Author: National Museum of the Philippines


The National Museum of the Philippines, in a formal turnover ceremony last 21 May 2024, received the latest Gift to the Nation—four sculptures by Joe Datuin.

The four sculptures, namely “Life”, “The Race”, “Dancing Rings Study No. 2”, and “Mother and Child Fusion Series ‘19”, were donated by the artist himself, and will soon be displayed at the “Lilok, Hulma, at Tipon” permanent exhibition at the Philippine Modern Sculpture Hall (Gallery XXIX) of the National Museum of Fine Arts.

On behalf of the Filipino people, we would like to extend our sincerest appreciation and gratitude to Joe Datuin for his generous donation and trust in the National Museum of the Philippines for the safekeeping and display of his magnificent works.


The National Museum of the Philippines announced the successful culmination of its extensive
repatriation efforts that began several years ago. This paved the way for the safe return to the Philippines of the Sally A. von dem Hagen Collection of Limestone Burial Jars from the Kulaman
Plateau. This significant donation was initiated by Peter, Stephanie, and Antoinette von dem
Hagen in recognition of their late mother’s lifelong custodianship of these objects of Philippine
antiquity, spanning over four decades.

The 52-piece collection was presented to the media through a turnover activity at the National
Museum of Anthropology on 7 May 2024. Now integral to the National Archaeological
Collection, their provenance traces back to when they were originally purchased in the early
1970s by Mrs. Sally A. von dem Hagen, an American businesswoman living in Manila. Known for
her appreciation for antiquities, she was sought out by a group of Dulangan Manobo individuals
who had come across these limestone ossuaries during a hunting expedition in Cotabato’s
Kulaman Plateau. Mrs. von dem Hagen, recognizing the profound cultural significance of these
objects, agreed to acquire as many as possible and, over time, established relationships among
members of the Manobo community in the area of what is today part of the province of Sultan
Kudarat. When she departed the Philippines for the United States in 1979, she brought her
beloved collection with her.

Earlier this year, the NMP Office of the Director-General organized the shipment of the
limestone objects from Los Angeles, California where they were under the temporary care of a
non-profit organization, the Filipino-American Service Group, Inc. (FASGI) and Dr. Stephen B.
Acabado and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles. An
exhibition held at the FASGI Bayanihan Center facilitated conversations among the
Filipino-American community, highlighting the ethics of collecting material culture, issues of
repatriation and empowerment, culture and history, and heritage engagement. Upon arriving in
Manila on 25 March 2024, NMP’s Archaeology Division supervised the collection’s unboxing,
inspection, and curation. A team from the University of the Philippines-Manila led by
anthropology professor Dr. Ma. Teresa G. de Guzman also conducted a brief blessing ritual to
welcome these artifacts.

These burial jars were carved out from limestone abundant in the region. They were shaped in
either a round or quadrangular fashion and decorated with vertical fluting or geometric designs.
The lids, however, have diverse designs, ranging from simple gabled roofs to elaborate
anthropomorphic features. These jars stored human bones as a secondary burial vessel.
Kulaman limestone jars remain the only movable limestone ossuary among mostly
clay-fashioned burial jars. Despite differences in raw materials, the vessels nevertheless
represent the widespread jar burial tradition in the Philippines and Southeast Asia during the
Metal Age, approximately 2,800 to 1,000 years ago. Very little is presently known about the
people who created the Kulaman Plateau limestone jars and who utilized them for their burial
rites, as well as whether the Dulangan Manobo communities of the area are descended from or
related to them, and this awaits further scientific research, which the NMP intends to facilitate
in collaboration with the communities and key partners.

The NMP expresses its sincerest gratitude to the von dem Hagen family for their enthusiasm
and dedication throughout the process of return, as well as to FASGI and Dr. Acabado for their
unwavering support in making this collection more accessible to the Filipino people for
generations to come.


The National Museum of the Philippines proudly presents the exhibition “Leaves, Lace, and Legacy: The Art of Lenore RS Lim” exhibition, in celebration of National Women’s Month. Opened on 22 March 2024 at Gallery XVII (Special Exhibition Hall dedicated to Women’s Art) of the National Museum of Fine Arts, the exhibition highlights the artistic journey of Lenore Raquel-Santos Lim, a Filipina visual artist renowned for her contributions to Philippine arts. 

“Leaves, Lace, and Legacy” features Lim’s exploration of the intricate realm of printmaking, presenting the recurring motifs of decaying leaves, handmade laces, and wedding veils. It showcases her artworks that pay homage to nature conservation and Philippine maternal traditions while engaging in a meaningful discourse on womanhood and human rights.

Lim adeptly merges traditional techniques with contemporary technologies. The exhibition showcases some of her notable printmaking techniques such as chine collé, computer-aided design serigraphy, etching, giclée, lithography, and photo etching.

During the opening reception, NMP Director-General Jeremy Barns called the exhibition “a feature of Lim’s beautiful stories as told through her art” before thanking the artist for the generous donation of several Gifts to the Nation.

Afterwards, Deputy-Director General for Museums Jorell Legaspi gave a curatorial overview of the exhibition, before sharing a brief account of Ms. Lim’s life and works.

This was followed by an emotional message from Ms. Lim herself, recounting the days spent in the then Legislative Building waiting for her father to finish his work. “It feels like coming home after a long absence from a place so dear to me. And what a beautiful home it had become,” Lim said, describing the exhibition as a “full circle” moment for her. Lim later gave a guided tour of the exhibition to the attendees.

Born in 1946, Lim pursued a career as an art educator until she transitioned to a career as an artist in the 1990s. As a pioneer of computer-aided art in the Philippines, she has received various recognitions, including the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant and the Pamana ng Pilipino Presidential Award. She also founded the Filipino Music and Art Foundation BC, which supports aspiring Filipino artists.

Celebrate National Women’s Month by visiting this new exhibition. We are open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. Admission is FREE!


Last February 15, in conjunction with National Arts Month 2024, the National Museum of the Philippines proudly unveiled “Faces and Flora: A Philippine Native Plant Photography Exhibition” at the National Museum of Natural History!

A collaboration with 2022 Fujifilm GFX Challenge Grantee Jan Zoilo Rafael Mayo, Faces and Flora highlights the deep connection between art and natural science through this display of images that show the creative embodiment of Philippine indigenous plants.

Mayo’s artistic process involved working with the UP Diliman Institute of Biology and the Philippine Taxonomic Initiative, exploring how popular forms of creative expression can help spread awareness about our native and endemic flora.

Faces and Flora is now OPEN to the public! Visit the exhibition at the Upper Courtyard of the National Museum of Natural History! Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 9 AM to 5 PM. Admission is FREE!


Do you know about a traditional art practice of this one family in Bulacan?

In celebration of #NationalArtsMonth2024, we feature the art of bamboo arch-making known as singkaban, which has been continuously practiced and transmitted by the Eligio family of Hagonoy!

The singkaban is a bamboo arch that spans across roads during fiestas, and is sometimes placed on church entrances and altars during Christmas and other special occasions. When designing and creating the singkaban, the kayas or the shaved portions should complement each part for the overall design of the arch. Incorporating changes to the arch is challenging if it has already been constructed, thus the different components must be finalized before its assembly.

The main designs used in the singkaban are—rayos/bilog, shaved bamboo sticks with ends nailed to a round piece of bamboo called doughnut, which resembles the wheel of a karitela (carriage); abaniko/pamaypay, a fan-shaped bamboo placed on top of the panels or headers; and the bulakaykay, a prominent feature of the singkaban poles. One technique employed by brothers Jeffrey and Gerry Eligio, grandsons of the late Master of Singkaban Maker Francisco “Kiko” Eligio in making the bulakaykay is the palubid or spiral technique, which creates a unique coiled effect on the bamboo poles. The half moon is a complementary design, a smaller type of abaniko/pamaypay positioned at both sides of the arch.

Generally, the singkaban is solely composed of shaved parts, but it can also be adorned with other designs depending on the theme. An example of this arch was made during the Palaisdaan Festival where the singkaban featured the bangus or milkfish, an export quality product of Hagonoy. This arch was later awarded 1st Place at the 2023 Singkaban Festival’s bamboo arch competition.

Folk art compared to other art forms is deeply rooted in a culture and community, reflecting not just artistry but to a greater degree, the community’s effort to continue and transmit the tradition. When Kiko Eligio was still alive, he once shared in an interview, “Hangga’t hindi bumibitaw ang mga Pilipino sa katutubong likhang sining, hindi mawawala ang sining ng singkaban [As long as Filipinos continue to hold dear onto our traditional arts, the art of singkaban will not fade].” His son Emil conducts workshops for the Alternative Learning System students of Bulacan, to preserve and transmit the tradition.


On 27 January, the National Museum of the Philippines unveiled the Important Cultural Property marker for the Pius XII Catholic Center, which coincided with the opening of the 127th Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. In today’s #BuiltTraditionThursday, let us learn more about this remarkable institution! 

Metropolitan Manila Archbishop Gabriel Reyes bought a one-and-a-half-hectare land situated in today’s United Nations Avenue, bordering Estero de Tanque creek, owned by the Compania General de Tabaco de Filipinas in Paco, Manila, for Php 695,000. Its proximity to the Manila Cathedral complex was strategic for implementing the works of Catholic organizations throughout the archdiocese.

Immediately after the acquisition of the tract of land, Archbishop Reyes commissioned Architect Juan Nakpil to design the building complex. The blueprints were already available in 1952 just before the archbishop died.  His successor, Archbishop Rufino Cardinal Santos, promptly continued the project by laying the building’s cornerstones on 8 September 1958. Upon its completion, the complex was named Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after the reigning pontiff of that time. Construction commenced under the leadership of a commission of architects and builders, including Architects Jose Ma. Zaragoza, Fernando Ocampo, Arturo Manalac, and Imelda Borromeo Cancio, along with Engineers Vicente Esguerra and Mariano Sideco. 

The complex served as a center for these various Catholic organizations.  Years later, Archbishop Rufino Cardinal Santos and the Board of Trustees embarked on the expansion of the complex to serve other sectors like the students and young professionals.  The board wanted the center to become a study area, a dwelling place, and a venue for wholesome recreation.  Additional facilities like the chapel, the dormitories, and the gym were built.  The complex was formally blessed and opened on 1 May 1964, coming into full operation by 1966. 

The complex comprises an administration building, a chapel (now Santa Maria Goretti parish church), a ladies’ and men’s dormitory, a plenary hall and auditorium building, a gym and pool area, and a hotel. Access is through U.N. Avenue (south of the property), the main entrance to the administration building, and Correa St. (east of the property), leading directly to the ladies’ and men’s dormitory. The three-story Administration Building serves as offices and meeting rooms for managing and maintaining the complex, while the upper floors serve as living quarters for the Archdiocese of Manila. At the center of the Administration building is an open reception area leading to the chapel at the center of the property. Noteworthy are the stained-glass windows of the twelve (12) apostles designed by Galo Ocampo for the complex chapel. Adjacent to the chapel are two dormitories for rental, the ladies’ on the eastern side and the men’s on the western side of the property. Behind the chapel is the plenary hall and auditorium building. The gym, pool area, and hotel are situated on the northernmost side of the property. The architecture of all buildings generally follows the International style characterized by simple and straight-lined elevations, flat roofs, and open floor plans. 

As a center of religious activities, it administered daily masses, served as a venue for sacraments such as matrimony and baptism, organized choirs, facilitated Bible seminars, and conducted social work among the depressed areas. The Pope Pius XII Catholic Center officially became a parish on 11 December 1982 under the patronage of Santa Maria Goretti. 


CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Volume III: Philippine Architecture. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994.

CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Volume IV: Philippine Architecture. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994.

Fleming, William. Arts and Ideas. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980.

Defeo, Ruben D. and Banson, Ma. Lourdes Zaragoza, Jose Maria V. Zaragoza: Architecture for God, For Man. Artpost Asia Inc. 2004.

Liturgical Guidelines on Church Architecture. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. Paulines, January 1999.