Manila is home to several interesting museums showcasing the culture and remarkable past of the city. Places such as the Museo Pambata (Children’s Museum) even cater to keeping that hard-to-please audience of kids entertained. The Coconut Palace is also remarkable for being entirely made out of its namesake plant and displaying interior décor made from the tree.
The most important museum is the Philippine National Museum, which houses the finest and most comprehensive collections of the country’s antiquity and unique artefacts.
Located in P. Burgos Ave, this Manila museum dates back to the 1901 when it was then referred to as the Insular Museum of Ethnology, Natural History and Commerce. It showcases an important collection of arts, archaeology, zoology, cultural, and botanical properties and more.
The collection and artefacts are related to not just to the history of Manila but to the entire Philippines. The top attractions of this museum include a Tabon Man’s skull, which is the oldest human skeletal remains found in the country. Another key exhibit is a large painting known as the Spoliarium by Juan Luna, which earned him a gold medal in Spain back in 1884 during the National Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid. If you only plan to visit one Manila museum, this should probably be it.
Casa Manila Museum
A replica of a traditional 19th Century home houses the Casa Manila Museum, which features displays, collections and exhibits showcasing the manner of living of Manila’s upper class during Spanish colonisation. The interior design of the house is recreated to imitate the design from this important period in the city’s history. Visitors are urged to wander around the three-storey house, walk past the fountains and archways to admire shells and hardwoods incorporated into its main design.
San Agustin Museum
Housed within the complex of the San Agustin Church in Manila’s walled city of Intramuros is the San Agustin Museum, a two-storey monastery with four lengthy hallways and a big, central courtyard. This museum is private-owned but maintained by Augustinian friars. It showcases religious artefacts, large oil paintings, antiques and a crypt where notable Filipinos are buried. Its other highlights include a sacristy with embroidered vestments and antique carrosas, a Capitulation Room and the choir loft which has been around since 1614.
Museo Pambata, or Children’s Museum, features educational but entertaining themed exhibits and displays for young visitors. The topics mainly focus on art, history, and science. Check with the museum for the schedule of events because it changes weekly and monthly, but there are regular storytelling events for kids.
Metropolitan Museum of Manila
Situated in Pasay is the Metropolitan Museum of Manila which houses a collection of historical gold and ceramic artefacts. The museum is also notable for one of the best collections of contemporary and modern visual art in the country.
The main attraction is the Gold Gallery, showcasing several golden treasures with the oldest ones having been around since the 10th Century. There is also the Pottery Gallery with ancient pieces at around 2,000 years old. The museum is also home to a library, gift shops, café and some temporary exhibits. It is also home to a range of artworks by international and Filipino artists, and some are loaned from museums abroad.
Also known as the Filipino Home (Tahanang Pilipino), this is a large octagon-shaped mansion made entirely from coconut materials from its façade to the interiors and décor. The Coconut Palace was made as ordered by the former first lady, Imelda Marcos. It consists of seven suites named after the various Philippine regions with a display of handicrafts from those particular regions. It is also a popular venue for weddings and receptions.
Bahay Tsinoy is a Chinese-Filipino home housing a museum displaying the history, accomplishments and lives of the Chinese living in the Philippines as well as their significance in society. Bahay Tsinoy is divided into sections including the Earl Contacts, the Parian, Colonial culture, Emergence of the Chinese Community, In Defence of Freedom, Life in the 1800s, National leaders of Chinese Descent, Gallery of Rare Prints and Photographs, Martyr’s Hall, Ceramics Collection, Rare Philippine Shell Collection, and the Tsinoys in Nation-Building.
Museum of Arts and Sciences
Although established in the 1870s, this seat of learning goes way back to the late 17th Century when the university started the collection. Today, it is considered as the oldest museum of the Philippines housed within the complex of one of the world’s oldest universities. It displays a collection of preserved specimens of flora and fauna from throughout the country with some of which are already extinct. The museum also has a souvenir shop, a venue for art exhibits, and a mini-library.