The sculpture is considered one of the oldest art forms. In the Philippines, sculpting is an indigenous art embedded in our local cultures. Various carved art forms are part of ethnolinguistic groups’ daily lives and traditions, such as the anito and bulul of the groups in the Cordillera; and the okir and pako-rabong designs seen on the sarimanok, naga, and panolong of those in Mindanao. In the Christianized communities, pre-colonial idols were replaced with the images of Christ, the Virgin, and the Santos during the Spanish period. Consequently, from the 19th century onwards, the number of local craftsmen and woodcarvers, both Chinese and Filipino, increased, especially in Quiapo and Santa Cruz districts in Manila and Paete, Laguna. Towards the end of the 19th century, secular art emerged. Sculptors began to work on portraits and later classical sculptures through the Academia de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado de Manila. After the Second World War, modern sculpture emerged and introduced a wide array of media and materials. These new artistic resources and techniques gave way to what we now know as a contemporary sculpture.
The National Museum takes pride in its collection of sculptural artworks from the 18th century up to the 21st century. Notable works include the Retablo, a side altar of the San Nicolas de Tolentino Church in Dimiao in Bohol, and Dr. Jose Rizal’s La Venganza de la Madre (The Mother’s Revenge), which both declared National Cultural Treasures. Jose P. Alcantara’s relief series from the Philam Life Collection declared as Important Cultural Treasures. National Artists are also represented, such as Guillermo Tolentino, Napoleon Abueva, Arturo Luz, and Abdulmari Asia Imao, Isabelo Tampinco, and other sculptors who have made a mark in the Philippine art history. Women artists like Julie Lluch, Agnes Arellano, and Impy Pilapil to name a few, are also included.