So, what did you do on International Museum Day?
Because I have been following museum pages on Facebook, I made myself available for the day. It was difficult choosing which institution I would visit. Ultimately, after answering the question “How many times would I get to attend an opening?” I knew where I would go.
The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) officially opened its doors to the public last Friday, May 18. There have been teases and previews since last year, so there was so much hype over the event and they expected a swelling number of visitors. Besides those who had been granted early access to the exhibits, no one knew what they would see in the museum.
When I arrived around 1:30 PM, there was a long line from the door of the museum to the next building. That meant I would be standing under the summer sun for some time. And just my luck, I left my umbrella in my other bag. My cap was doing little to shade me. So I braced myself for a sweat fest.
After what felt like a glacial pace of over 20 minutes of waiting, I found myself in the comforts of the museum’s air-conditioning. Once the routine check of the bag and registration was over (plus being told my bag was small so I didn’t need to leave it at the counter), I was allowed to explore the building.
NMNH is a tall building. The government decided to repurpose the old Agriculture and Commerce Building, which was built in 1940. Its designer was Filipino architect Antonio Toledo, who incorporated a neoclassical look to the building. Sometime after WW2, it housed the Tourism department and was its previous occupant until it was given to the museum folks. For years, there have been calls to have a natural history museum, a building dedicated to presenting the local flora and fauna to the public. NMNH is a dream come true for a number of people.
Any visitor at the museum would be greeted by the towering Tree of Life, which stands at the center of the building and doubles as an elevator shaft. It has lattice pattern that allows natural light to enter from the ceiling. It was created by Dominic Galicia Architects and interior design firm Periquet Galicia, Inc.
But no one could go near the Tree of Life without passing by the replica of the great late Lolong, the big saltwater crocodile captured in Agusan del Sur on September 3, 2011. He was 6.17 m. (20 ft. 3 in.) long and weighed 1,075 kg. (2,370 lbs.). His size was so remarkable that he gained an entry in the Guinness World Records as the largest crocodile in captivity. He died on February 10, 2013; he was about 50 years old. He was named after Ernesto “Lolong” Goloran Cañete of the Palawan Crocodile and Wildlife Reservation Center, one of the hunters that captured him. His remains are also on display at another exhibit.
One feature that visitors would easily miss is the stuffed remains of Tinuy-an, a female Philippine eagle that was released in 2008, the same year that male eagle Kagsabua was captured and eaten by a farmer.
The museum has six floors, each one dedicated to a certain group of plants and animals or their remnants. The higher you get in the building, the more species you will see; some as replicas, others taxidermied, and the rest rendered in either ink or paint.
During the opening day of NMNH, 3,757 people visited the museum. I am proud to be one of them.
Just before leaving the compound, swing by the rear entrance of the museum to see huge boulders that came from the Mayon Volcano during one of its explosions over a century ago.
If you will visit NMNH, they are open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 AM to 5 PM—but they stop receiving visitors at 4:30 PM. Because it is summer, bring an umbrella or whatever form of shade you have, like a hat or shades or even wear sunscreen. Also, have water with you. Waiting time lasts anywhere between 15 minutes to more than an hour. Big bags have to be deposited at the counter. Monopods and tripods are not allowed at the museum. Also, entrance to all national museums – except for the Planetarium – is permanently free.
National Museum of Natural History
T.M. Kalaw Ave., Luneta Park, Ermita, Manila