On a calm Tuesday morning, heritage advocate, journalist, one-time Secretary of Tourism, and former museum director Gemma Cruz Araneta opens up the National Museum of Fine Art for the Vogue Philippines.
Vogue Philippines’ December 2023 / January 2024 cover star Gemma Cruz Araneta has worn many hats, and one that has never left her crown is heritage advocate. As the founder of the Heritage Conservation Society, and the former director of the National Museum of Fine Art, Araneta has been a staunch supporter of the preservation of architecture, art, and other cultural institutions that are key to Filipino heritage.
Early on a Tuesday morning, Araneta held open the doors of the National Museum of Fine Art for Vogue Philippines, a quiet walk-through of the personal favorite spots in the museum. At the Spolarium Hall, she breaks down the different textures of Juan Luna’s Romanesque work, and why it is arguably the most definitive piece of art in Philippine history–as well as her personal view on art.
Her personal triumph however comes in the form of the Botong Francisco mural which now hangs at the Old Senate Session Hall within the museum’s halls. Entitled “Filipino Struggles Through History,” the expansive, impressive quadtych by National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco endured four years of restoration. The National Museum names it as Botong’s “greatest extant work of art,” but its depiction of Philippine history, specifically as the History of Manila, matches the emotion and energy of the contemporary Filipino.
The series of paintings was commissioned by Mayor Antonio J. Villegas for the Manila City Hall back in 1968. Cruz Araneta shares that former Secterary of the Department of Tourism, Ramon Jimenez, helped fund its restoration. In restoration, the canvases were stretched and framed, and now fit the Old Senate Session Hall as if it were meant for the space. Watch the space come alive in the video now.
Directed and edited by Samantha Lee. Second camera by David Samson. Art directed by Jann Pascua. Beauty editor Joyce Oreña. Digital editor Andrea Ang. Styled by Neil Anthonie de Guzman. Makeup by Angelina dela Cruz. Hairstyling by Nhot Bituin. Produced by Bianca Zaragoza. Production assisted by Chelsea Sarabia.