Author: National Museum of the Philippines


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.

International Workshop on World War Shipwrecks in Southeast Asia – Threats of Marine Pollution and Looting in Indonesia

Last 6-7 December 2023, Bobby C. Orillaneda, Curator of our Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Division (MUCHD), participated in the Workshop on World War Shipwrecks in Southeast Asia – Threats of Marine Pollution and Looting at Grand Kemang Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia. 

Organized by UNESCO, the workshop aims to enhance regional awareness and interest in sustainable development and protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH). With a particular focus on World War shipwrecks, the workshop also seeks to reflect on current challenges and to facilitate expert discussions and regional cooperation to identify key safeguarding actions for maritime cultural heritage.

Country Representatives from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam as well as international experts from the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Australia, and Japan comprised the attendees. Mr. Orillaneda presented the “Status of World War II Shipwreck Research in the Philippines” as a Country Report on Session 1: Human Threats and Impacts of Natural Disaster and Climate Change on Sunken Warships – Issues and Challenges. He also moderated Session 2: Legal Regime for Preservation and Protection of Wrecks of Historical or Archaeological Significance, and Session 3: Country Presentations – Issues and Challenges of Cambodia, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam. He was also interviewed by UNESCO media and Dr. Noel Tan, Senior Archaeology Officer for the SEAMEO-SPAFA.

The conference participants have identified issues such as the 2001 Convention of the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, funding, infrastructure, government support, looting, climate change, shipwreck tourism, potentially polluting wrecks (PPW), and the values attached to WW shipwrecks. At the end of the workshop, a recommendation was drafted, recognizing the importance of Southeast Asian UCH, the threat it faces, and the need for cooperation among different stakeholders in each country as well as the larger Southeast Asian region with the help of the UNESCO 2001 Convention to address these issues.

Archaeology in the spirit of Christmas: The bronze bell from Kalanay Cave

As we draw nearer to the peak of the holiday season, join us in unwrapping yet another archaeological treasure as this week’s #TrowelTuesday features a bronze bell from Kalanay Cave, Masbate!

The church bell has always been a popular Christmas symbol. In Christian tradition, the ringing of bells serves as a call to the community and signals the start of the Simbang Gabi (Night Mass) and Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass). 

Did you know that there are bells recovered from archaeological sites in the Central Philippines?

The Kalanay Cave site is a small burial cave located in Aroroy, Masbate Island. Archaeological investigations were conducted in the 1950s by the late Wilhelm Solheim II, an American anthropologist and archaeologist who pioneered the excavations on Masbate Island. The cave contained large quantities of pottery, stone and iron tools, and some fragmentary skeletal remains.

Potteries in various forms, shapes, and decorations were present in the cave, and most were classified as Kalanay. The majority of the Kalanay potteries are plain, while some of the decorated vessels are incised, impressed, and slipped. Jars vary in size, while bowls have a rounded bottom or a ring foot. Interestingly, a bell was also found inside the Kalanay Cave. The small, thinly encrusted bell is made of bronze and measures 27 mm in length and 12.5 mm in diameter. It has a loop top (with a 2-mm opening) and a free-swinging clapper inside, attached to a bar from the bottom of the bell.

Only little can be inferred about the life of the people who used the Kalanay Cave. Four individuals were likely interred in the cave, and one was below 18 years of age. Associated finds, other than pottery, are shell artifacts, nephrite adze, tektite, jade beads, and a number of metal artifacts including the bronze bell. There was no indication that the cave was inhabited; thus, it is classified as a burial site.

See some of the distinct Kalanay earthenware pottery by visiting the “Palayok: The Ceramic Heritage of the Philippines” exhibition at the National Museum of Anthropology. We are open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 9 AM to 6 PM. Admission is FREE!

#NationalMuseumPH #BronzeBell #KalanayCaveSite #UnwrappingThePast #Aroroy #Masbate


On 6 November 2023, the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP), in partnership with CEED – Center for Energy, Ecology and Development and Protect the Verde Island Passage, launched the special photo exhibition “Our VIP: Protecting a Paradise in Peril” to raise awareness about the threats faced by the Verde Island Passage (VIP).

The Verde Island Passage, which separates the islands of Luzon and Mindoro, is often described as one of the most biodiverse aquatic biomes in the world, earning it the nickname “the Amazon of the Oceans”. However, its abundant waters, which provide sustenance to over 2 million people, are being threatened by anthropogenic factors such as maritime traffic, pollution, and overfishing, among others.

“We hope that this exhibition not only increases public consciousness on its role in sustaining our country’s food security and in abating climate change, but we also look forward to heighten the call to protect the VIP,” NMP Deputy Director-General Jorell M. Legaspi stated in his opening remarks.

“I hope this exhibition sparks the creation of a new history that protects the Verde Island Passage for the benefit of our children and the next generations,” CEED Executive Director Gerry Arances adds.

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda extended her message of support through a presentation. “We seek to pass a law… to protect the VIP. A law establishing the VIP as an Expanded National Integrated Protected Area System (ENIPAS) site will give us the tools and resources to do what we must,” Legarda remarked.

In addition, Dr. Miguel Azcuna of the VIP Center for Oceanographic Research and Aquatic Life Sciences – Batangas State University, Ambassador Peter Kell of the New Zealand Embassy in the Philippines, Rod de Jesus representing the Batangas Fisherfolk, Roy Ortega of the Fisheries Resources Management Division of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Alita Sangalang of the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Vice Mayor Marvin Rivera of Pola, Oriental Mindoro also gave brief remarks establishing their support for the protection of the VIP.

The three-month special photo exhibition, featuring stunning photographs of the VIP and its biodiversity, is now available for public viewing at the National Museum of Natural History.

The National Museum of Natural History is OPEN Tuesdays to Sundays, from 9 AM to 6 PM. Admission is FREE!


A special exhibition featuring award-winning, multidisciplinary artist Leeroy New and other emerging Filipino artists is now on view at the National Museum of Anthropology (NMA). “Alamat: Revisiting Philippine Folklore” draws from the mystical narratives and iconography of Philippine folklore, offering a harmonious confluence of tradition and modernity. 

Through a collection of paintings and sculptures on loan from J Studio, the exhibition pays a nostalgic tribute to the stories that have contributed to shaping the Filipino psyche. They beckon to embark on a stimulating journey between the ethereal and the quotidian, showing alternative views of the grotesque spaces of our imagination.

At the core of this exhibition, visitors may now explore the intersection of pre-colonial oral histories and futuristic science fiction that Leeroy New conveys with “Balay Balete”, a large-scale installation that appears to engulf the NMA Courtyard. In Gallery 2, he alludes to old tales about the pillars that cradle the earth, creating a fluorescent forest environment composed of reusable resin foam, upcycled plastic, bamboo, and other found materials. Together, these works transform the traditional anthropology gallery space into a thought-provoking, immersive experience. They were commissioned by pop culture magnate, Tim Yap, specifically for this exhibition, launching in conjunction with his annual star-studded Halloween costume ball last 30 October.

Experience “Alamat: Revisiting Philippine Folklore” at The Courtyard and Gallery 2 of the National Museum of Anthropology until 31 December 2023! Open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 9 AM to 6 PM. Admission is FREE!