Everything You Need to See in the National Museum of the Philippines

a pottery exhibit in a museum
a pottery exhibit in a museum

The National Museum of the Philippines provides visitors with a glimpse into the history, art, and natural wonders of the country. Due to its expansive collection, the museum is divided into three buildings, each dedicated to different aspects of the archipelago’s culture and biodiversity. If you’re wondering what you will see in the galleries, below are our top picks of exhibits you must peek inside the National Museum of the Philippines.

Must-Pieces Exhibits in the National Museum of the Philippines

If you plan on visiting the National Museum of the Philippines, here are a few notable pieces you can look forward to seeing:

The Spoliarium

The Spoliarium is a painting by Filipino painter Juan Luna. The title is a Latin word that refers to the basement of the Roman Colosseum, where dead and dying gladiators are stripped out of their weapons before being dumped. Juan Luna painted this piece to discreetly depict how the Spaniards treated the Filipinos during their reign.

In 1884, Luna submitted the piece to the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid, where it won a gold medal. Aside from being the largest painting in the Philippines, it also became a Philippine national symbol. You can get a glimpse of the Spoliarium on the first floor of the National Museum of Art History. It’s the first hall you see when you enter the building, so it’s hard to miss!

See also: Celebrating The 125 Years Of Philippine Independence

Filipino Struggles Through History

Another exhibit you shouldn’t miss at the National Museum of Art History is the Filipino Struggles Through History by National Artist Carlos “Botong” V. Francisco. It’s a series of paintings that cover the walls of the Old Senate Session Hall.

Also known as the “Kasaysayan ng Maynila,” the masterpiece was commissioned for the 1953 Manila International Fair and illustrates major events in the last 500 years of Philippine history. For instance, you’ll see depictions of rajahs from the pre-colonial period and scenes like the Blood Compact of the Katipuneros. The paintings seamlessly blend into each other, so take your time when perusing so you can take in all of their details.

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life in the National Museum of Natural History isn’t technically an exhibit but still a work of art. Designed by Periquet Galicia, Inc., the Tree of Life is a large abstract structure of a tree holding up the glass dome of the building. It’s also an elevator that takes you up to the 5th level of the museum, providing you with a spectacular bird’s eye view of the area. 

The National Museum of the Philippines’ Natural History consists of 12 exhibits on the country’s biological, geological, and zoological specimens. Expect to see taxidermied animals, interactive displays, and dioramas to help you learn more about the local biodiversity.

Tabon Man Skull Cap

If you want to venture into the National Museum of Anthropology, one of the notable pieces you’ll see is the Tabon Man’s skull cap. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the Tabon Man is the Philippines’ earliest known inhabitant, who lived around 24,000 BC. Robert Fox and his team found the skull cap while excavating the Tabon caves in Palawan. Some speculate that the Tabon Man may actually be a woman and is related to the Negritos.

Other artifacts found in the National Museum of the Philippines include an extensive exhibit of the San Diego, a Spanish galleon that sank along the shores of Luzon in the 1600s. You’ll see salvaged items like shell-encrusted swords, coins, porcelain plates, and jewelry. You’ll also find large collections of pre-Hispanic items, like musical instruments and indigenous textiles, in the museum.

See also: 6 Best Museums in Manila


Lolong was the former Guinness World Records holder for being the largest saltwater crocodile in captivity. Measuring about 20 feet, Lolong died on February 10, 2013, of pneumonia and cardiac arrest. If you want to see how big he was, there’s a replica of him in the foyer of the National Museum of Natural History. If you haven’t had enough of the spectacular croc, you’ll see his actual skeleton hanging in the Ayala Reception Hall of the museum.

If you’re interested in seeing other animals, you can head out to The Marine Realm exhibit on the fifth floor of the museum. You’ll be greeted with an interactive submarine and get to marvel at lif-size replicas of a manta ray, whale shark, and dolphins. You’ll also get to see preserved aquatic animals, such as turtles and crabs.

Final Thoughts

The National Museum of the Philippines is one of the most remarkable museums in the country. It has an extensive collection of exhibits and artifacts that give you a glimpse of the archipelago’s history and culture. If you haven’t had the chance to visit yet, the above are some of the most notable exhibits you can expect to see inside the National Museum of the Philippines.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you haven’t had the chance to visit the National Museum of the Philippines yet, here are answers to frequently asked questions that can help prepare you for your excursion: 

Is the National Museum Philippines free entrance?

Entrance to the National Museum of the Philippines is free, so you can see the exhibits anytime you like. They accept walk-in visitors, so you don’t need to reserve National Museum of the Philippines tickets.

What is inside the National Museum of the Philippines?

The National Museum of the Philippines is home to different exhibits and artifacts from the pre-colonial and colonial periods of the Philippines. You can find paintings, biological specimens, textiles, and interactive displays.

How to go to the National Museum of the Philippines?

There are various ways of getting to the museum, depending on where you’re coming from. Common modes of transportation include taxis, jeepneys, moto-taxis, or joining a guided tour. If you’re coming from EDSA, you could ride the MRT to Taft Avenue and transfer to LRT 1.

Related: What To See in Ayala Museum

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