culture

5 Reasons to Visit the National Museum of Natural History ASAP

Aside from the exhibits, of course!

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Photography: Shara Cayetano

If you checked social media last weekend, you probably heard about the hour-long lines just to get into the newly-opened National Museum of Natural History. The museum was finally opened to the public on International Museum Day, which is celebrated annually on May 18. People came in droves to see the repurposed building, which has been given a modern twist in the form of the Tree of Life—the central structure composed of the main elevator and the geometric-patterned dome that serves as the ceiling of the museum courtyard.

 Read: 6 Filipino Architectural Marvels You'll Be Proud Of

There are currently four exhibits available to view, with the remaining exhibits slated to open by Jose Rizal’s birth anniversary on June 19. On display are detailed replicas of marine animals and a mangrove forest, fine specimens of rock, and many other interesting pieces, including the skeletal system and replica of Lolong, the longest crocodile held in captivity. That alone should convince you to visit, but for good measure, here are five more reasons why you should go to the museum ASAP:  

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The façade

There’s a palpable sense of history as you approach museum’s main entrance from Teodoro F. Valencia Circle in Luneta Park. The Neoclassical-revival structure dates back to 1940 as the former Agriculture and Commerce Building, and was rebuilt after WWII. Visitors are greeted by an expansive staircase that leads to the entrance, where they can pose amidst the gigantic Corinthian columns or the wrought-iron detailing on the windows and doors. It’s certainly a stylish entrance that everyone from architecture buffs to IG photographers will love.

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The inner courtyard

Much has been said about the Tree of Life—and for good reason. The central elevator is a marvel of design, built as a DNA-inspired structure, and is the best way to see the museum courtyard from a unique perspective. The redesign and retrofitting of the museum was done by architect Dominic Galicia, while his wife Tina Periquet Galicia worked on the interiors. But one shouldn’t look past the subtler details of courtyard, which exudes a distinct indoor/outdoor feel thanks to the natural light streaming in from the glass dome. For a better view of the area, climb up to the suspended walkway that connects the fifth level to the central elevator. Trust us, the view will make you go “wow!”   

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The banners in the central hall

Upon entering the museum, you’ll be greeted by three of the Philippines’ most iconic animals: the tarsier, the Philippine eagle, and a family of carabaos. These beautifully-depicted creatures are printed on screen-like material, so they don’t obstruct the view from the windows on the upper floors. Make sure you walk around the courtyard so you don’t miss any of them!

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The art in the hallways

Yes, this is the museum of natural history—but that doesn’t mean there’s no art to be seen inside. The second floor is home to paintings of Philippine orchids by Filipino painter Tomas Bernardo, while the hallways are adorned with colonial-era sketches and botanical prints of flora and fauna from all over the country. Just watch where you’re going when checking out these sketches—some of them are displayed right next to the bathroom doors!

 

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The location of the museum

When you line up at the museum entrance, you will notice that just across the park is another neoclassical building—the National Museum of Anthropology. The imposing structure obscures yet another museum, perhaps the most popular in the complex: the National Museum of Fine Arts, which is home to Juan Luna’s masterpiece, the Spoliarium. If you have time to spare after your visit, all you need to do is walk a few steps—and you’ll learn even more about our history and culture. You can also choose to explore Rizal Park, roam the walls of nearby Intramuros, or go on a food trip in Binondo. You’ll never run out of things to do—you’re in the heart of Manila after all. 

All photos by the author unless otherwise stated. The National Museum of Natural History is open from 10AM to 5PM (last visitors are admitted at 4:30PM), Tuesdays to Sundays, and is located at Teodoro Valencia Circle, Ermita, Manila. For updates, follow The National Museum of the Philippines on their Facebook page. 

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