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The New Museo de Intramuros Exhibits Rare Pieces from 400 Years Ago

Rare pieces of religious artwork from the 16th century to the late 19th century are showcased at the new museum.
IMAGE Mario Limos
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Rare pieces of religious artwork from the 16th century to the late 19th century comprise Museo de Intramuros exhibits, which are replaced with a different batch of pieces every three months.

The Museo, which opened to the public May 2, was built on the foundations of a ruined church, which the Intramuros Administration is currently rebuilding as part of the museum’s structure.

The exhibit has six parts: the Religious Orders, the Patronato Real, the Immaculate Conception, the Indio Response, the Establishment of Parishes, and Religious Colonial Paintings. Together, these exhibits tell a coherent story of how Filipinos received and responded to the influx of a new form of spirituality.

It also showcases the Filipinos’ adroitness in creating religious sculptures and paintings, an area once thought to be an exclusive European enterprise.

IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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The Intramuros Administration is currently reconstructing a ruined church adjacent to the museum. The museum forms part of the church’s structure.

IMAGE: Mario Limos

Part of the original foundations that the Intramuros Administration was able to preserve was this cistern, which can be seen exposed but roped off in parts of the museum.

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The Immaculate Conception

When the first Spaniard missionaries arrived in the Philippines in 1565, they saw that women enjoyed equal rights with men, and had more liberty compared with women in Europe in those Dark Ages. This image of powerful Filipino women scandalized the missionaries, so they brought their own model of a woman who they taught Filipinos to emulate: the Virgin Mary.

IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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The Virgin Mary statues shown at the museum represent the experimentations and self-assertion of Filipino carvers about their new-found faith and their desire to honor the Lady.

The Religious Orders

The religious orders played an important role in the Christianization of the Philippines, which is why it is not a surprise that many of the religious artwork in the museum are about them.

The religious orders IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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The religious orders that came to the Philippines were the Augustinians (1565), the Franciscans (1578), the Dominicans (1587), and the Recollects 1606). The Jesuits, a religious congregation, also came to the Philippines in 1581.

These religious were instrumental in reshaping the physical and social arrangement of local communities. They implemented reduccion—a system of relocating indios into centralized communities with the parish at the center so they can be more easily managed and subjugated.

Franciscan Saint, Saint Francis of Asisi, San Fernando Rey, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, San Antonio de Padua IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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Saint Francis IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos

Saint Ignatius of Loyola IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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Many pieces of religious artwork are dedicated to these orders and congregation, with many honoring their founding saints or patrons.

Religious Colonial Paintings

Religious colonial paintings at the museum represent the Filipinos’ rapid conversion to Christianity. Although they were deprived of their native script baybayin (labeled by friars as “demonic”), the Spaniards encouraged the creation of images that depicted saints and various scenes from the bible.

Coronation of the Virgin Mary IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
Portrait and Detail of Saint Michael the Archangel IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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Mater Dolorosa IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos

Sagrada Familia IMAGE: Mario Limos
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Saint Joseph and Baby Jesus IMAGE: Mario Limos

Saint Vincent, The Holy Child, and Saint Augustine IMAGE: Mario Limos
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Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos

Our Lady of the Assumption IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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Our Lady of Remedies IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos

The Philippine colonial communities embraced these new religious concepts depending on what crises they were experiencing frequently. For example, one community might have preferential devotion to the Lady of Remedies whom they believed provided protection from various evils and afflictions.

This was also a way for colonial Filipinos to address perennial problems they experience such as plagues, disasters, and hard labor, hence, they have San Roque as the patron saint against plagues, San Isidro Labrador as the patron saint of farmers, and San Vicente Ferrer as the patron saint against disasters and intercessor for impossible cases. 

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Undated, Unlabeled Pieces

The Museo de Intramuros has pieces from salvaged ruins and private collections, many of which are undated or unlabeled, but nevertheless exhibit the colonial Filipinos’ reaction to the evangelization. The period from which these pieces come from could range from the 16th century to the late 19th century, based on the style of their work.

San Isidro Labrador IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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Retablo Part IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos

Altar Frontal IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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Urna IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos

Urna featuring various saints IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos

San Pablo IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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San Juan Bautista IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos

San Geronimo IMAGE: Mario Alvaro Limos
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Many of the sculptures were distinctly influenced by the colonial Filipinos’ anitos, which is why some saints’ wooden sculptures bear resemblance to these.

These undated, unlabeled, and anito-looking sculptures form part of the exhibit’s Indio Response gallery, which tells the story of how indios accepted evangelization as something intimate and personal. These also explain how they associated evangelization with their own beliefs in anitos, good and evil, and the afterlife.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountry.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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