Now that Valentine’s Day hype has subsided, road trippers can now focus on an equally important observance which has been overshadowed by the Day of the Hearts—the National Arts Month. The month-long government-mandated celebration which highlights Filipino artistry in visual arts, music, architecture, literature, and theater.
For a feast for the senses, drive to these hubs of art and admire world-class local artistic talents.
Pit Stop 1: Metro Manila
If your last time to see The National Museum shown in main photo was on a school field trip decades ago, it’s time to visit the country’s top repository of art and culture. The solitary building has grown into a complex of three majestic museums spread across Rizal Park.
The main building, the National Museum of Fine Arts, houses classical paintings and sculptures dating back to the Spanish era, and whose centerpiece is Juan Luna’s award-winning Spoliarium mural. Complete the experience and swing by the nearby museums of anthropology and natural history.
And while you’re in the area, head to the art galleries in Intramuros, Ermita, Malate and the spruced-up City Hall vicinity for contemporary works of art. Explore these areas on two wheels, preferably on a bicycle, for easy navigation of narrow streets, ease of parking, and see the urban soul up close.
Pit Stop 2: Rizal
This eastern suburb is an art haven with its awe-inspiring landscape, and is home to countless artists.
Angono, dubbed as the country’s art capital, is a must-see with its thousands of brass band musicians, painters, sculptors, designers, literary and performing artists, this small quiet town will rekindle the inner artist in you. Its icons are “higantes” giant papier maches and the 2,000-year old petroglyph rock art at the Sierra Madre’s foothills.
Feast your eyes on the myriad of paintings at the Blanco Family Art Museum, Nemiranda Arthouse and Atelier Galerie, the Ang Nuno Gallery inside the Balaw Balaw Restaurant, Orville Tiamson Gallery, and the riverside Art Camp Tambayan of Nemi Miranda.
An outdoor artscape is the Doña Aurora street relief mural where stands the museum residence of National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco, and curated by his modernist grandson Totong Francisco.
Another must-visit is the scenic Lakeside Eco Park, a public promenade which houses an art center, which serves as a one-stop gallery of all the local painters.
Antipolo City is arguably Angono’s bridesmaid when it comes to being an art capital with its artisanal attractions such as the Pinto Art Museum, Luljetta’s Café and Gallery, Café Lupe, and Crescent Moon, the restaurant workshop of stoneware ceramic artist Lanelle Abueva-Fernando.
Drive through the picturesque lakeshore road of Laguna de Bay to witness God’s own art in Taytay, Binangonan, Cardona, Morong, Tanay, Baras and Pililla, which are not to be outdone with their own visual artisty.
It is best to tour on motorcycle for an adrenaline rush and see the placid lake almost within reach. Along the road, grab local delicacies such as suman, kalamay and kasuy, or dine at specialty artsy restaurants.
Pit Stop 3: Baguio
Had it not been for the pandemic, many of us would be trooping at this time of the year to the City of Pines for the much-awaited Panagbenga Festival, one of the country’s most colorful festivities. The good news is a scaled-down celebration has been set in March, along with an array of art-themed events to celebrate the fifth anniversary of being named by the Unesco as a Creative City for Crafts and Folk Art.
Worry not if the fest won’t as grand as the previous editions, Baguio remains a charming mountain retreat which exudes art in its various forms. At any given time, it is teeming with mainstream artists, artistic young blood, as well as indigenous tribal artists from the Cordillera provinces which have made the city their melting pot.
Its artistic soul is also reflected in the culinary scenario which is inspired by traditional upland food and beverage.
Baguio has also embraced long-overdue urban renewal measures, such as pedestrianization of selected roads on weekends, street art, park exhibits and al fresco dining to relive its countryside allure.
With the newly-completed Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) and the opening of portions of the Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEx), driving up to the Summer Capital is a breeze whether you’re on a four-wheel vehicle or a big bike.