Updated: Oct 25
A visit to the National Museum of Natural History is not just an educational experience, but also an awakening of the artistic soul
Going to the science museum is an activity commonly reserved for educational purposes for students, as well as natural science aficionados. Those whose interests lie elsewhere (like spending the day in a mall) may find a science museum, or any museum for that matter, quite boring. But these days, modern museums have evolved with the times and now offer unique experiences that can cater to every persuasion. One notable science museum in the country is the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). It features botanical, zoological, and geological collections that are meant to inform and astound. Among the species that are featured include those that are endemic, meaning they can be found only in the Philippines.
“Your National Museum is one of the leading centers of education, science, and culture,” says National Museum Board of Trustees chairman Ramon del Rosario, Jr. Del Rosario made this remark at the opening of the NMNH on International Museum Day last May 18. “We are promoting to Filipinos and visitors from all around the world our National Museum in the Philippines. Here can be found knowledge, appreciation, and love for our heritage as Filipinos and as people, in the fields of fine arts, anthropology, the natural world, and their historical contexts.”
THIS WORLD-CLASS MUSEUM FACILITY WILL BENEFIT ALL FILIPINOS BY HELPING US ALL TO KNOW BETTER AND DEVELOP A GREATER APPRECIATION FOR THE GIFTS OF
NATURE WITH WHICH OUR COUNTRY IS SO RICHLY ENDOWED.
NOT A REGULAR SCIENCE MUSEUM Since the NMNH opened on International Museum Day, admission was free on that day. But what makes the NMNH stand out among other science museums is that its admission will be free as mandated by the government in 2016.
In fact, admission is free to all museums in the National Museum Complex in Manila, which include the National Museum of Anthropology and National Museum of Fine Arts. The free admission, adds del Rosario, covers all national museums nationwide, “from Batanes to Jolo, which is made possible by the strong support for this institution from the national government and our partners in the private and other sectors.”
The waived entrance fee is surely a breather for those who are interested in trooping to a science museum but are quite hesitant to shell out steep fees. This means that even groups of friends and families can try going to the museum for a different kind of weekend activity. What is more, the NMNH has other aspects that will certainly draw visitors in.
STUNNING ARTISTIC ELEMENTS The National Museum of Natural History may be one that focuses on nature and science but its building is already something to marvel at because it is a work of art itself. It used to be the Department of Tourism Building, which was originally the Agriculture and Commerce Building built in 1940. The five-storey structure can be found near the Agrifina Circle in the Rizal Park complex at T.M. Kalaw Street corner General Luna Street in Manila.
AT THE CENTER OF THE DOME IS AN ELEVATOR THAT MAKES UP THE TRUNK OF THE TREE OF LIFE. THE ELEVATOR’S SPIRAL STEEL STRUCTURE DESIGN IS REMINISCENT OF A HUMAN DNA.
The historic government structure has gone through retrofitting and renovation and has been fully restored. It boasts of intricate neoclassical details on the façade, main entrance hall, walls, and ceilings. Taking a closer look at the extensive architecture and interior design of the museum will already require a great deal of time.
Add to that the design highlight of the museum, which is called The Tree of Life. The structure features a dome made of white-painted aluminum and glass that covers the courtyard. It lets in natural light and enhances the white interiors. At the center of the dome is an elevator that makes up the trunk of The Tree of Life. The elevator’s spiral steel structure design is reminiscent of a human DNA.
DISTINCTLY FILIPINO The elevator leads to the 12 galleries which house various exhibits on flora and fauna. Visitors are welcomed near the entrance by a life-size replica of Lolong, once known as the world’s largest crocodile in captivity as recognized by the Guinness World Records. The replica measures more than six meters long. The skeleton of Lolong, meanwhile, is suspended from the ceiling. The taxidermied specimen of Lolong will be put on display soon.
Replicas of other creatures found only in the Philippines, such as those of the spot-billed pelican and Philippine eagle,are also on display. The sad reality, however, is that most of these endemic species have become endangered or extinct. This is what the museum would also like to impart to visitors, notes del Rosario. He says, “This world-class museum facility will benefit all Filipinos by helping us all to know better and develop a greater appreciation for the gifts of nature with which our country is so richly endowed.”
Another exhibition that reminds visitors about the beauty of nature is the collection of illustrations and paintings of plants and flowers. This botanical exhibit aims to bring out the details of the seemingly unimportant flowers and plants in the vast ecosystem. The beauty of nature is brought to the forefront through this exhibit.
DIRE NEED TO CARE FOR NATURE
Other collections in the museum take a step further by bringing up the urgent need for people to take care of the environment and the country’s natural resources. One example is the replica of mangrove forests and the beach. The museum does not only highlight the
beauty of such landscapes but more importantly, it makes known the importance of mangroves and beaches in the ecosystem.
In addition, there are various collections which feature endemic fish, as well other marine creatures such as starfish, manta rays, whale sharks, and the massive sperm whale. This exhibit proves the beauty and diversity of Philippine marine life. It also shows that such marine creatures are unfortunately under the threats of poaching, plastic pollution, and cyanide fishing.
ONE EXHIBIT PROVES THE BEAUTY AND DIVERSITY OF PHILIPPINE MARINE LIFE. IT ALSO SHOWS THAT SUCH MARINE CREATURES ARE UNFORTUNATELY UNDER THE THREATS OF POACHING, PLASTIC POLLUTION, AND CYANIDE FISHING.
Another exhibit, meanwhile, features a globe which exhibits the various changes that the atmosphere has gone through over the decades. It also demonstrates the grave effects of climate change. These visuals make things more concrete for visitors, in hopes that they will be more enlightened about the risks of climate change and will hopefully help save the environment in their own little ways. This important message appeals to both Filipino and foreign visitors because it is a universal call to be better stewards of nature.
LONG TIME COMING The opening of the ambitious National Museum of Natural History has been a long time coming. In 1998, the National Museum Act mandated for the National Museums of Natural History, Anthropology, and Fine Arts to be opened. The Act was authored by the late Senator Edgardo Angara and approved by former President Fidel V. Ramos. Former President Joseph Estrada and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo paved the way for the initial implementation of the National Museum Act.
Things started rolling in 2012 during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III. The conversion of the Tourism Building into the Natural History Building was launched as an Aquino project under the Department of Education. The museum project officially commenced in 2014.
The completion of the project, together with the scrapping of entrance fees, was realized during the current administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. “The National Museum of Natural History now stands as a remarkable example of what can be achieved through persistence and a spirit of cooperation and generosity, in line with an established vision that can be appreciated by every Filipino,” comments del Rosario. He adds that the National Museum Board of Trustees is grateful for the warm reception of the public when the National Museum of Natural History was finally opened. Ramon del Rosario, Jr., National Museum Board of Trustees chairman is grateful for the warm reception of the public when the National Museum of Natural History was finally opened.
SERVICE TO THE FILIPINO PEOPLE The National Museum Board is also thankful to everyone who was part of the museum’s journey throughout the various administrations: Senator Loren Legarda, ex-officio Trustees from the Senate especially Senator Pia Cayetano and Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, and ex-officio Trustees from the House of Representatives especially Rep. Evelina Escudero, Rep. Ramon Durano VI, and Rep. Sandy Ocampo. Several cabinet secretaries have also been cited for making this project possible. The former secretaries are Bro. Armin Luistro of Department Education (DepEd), Florencio Abad of Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Ramon Jimenez of Department Tourism (DOT), and Ramon Paje of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); while the current secretaries are Leonor Briones of DepEd, Benjamin Diokno of DBM, and Roy Cimatu of DENR.
The private sector has also played a vital role in the museum’s completion. The museum board extends its gratitude to Ayala Corporation, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, First Philippine Holdings, PLDT-Smart Foundation, The Museum Foundation of the Philippines, BDO Unibank, Bloomberry Cultural Foundation, Sun Life Philippines Foundation, Megaworld Foundation, The PHINMA Group, Hyundai Asia Resources, Mercury Drug Corporation, SGV Foundation, the Zuellig family, Jesus V. del Rosario Foundation, the family of Ramon and Milagros del Rosario, and Larry and Pat Gotuaco and family. “Thanks to these eminent persons, these civically and socially conscious organizations, nd to everyone who has contributed and donated towards our shared goals relative to the National Museum’s mission and service to the Filipino people,” concludes del Rosario as chairman of the National Museum Board.