Let me start this article with a painful confession: In my lifetime, I have stepped inside more foreign museums than local ones.
I have no solid reason why I’ve successfully avoided Philippine museums, but I have some guesses. For one, I hate Manila traffic. Because heading to museums means I’d have to force myself out of the house, the idea just never appealed to me. My second guess is that I’ve probably been taking local museums for granted. They’re more accessible to me than foreign ones, after all. Finally, maybe I don’t go to local museums because I was so bad at history as a student. I probably have this secret fear that I wouldn’t be able to take in any of the knowledge museums freely give.
Writing these reasons down makes me realise that none of my excuses sound rational enough. Maybe the actual reason why I haven’t seriously thought of visiting a Philippine museum is that I haven’t thought of enough reasons to go. So, allow me to bring you along as I process my thoughts through this article. Do we actually have enough reasons to visit Philippine museums? Enough reasons to actually make up for the hassles of traffic? Read through the article and let me know what you think.
1. Museums are educational
I’m stating the obvious here. Museums are educational; hence, most of our field trips included a trip to a museum. But unlike a boring teacher, museums are immersive — they house artefacts and visually present culture. Moreso, museums are now considered as certified educational institutions. It’s inevitable that we exit a museum without newly gained knowledge.
2. Museums encourage empathy
Real education shouldn’t just thrive on what we know, but on what we do with that knowledge. Case in point: It’s one thing to know about the 70,000 filed cases of human rights violations during the Martial Law period; it’s another thing to feel the pain of the victims. Personally, I’ve built my empathy for Martial Law victims through reading books about Martial Law. But, I just realised that museums could have had the same impact on me. Museums, like books, bring us to another dimension so that we can know — more importantly, feel — what history was like.
In retrospect, I’d never understood the impact of the Nagasaki Atomic Bombing event until I visited the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. In the same way, I only felt the gravity of the Vietnam War until I visited the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. With this, I’m assured that visiting Philippine museums will encourage us to further understand our history.
3. Museums are instruments for travel
Going back to the concept of museums being comparable to books, the experience of visiting a museum opens our minds to new worlds. It expands our horizons and exposes us to diverse cultures. We travel for the same reason, don’t we? This said, we can certainly liken a trip to a museum to a trip abroad — the former being a budget-friendly alternative. The best part of visiting a museum is that aside from offering us an experience of different places, it also offers an experience of different eras. As far as general knowledge goes, no aircraft has done that yet!
4. Museums are places of healing
It’s been scientifically proven that museums are restorative places. In fact, museums have been seen to help lower risks of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Some doctors even prescribe trips to museums to increase levels of serotonin!
Think of it: There’s definitely a unique serenity in museums that calms the nerves. If you’re feeling lonely or stressed, try visiting a museum. While it’s not the ultimate solution to all our problems, it will at least help alleviate our worries.
5. Museums are budget-friendly tourist spots
Let’s be honest: the word free piques our interest, and there’s nothing like a free tourist spot to draw our full attention. We are travellers, after all.
There are several Philippine museums that don’t charge for admission. If not free, most of them won’t cost us more than a full meal. So, why not give them a chance? Besides, we love visiting malls to window shop and take advantage of the free air conditioning service. Let’s do our minds a favour and pass time in a place that will educate us instead.
After a quick rundown on this, I’ve concluded that I need more trips to Philippine museums. I want to build my nationalism, educate myself, and simply de-stress. Maybe you do, too. Museums, after all, were made for us. As the National Center for Culture and the Arts wrote: “Museums will continue to exist and evolve as long as they provide meaning to people and uplift their lives.” This said, let’s make the most out of them.