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The Coolest Museums in the Philippines

VR, interactive exhibits? Museums are taking it up a notch to get you interested.
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When was the last time you visited a museum in the Philippines? Can't remember? We get it. Ogling art doesn't get the blood going as much as driving three hours to the nearest surf town or getting a buzz from the latest third-wave coffee shop. Museums get it, too, which is why traditional museums have recognized the need to use the latest technologies to remain relevant and to continue attracting a new generation of gallery-goers. New museums, on the other hand, are also being built to address more areas of learning or curiosities.

Here are some of the coolest museums in the Philippines that are upgrading their facilities and thinking of ways to invite more people to marvel at Philippine culture and history. 

1| A VR Experience at Museo ni Ramon Magsaysay

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Not many Presidents get an entire museum dedicated to themselves but Ramon Magsaysay, well-deservedly, has one. Located in Zambales, this museum dedicated to Magsaysay’s life also has a special feature: You can experience it in 360-degree virtual reality.

VR headsets allow visitors to watch three significant scenes from Magsaysay’s life. The first, in the Quirino room, features Magsaysay opening Malacañang Palace to the Filipino people. The second is the announcement of the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration to the press. The last scene is Magsaysay and his wife dancing to “Mambo Magsaysay,” the President’s jingle. 

National Highway, Castillejos, Zambales; Tuesdays to Sundays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

2| A Jail Turned into a Museum

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A jail built in 1911 got a new lease on life when it was turned into a regional extension of the National Museum.

Known as a prominent landmark in Iloilo during World War II, the provincial jail is now the Western Visayas Regional Museum. Around P100 million was spent to restore and retrofit the jail into a cool museum. It has five galleries on the lower ground showcasing the history and culture of Western Visayas. One of the galleries displays the woven artistry of Panay. There is also an open gallery on the second floor.

The National Museum also plans to return the golden mask of Oton, which was excavated in Oton during the 1960s, to Iloilo.

3| Inclusive Exhibits for the Differently Abled

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The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the Rotary Club of San Juan del Monte, and Touch the Artists’ Vision are working together to make museums more accessible to the differently abled. Their “Inside Out: Museum Unboxed” initiative creates exhibits that feature tactile images, braille, Touch Tours, and sculptures or dioramas. Some of them also have Filipino Sign Language-translated AVPs to allow the differently abled to "see" and "hear" the artifacts and narratives exhibited inside the museums.

Carolle Adrianne Manalastas of the NHCP tells Esquire that these permanent exhibits were an initiative of Annette Lee-Esparaz of Touch the Artists' Vision and Pleshette Wee, both members of the Rotary Club of San Juan del Monte. “Ms. Lee-Esparaz has always advocated for the differently abled's accessibility to institutions especially those in the culture and arts sector. There is a need to make government museums more accessible especially with the advent of Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, and NHCP has committed 12 museums to this endeavor,” she said.

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One of their most recent exhibits, which was launched in partnership with Resources for the Blind, Inc., was at the Museo ng Kasaysayang Pampulitika ng Pilipinas.

4| Virtual Tour of the Presidential Museum

Photo by MALACANANG.GOV.PH.

Anyone with Internet access can now visit the Presidential Museum and Library to explore the rooms of Kalayaan Hall and the artifacts that have played an important role in Philippine history. 

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With the use of the Malacañang Presidential Museum and Library app made by Google Arts & Culture, viewers can virtually walk through the curated exhibits and the museum’s two floors. Google used a specially designed Street View trolley to collect and accurately display 360-degree views of the interior of the palace.

5| Museum in a Mall

Photo by Courtesy of Megaworld.
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The world’s oldest Chinatown finally gets its own museum dedicated to the rich culture of Chinoys. Conveniently, it’s also located inside a mall, more specifically, the fourth level of Lucky Chinatown’s Building A. 

This cool museum has 18 collections featuring historical events that have shaped Binondo’s culture, social life, and economy. It also created the Chinatown Museum App, which guides visitors through the different exhibits.

Interesting displays of the museum include a replica of the Tranvia, medicinal herbs you can touch and smell in the botika, and an entire exhibit about food. 

Lucky Chinatown Mall, Binondo, Manila; Tuesday to Sunday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

6| Museo ng Kaalamang Katutubo 

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A cool museum that acknowledges and celebrates the diversity of Filipinos is the Museo ng Kaalamáng Katutubò. It describes itself as a place that explores “indigenous knowledge and its abundant material manifestations.” 

 “We believe that awareness and acknowledgment of these bring us closer to understanding the Philippines as a unified nation,” moderators wrote on its Facebook page. 

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Nicai de Guzman
Nicai de Guzman is the Head of Marketing of Rising Tide, one of the fastest-growing mobile and digital advertising technology companies in the Philippines. She also writes for SPOT.ph and Entrepreneur.com.ph.
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