Saturday, July 28, 2007

THE Ayala Museum

*Images on this page are scanned copies of the brochures/leaflets I received during the visit.

This impressive edifice of art and culture sits right in the heart of a commercial jungle. Thanks to whoever is that bright mind behind all these!

Anyway.., today I had to be at my Makati offices for some last minute and rush-rush activities. Also a day for me to start unpacking things and arranging my workstation since I transferred here last week. I thought lunch would be fine at a restaurant in Greenbelt – since I have not been in these areas for like eons! And yes, on the way to lunch, I saw the prominent frontage of this ultramodern structure with signage that said “Ayala Museum”. So I thought, I’d visit after lunch. And I am happy I did!

Where is it? It is right at the Makati Avenue edge of the Greenbelt 4 (G4) just almost across the Shangri-La Hotel or to be more precise – its just a few feet to the right from where it had been 20 years ago. It is now definitely bigger and spanking new. For those who would remember the former location of Schwarzwalder restaurant and the famous “disco” called Metro which later became Faces… this is the very area which is now part of the ever expanding Greenbelt Mall – actually a series of interconnected malls that seem to be all under one roof.

There is an entrance (from the mall) at the second floor that will bring you directly to the smaller museum shop, but I opted to go down and enter from the main entrance. Oh the main entrance! This is a fantastic edifice really! Facing the curbside from the corner of Dela Rosa St., with Makati avenue, you see the big frontage with a beautiful fountain and sitting areas. If you go straight ahead, you won’t enter the museum but actually spill to a little elegant garden. So the main entrance doors are to the right (just after the fountain) since on your left you’d be seeing big signs and the glassed-up insides of the “M. Café” (Museum Café) which is still part of the whole structure.

At the entrance I was received by a cheerful and enthusiastic lady in dark blue uniform who directed me to cross the expansive lobby where the “front desk” or “reception” is located. Speaks good English but I know she is supposed to be an “entrance guard”. At least there are still these kinds of “eloquent” people in this country! My goodness this lobby is not ordinary. It is black marble all over but at the center is an expansive rectangular yellowish (or is it cream colored) marble flooring. High ceiling and very elegant bare setting. I imagine you can even hold cocktails here or a small reception for about a hundred people or so – even a mini concert!

Behind the front desk is now a display of interesting Japanese Pottery. It is not permanent so go forth and visit now as the schedules say it will be on show just until 05AUG07. Interesting is of course a lesser word to use on these usable works of art. There are vases, plates, bowls, jars of different sizes and shapes you’d surely not use them if you had one. I won’t describe each of those fine pieces here, but you’d be happy to note that I saw some shapes here for the first time in my life. Here is a snippet, my favorite amongst these pottery are colored hazy blue but they seem covered with snow-like frosting. The “icing” is not at all simple. They’re really like icing on a cake but they’re part of the jar. And you can still see the original color of the jars. Imagine a drying up rice paddy where the earth changes into a lot of cracks in different shapes? Miniaturize them into some kind of translucent or semi-transparent white material and make them the “’icing”. That is how intricate and exquisite those vases are!

Elsewhere in this ground floor is more space (plus the walled-up administrative offices. Then you see the stairs and/or the lifts that lead to the upper floors. Golly even those elevators look elegant. Yes, “elevators” since there are two in this not so big structure of just four floors. A really people friendly place. The other lift is in fact heavy duty for bringing up gigantic pieces. But I chose the stairs. The steps are made of that yellowish kind of marble I wish I can find such and use them at home! It’s just a wish… I know that’ll be expensive!

Level two or the second floor of this museum is what consumed most of my time. This place houses a diorama to die for. At first glance, they’re nothing but little lighted shelves depicting the cultural and historical past of this country. But, looking closely, you’d itch to pull that little digicam of yours (not allowed). It starts with a scene of our hunting forebears in the Cagayan Valley region followed by a lot of other interesting and informative scenes – all 60 of them! Then you exit to the last display, a room with video screens showing historicals on three walls plus colored lights that flash everywhere in the room to highlight the character or feeling of what is being shown on screen. Terrific sound system in here. During this visit, the video was about EDSA which a bit bored me since those stories and pictures have millions of times been re-run and can’t be taken away from my memory anymore. Plus, the very same stories, pictures and videos are up to this date being flashed or used by a TV Station that can’t seem to move on and attract people via a different storyline or tagline! Anyway, back to the dioramas!

While all of the displays just reminded me of what I have already learned from grade school to college history classes, what busied me ogling at those displays were not really the meanings of the events (I already know those) but the skill and craftsmanship by which these displays were made. No machine on earth could have mass-produced those scenes and sceneries. They must have all been made manually by dexterous hands of artistic minds with patriotic hearts. My goodness, even the grass and trees are as realistic as they can be. Details and contours are precise you are like looking at 3D paintings! And the best parts for me are the expressions on each of the characters portrayed. They are all precise and with the correct facial expressions and bodily gestures. These little figurines must have been made only for this specific display. Ah Goosebumps! I salute whoever conceptualized this and I bow my head with my hat in my chest to those hands that made this possible. Makes me proud I am a Filipino. I don’t know why!

Wait! Am not yet done on this diorama! Check out the stones and rocks and walls and roofs, they are all like real. Now look at the figuring of a Muslim native seemingly curious or hesitant at the ceremony while the first mass was being said. He is on the leftmost part of the window. Watch out for the facial expression and stance of the “sacristan” while a priest is being accosted/arrested. He is by the right side wall of the house. Look closely at those two dogs seemingly at play in one of the displays. Now look for a native being stricken by an American GI with a bayonet. Also check out the guys who dressed like women as they attacked the white dudes. Their form and faces are really what menfolk would look if they were those women’s dresses. Plus examine closely the expressions of those American soldiers being attacked in the same display. Grabe! And I think those figurines are no more than three inches tall!

Well, lest you miss this out, some of our heroes and prominent personalities of years gone by are painted lifesize on the walls. Rizal was rather short, Carlos P. Romulo was tiny and the tallest I remember is 5’11” – was that President Magsaysay? Oh and there are viewing stands where you can mouse over and play some historical facts like the way of the Acapulco Trade – which we know even today, is not being done by any big ship on earth (cuz its just a 13 hour plane ride to L.A.!)

You won’t of course miss the boat gallery. They say those are scaled-down models of the boats our ancestors used. But for me, they are already huge and a beautiful display for us modern dudes to realize and understand how our forebears traveled. These are located on a floor space skirted by the dioramas – like becoming the centerpiece of the 2nd floor gallery.

Across from the diorama and just beside the lifts is a hallway with nothing but glass for walls and there are artifacts (basically jars) displayed here. Oh yes, there is also a staircase going up. All walls are made of glass that you’d feel you’re inside one of three aquariums standing side by side! This is actually what they call the glass wing or glass tower. Move on and you stumble upon what is called an “Artist’s Space” – which I am having a hard time pronouncing! Anyway, this infinitely bright area (being glass-walled) usually showcases modern artistic works of prominent artists. And there is also a mini Museum Shop. You guessed it right, underneath this area, on the ground floor is the Museum Café. Get the picture? Ok, let’s move on up to the 3rd level.

On the non-glass side of this building you are greeted by the bigger museum shop. It becomes a bit bigger in feel due to the very liberal use of mirrors and glass. You might even feel it is bustling when there are only 7 people moving abut inside this shop! Interesting this Locsin, the architect, really! Getting out of the shop you are confronted by two automatic sliding glass doors that looks to be leading you into some special theatre or function room. Indeed it does!

As of the moment (am not sure if those are permanent galleries) you veer right to stumble upon the great works of Damian Domingo touted as the first Pinoy Great Painter. And his works really that most of the people viewing the displays take more time ogling at them than usual. Part of the wall is painted with Domingo’s family tree! Don’t miss the small religious paintings. The faces are yes, a bit fake (that was their way then) but the texture of the artworks are, you’ll agree with me, most of the time better than photographs. Those paintings just evoke life you’d probably be scared to hang them in your room lest those persons descend from the walls hehehe!

Separated by walls to tell you that you are entering another set of great artworks you veer left to encounter two important Fernandos. First and adjacent to the Damian Domingo area is a dizzying collection of Amorsolos. Yes, Fernando Amorsolo works big and small. I say dizzying cuz you’ll never get to see such works displayed at mere steps from each other. Take your time to feel and understand the artist and his works here! Next you slide into the last division on this floor which is that of the other Fernando. Yep, that’s right! Works of Fernando Zobel De Ayala Y Montojo. Spend some time here and realize the least known character of the Ayalas – that is Art and Culture – they’re not just voracious money-makers or sky scraper builders! I like his works ha?! While the brochures say he is a well known abstractionist, I say his works are modern for me and probably many who have seen those works. When I say “modern” that means I itch to grab one of those and prominently display them in my house my flat or office. Kesa naman the portraits of soldiers, ladies and saints ni Domingo na parang mga buhay! Hehehe! Zobel’s works have that calming effect on me, from the colors and lines down to how he signs his paintings in such a haze. He probably does not want to distract the viewers of his painting by signing them in a loud manner.

Now out you go to see the staircase leading up to the 4th floor. Well, it was cordoned off during this visit so I have yet to know what is in there or will be there! But across at the glass tower, you may be tempted to examine what’s in there (still 3rd level). You would see some kind of a reception table and don’t bother venturing there if you’re not invited hehe! Those are function rooms! Now look instead to the outside via the glass walls as I did, and night time has befallen!

A great experience, The Ayala Museum!

By the way, if you are a local who does not readily look Pinoy, make sure you bring proper identification and make sure you speak Tagalog! Why? Foreigners shell out P350 for that entrance fee while for us “natives” it’s just P150. Why am I bothering you with this entrance fee story? Let me share with you my “cute“ encounter:

Staff: Good afternoon sir, welcome to the Ayala Museum. How can I help you?
Me: Where is the Japanese Pottery display, is that the one behind you?
Staff: Yes sir. Here is information on that (handing me a leaflet, pointing to the description) and here is about the museum (another handout). If you want to go around sir we have an entrance fee (pointing at the back of the handout) but that’s not only for the pottery displays but for the entire museum.
Me: Oh okay (as I picked a P100 and a P50 bill from my wallet)
Staff: (still holding my P150 as if telling me it was not enough) Sir, may I see a local ID?
Me: [showed my company ID – but alas the company is not local]
Staff: Do you have any other ID that will show you are a Filipino or a resident of the country?
Me: Para saan yun [take note nagtagalog na ako as I was showing my SSS ID!]
Staff: Kasi sir, foreigners pay 350 pesos for the entrance fee while local residents pay only 150. Eh mukha kayong Hapon, tapos naka-shorts at me dalang “clutch bag”, mukhang turista, tapos ang T-Shirt “Bohol”! Sorry sir!
Me: ha ha ha ha ha ha [my voice echoing all over the place] foreigner ako ha ha ha!
Another Staff beside her: [smiling] Achaka sir, karamihan ng pumapasok dito eh foreigners lang po!
Staff: [back to English] So, here is your ticket sir and here is another reading material being given free courtesy of the Japanese Foundation [the SUKI newsletter]. Enjoy your visit!

Then I went to the Japanese Pottery and started my tour - as described above!

For just P150, I had a very educational Saturday afternoon! And hey, it’s nice to linger around by the fountain just in front of the M Café with the Shang as its backdrop.


  1. interesting bit about the entrance fee. while i'm sure it's meant to entice pinoys to come visit,seems a little racist, doesn't it? i'd surely raise hell if i was charged more abroad just because i was a foreigner.

  2. I beg to differ. In Singapore, you get in free if you are a Singaporean/PR student, Senior citizens, or child under 6 years old. And there other discounts available for foreigners. This is mainly to encourage their locals to go and visit the museum. It doesn't stop the foreigners from paying the regular fee. And I have not seen anyone raise hell.