"Mother and Child" by Napoleon Veloso Abueva (left); “Portrait of Serapia N. Santos Y Aduna (1881-1829),” by Ramón Peralta Y Resurrección

10 important Filipino artworks you can only see at the National Museum

We asked Ana Labrador, Assistant Director of the National Museum of the Philippines, to draw up a list of 10 of the institution’s most prized works   
ANCX Staff | May 18 2021

While museums have yet to open for public viewing, we are commemorating International Museum Day anyway. We recently asked Ana Labrador to name for us 10 important artworks that can only be found in the National Museum of Fine Arts (NMFA). To name only 10 was a challenge, for sure, considering the wealth of Lunas and Amorsolos and other prized art housed in the museum’s different galleries. 

Ana is the museum’s assistant director, as well as its chief curator and head of collections management. For this list, Labrador included works not only by National Artists but works by the country’s heroes as well, including those of lesser known but important masters. We hope the images provided of her choices can tide us all over until we get to step again into the storied halls of the NMFA. 


“Portrait of Laureana Novicio y Ancheta with the dedication ‘To my mother’” by Juan Luna

1. “Portrait of Laureana Novicio y Ancheta with the dedication ‘To my mother’” 1897

Artist: Juan Luna 

Oil on canvas

National Fine Arts Collection

This oil painting is a tribute of Juan Luna to his mother, Doña Laureana Novicio y Ancheta, who sure all her children were well-educated and pursued their professions and passions. Juan Luna was third among her brood of seven sons. This work could be the only existing portrait of Doña Laureana rendered by the artist.


“El Gobernador Y El Obispo [Don Luis Perez Dasmariñas and Fray Domingo de Salazar],” by Felix Resurrección Hidalgo

2. “El Gobernador Y El Obispo [Don Luis Perez Dasmariñas and Fray Domingo de Salazar],” 1896

Artist: Felix Resurrección Hidalgo 

Oil on canvas, National Fine Arts Collection 

The oil painting is a metaphorical representation of an encounter between Don Gomez Perez Dasmariñas, the seventh Governor and Captain-General of the Philippines from 1590 to 1593, and Fray Domingo de Salazar, a Dominican Friar and first Bishop of Manila from 1581 to 1594. In the painting, the two were depicted deliberating about the dispatch of a military expedition to the fort at Ternate in the Moluccas (part of present-day Indonesia). This was President Manuel L. Quezon’s favorite painting in the Malacañan Palace before it was transferred to the National Museum of the Philippines.


“La Venganza Dela Madre (The Mother's Revenge)” by Jose Rizal

3. “La Venganza Dela Madre (The Mother's Revenge),” 1894

Artist: Jose Rizal 


National Fine Arts Collection

Located in the gallery dedicated to the National Hero, La Venganza de la Madre is a terracotta sculpture made by Rizal in 1894 while in exile in Dapitan, Zamboanga.  This sculpture depicts a mother dog rescuing her helpless pup from the attack of a crocodile. It is an allegorical representation of Filipino patriots (mother dog) saving the defenseless countrymen (the pup) from the exploitations of Spanish power (crocodile). This masterpiece by Rizal was declared a National Treasure in 2008.


“Lualhati,” by Guillermo Tolentino

4. “Lualhati,” Undated 

Artist: Guillermo Tolentino

Undated, Marble on granite pedestal, National Fine Arts Collection

Lualhati is a marble representation of the National Artist’s daughter when she was six years old. Lualhati is among Tolentino’s seven children with wife Paz Raymundo. Ms Lualhati Tolentino-Rodriguez now resides in Germany. This is the only sculpture of a family member made by the artist that’s in the museum collection.


“Portrait of Serapia N. Santos Y Aduna (1881-1829),” by Ramón Peralta Y Resurrección

5. “Portrait of Serapia N. Santos Y Aduna (1881-1829),” 1932

Artist: Ramón Peralta Y Resurrección

Foto-óleo on board, 

National Fine Arts Collection

Completed three years after Serapia’s death, this life-size portrait is the only foto-óleo by Peralta in the National Fine Arts Collection. In the absence of color photography in the early 20th century, elite families opted to commission studio photographs with artists to hand-tint or paint their portraits to colorize it.  


“Fiesta I and II” by Impy Pilapil

6. “Fiesta I and II,” 2008

Artist: Impy Pilapil

Mixed media

National Fine Arts Collection

Light sculptures Fiesta I and Fiesta II were commissioned for the Roxas Foyer (2nd floor lobby of the National Museum of Fine Arts) in 2008 but were brought down to the Sandiganbayan Reception Hall Gallery (Ground floor) in 2011 for viewers to appreciate them as light sculptures. The hammered metals in these sculptures represent the embossed metal pieces seen on the kalesa or the traditional horse-drawn carriages while the hanging glass were inspired from the colorful wrappers of pastillas or milk candies from Bulacan and other central Luzon provinces. Pilapil added mirrors, and shaped glass depicting waves and bubbles, representing the ocean which describes the Philippines as an archipelago. These are the only sculptural work of Pilapil in the museum collection.


"Mother and Child" by Napoleon Veloso Abueva

7. “Mother and Child,” 1950

Artist: Napoleon Veloso Abueva

Adobe (volcanic tuff)

National Fine Arts Collection

This piece was carved from one piece of adobe. Rendered in cubist form, it shows a female figure in a sitting position, admiring her infant while he clings on her head. We take pride in this sculpture as it is one of the few created in adobe by Napoleon V. Abueva who is known to many as the Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture.


"Hills of Nikko" by Jose T. Joya

8. “Hills of Nikko,” 1964

Artist: Jose T. Joya

Oil on canvas

National Fine Arts Collection

The Hills of Nikko, is the artist’s interpretation of his creative experience during his visit in Nikko, Japan. This work depicts the hills during the summertime when the snow from winter has melted away and has exposed the hills’ imperfections. These imperfections are expressed through the artist’s bold and gestural brushwork which has been said to be an allegory to human imperfections. This can be considered as the finest of the nine paintings that the National Artist exhibited at the Venice Biennale of 1964, the Philippines’ first participation in the influential art event. Joya donated this artwork to the National Museum of the Philippines after his triumphant return from the Biennale.


“Arrival and Departure” by Arturo Luz

9. “Arrival and Departure,” 1980

Artist: Arturo Luz

Mixed media (acrylic on burlap)

National Fine Arts Collection

Previously displayed on the east and west halls of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), this acrylic works of art on burlap (thick piece of cloth from jute or hemp) is described by the artist himself as “the best work he has ever done” and was among the largest work he was able to create in this medium and style. “Arrival” and “Departure” were executed by tossing pieces of the burlap ‘as if in a ballet’ while his assistant stitched them together. In 2014, they were given as a gift to the Filipino people by the MIAA through the National Museum of the Philippines.


“Sa Pula, Sa Puti” by Nena Saguil

10. “Sa Pula, Sa Puti,” 1949

Artist: Nena Saguil 

Oil on canvas

National Fine Arts Collection

Nena Saguil is one of the country’s pioneering female abstract artists. “Sa Pula, Sa Puti,” wherein two chickens, one in red and one in white, are depicted in a cockfight, can be considered one of her early works. This genre painting completed in 1949 was among the works she produced in this style before she shifted to abstraction.Photo by:  Bengy Toda III


[The National Museum of Fine Arts is located at the National Museum of the Philippines. Rizal Park Complex, Padre Burgos Avenue, Manila, Philippines. For inquiries and more information, contact Museum Services Division at http://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph or email them at nationalmuseumph@yahoo.com. Visit their Facebook account, National Museum of the Philippines and their official Twitter and Instagram accounts: natmuseumph. Contact (02) 8527 1218]