Travel Guide: Philippine Art Appreciation Tour
It is easy enough to go from place to place in urban areas by bus, train, cab, and even, in some cases, horse-drawn calesa. For the trips to Laguna and Quezon, you can rent a car. If you are not comfortable traveling on unfamiliar roads, hire an experienced driver as well.
Many hotels and inns can be found in the cities of Manila and Baguio. It is advisable to make reservations, especially during the peak tourist seasons (March-May and the Christmas season) and festivals.
Day 1: Remnants of the past in the City of Manila
- National Museum - Get a backgrounder on Philippine arts and culture at the National Museum of the Philippines, where the dramatic Spoliarium by 19th century artist Juan Luna hangs among a large number of the master artist’s other works. Nearby is the National Museum of the Filipino People, which has displays of indigenous artifacts. Going through the exhibits in both buildings should take no more than 2 or 3 hours, then you’re ready to go to Intramuros.
- Intramuros – The old walled city of Manila is easy to traverse on foot, but you can always take a calesa if you get tired of walking. Start with a visit to Fort Santiago, a formidable remnant of the Spanish colonial era. Outside the main gate, walk down General Luna Street to see Manila Cathedral, then visit nearby San Agustin Church, which has its own museum.
After viewing centuries-old church artifacts and artworks at San Agustin Museum, go to Casa Manila across the street to get a feel of how Filipinos lived at the end of the Spanish colonial period. In Plaza San Luis outside, peek into some gift shops. Then visit Bahay Tsinoy to see the porcelain exhibit and get acquainted with the culture of the Chinese community of the Philippines. Finally, go to Malate to dine and check out this Manila district’s nightlife, art galleries, and antique shops.
Day 2: Museums of Makati and Manila
- Ayala Museum - Leave for Makati at about 9:30 in the morning, avoiding the rush hour on weekdays and arriving at Ayala Museum in time for the museum’s opening on weekends. You can do this via MRT (from Taft Avenue Station, travel to Ayala station). After viewing the museum’s exhibits, including an extensive collection of master painter Fernando Amorsolo’s works, you may want to check out the galleries and shops in the area.
- Metropolitan Museum of Manila – Return to Manila, and go to the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, known as the Met Museum. Be sure to check out the impressive permanent collections of early Filipino gold and pottery in the basement as well as the changing art exhibits. Have lunch at the posh café or at one of the eateries nearby.
- Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex - Afterwards, go across Roxas Boulevard to the Cultural Center of the Philippines, an amazing example of modern Philippine architecture designed by National Artist of the Philippines Leandro Locsin. The luxurious interiors are a feast for the eyes in themselves, but there are some exhibits as well. You can take a shuttle to see the GSIS Museo ng Sining at the far end of the complex, where another Juan Luna painting can be seen among the many other artworks in the museum’s collection, which consists mostly of contemporary paintings. Finally, take a stroll along nearby Manila Bay, famous for its beautiful sunsets. You might be able to take in a show at the Cultural Center. Finally, linger over dinner at a restaurant with a view of the Bay.
Day 3: Arts and crafts villages around Laguna de Bay
- Angono – Leave for Angono, Rizal by 8 in the morning, as the trip takes about 3 hours. Once in Angono, you may visit the studios of two established Philippine artists: Nemiranda and Jose Blanco. Also view the Angono petroglyph, an ancient drawing etched in rock, before proceeding to Pila.
- Pakil – The church of Pakil dates back to the 18th century. Its interiors have been preserved. Pakil is especially famous for its intricate woodcarvings. Be sure to purchase some before going to neighboring Paete.
- Paete – Take a look at the restored 18th century church of Paete then shop for some of the hand-crafted wood and taka or papier-mache products that the town is famous for.
- Lumban – This town is known for its weaving and embroidery, especially of barong Tagalog. The town prides itself on its fine piña cloth and intricate embroidered designs.
- Pagsanjan – This town is not particularly known for arts, but it is a good place to pick up native delicacies. Purchase some snacks before continuing to Tayabas, Quezon, where you will dine and spend the night at the guesthouse Mi Casa en Tayabas, the town mayor’s refurbished old house.
Day 4: Quezon and Pila
- Tayabas – After breakfast, take a walk and see the picturesque old Malagonlong Bridge, the Casa de Comunidad museum, and the Basilica de San Miguel Archangel with its glorious ceiling. Then proceed to the nearby town of Tiaong to visit Ugu Bigyan’s workshop in Alvarez Village.
- Tiaong – Browse through Ugu Bigyan’s unique pottery collection and have a pleasant lunch in his lush garden (this must be arranged in advance). Then head for Pila, Laguna.
- Pila – Walk along Rizal Street to see homes dating back to the Spanish colonial era. Take a look at the town museum then head back to Manila to spend the night.
Day 5: Baguio At about 5 in the morning, catch a bus to Baguio from the Dagupan Bus terminal in Cubao. Upon arriving in Baguio, check into your hotel and have some lunch, perhaps at the popular artist hangout Salud, owned by the family of designer Patis Tesoro. Explore the city, especially the colorful market, and relax after your long trip. At night, visit one of the many gallery cafes in the city.
Day 6: Traditional arts in Baguio and Vigan Baguio artists’ and artisans’ workshops - The next day, go to the Naguilan district and see the Easter Weaving Room, where traditional-style textiles are made. From there, go to the Tam-awan Village, a village with art galleries and artists’ studios housed in native huts, and then to Woodcarvers’ Village, 5 kilometers outside the city limits.
Vigan - After lunch, take a bus to Vigan City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is full of well-preserved ancestral houses dating back to the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. There is a museum of antiques in the home of Philippine martyr Padre Burgos. It is also known for red clay burnay pottery and abel weaving. You can purchase some clay pots and handwoven textiles as gifts and souvenirs. At Plaza Burgos, you can buy some native delicacies to fortify you on the long bus ride back to Manila. You could also spend the night at one of the guesthouses in the city before returning to Manila.
- Be sure to bring an extra bag for your shopping.
- Enjoy the scenery while you’re on the road. Keep an eye peeled for architectural gems, like the Manila Post Office along Roxas Boulevard.
- This tour is best undertaken in fair weather. The roads to Baguio can be downright dangerous during rainy weather as there are occasional landslides.
- Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water and snacks for trips outside Manila as places to buy these may be few and far between.
- A wide-brimmed hat or umbrella is advised for walking under the sun, especially in sunny Vigan.
- Check museum hours before planning a visit. Museums are usually closed on Mondays. Students and seniors may receive discounts if they bring their IDs.
- While it is not hard to go around on your own, a good tour guide may help you to appreciate the sights more. One popular tour of Intramuros is given by Carlos Celdran.
- When planning your trip, take note of the events in the areas on the itinerary. If you can, arrange to stop by the towns of Lucban and Sariaya in Quezon on the 15th of May for the unforgettable fiesta in honor of San Isidro Labrador, when every house is turned into a colorful work of art using natural and indigenous materials. Baguio has an arts festival from November to December and a flower festival in February.
Useful contact information
- Ugu Bigyan
490 Alvarez Village Brgy. Lusacan, Tiaong Quezon Tel. (042) 545-9144
- Mi Casa en Tayabas
Address: Tayabas City Cel: +063 910 3160 328 Website: http://micasaentayabas.com/
- Carlos Celdran 
- Mayor casa (Boutique hotel showcases old glory of Tayabas) Source: Manila Bulletin Author: Chris Datol Date: 2007-09-27 
- Ilocos Sur Tourism. 
- Go Baguio. 
- Aquino, Michael. “Walking Tour of Intramuros.” In About.com  (Accessed February 3, 2009).
- ”Bahandi Itineraries.” In Lakbay.net  (Accessed February 3, 2009).
- Bondoc, Belle V. “Last Summer Hurrah.” In Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 27, 2008.  (Accessed February 3, 2009).
- ”Homegrown Art of Baguio.” In Homegrown Art.net  (Accessed February 3, 2009).
- “Ugu Bigyan.”  (Accessed February 3, 2009).
- ”Manila.” In WOW Philippines. 
- ”Vigan Tour.” In Vigan Site  (Accessed February 5, 2009).
- Vigan City Website.  (Accessed February 5, 2009).