Filipinos are an artsy bunch. There’s a lot of pride in the local arts scene, and tremendous effort has been put into preserving the country’s artistic, historical and cultural treasures. The first time I visited the National Art Gallery in Manila, I was blown away by the quality and craftsmanship of Filipino artwork through the ages. I was expecting the same at the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo – a place I had always wanted to visit since I saw pictures of it in a travel blog. And it did not disappoint!
Tucked in a quiet, leafy corner of the city, Pinto Art Museum is the brainchild of one Dr Joven Cuanang, formerly a director of one of the biggest private hospitals in the Philippines. Its somewhat nondescript facade belies a spacious compound within. Befitting of its name (Pinto means ‘door’ in Filipino), the contemporary art gallery opens up new gateways for visitors to explore – one featuring unique architecture, art pieces and beautiful landscapes at every corner.
We stepped in to a spacious courtyard/garden, dotted with sculptures, decorative plants and cosy nooks just begging for an Instagram-shot. The museum’s verdant green surroundings were a calming escape after the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle that is Manila. Architecture was a beautiful mix of old and contemporary. Perhaps the most striking would be the Mediterranean-style villa-buildings, with their snowy white exteriors, arches and patterned railings. ‘
Nude figures seemingly ‘floating’ on a water basin full of lily pads in various poses – some in contemplation, others in action. The bronze sheen of their upper halves glimmered and shone in the sun, casting reflections on the water’s surface.
Another striking piece – a metallic sculpture of a pregnant woman cradling her spiral-patterned belly. Upon closer inspection, we were amazed to find that there was a tiny foetus within!
The ‘Chapel’ was not a religious house of worship, but a space for works of art. The entrance was flanked by two intriguing statues with their legs spread wide open. Inside, there was a white tree and a figure of an old lady surrounded by mushrooms.
N commented on how realistic the statue looked like, from the wrinkles on the old lady’s face down to the small details on her toes.
Stopped for a quick refresher at the museum’s coffee house-cum-restaurant, where we had soft drinks and fruit juice. Everything was overpriced. Even so, I liked the intimate interior, which was lit with warm yellow lights in addition to the natural sunlight filtering in from the windows.
My favourite spot: it resembled an opulent Spanish/Grecian mansion with a patch of green in the centre. The first floor had a gallery with rock samples, a well and several rustic-looking wooden doors that made perfect frames for photos.
Even the staircases make for beautiful shots!
We climbed up to the first floor, which had an open-air amphitheater that looked down on a group of robed, crying figures, lined with Tuscan order pillars. There was also a bell tower which we could see from where we were standing, but access to it was blocked.
View from first floor. Loved the bricks jutting out from the structure and their contrast against the white, as well as the glass windows and creeping ivy. It’s like being transported a few hundred years back to a wealthy European’s mansion.
A door that was too pretty not to take a picture of.
Moving on, we made our way to the art galleries on the other side of the museum grounds. All the works displayed are by Filipino artists. N and I spent some time analysing this colourful carnival-esque piece, which we figured had political undertones in the depictions of its characters. We could have been completely wrong, but that’s art though – it’s really open to interpretation.
The buildings have been designed to mimic the area’s naturally hilly terrain; hence the gentle slopes, ascents and descents that connect the various spaces.
Another gallery that housed contemporary art pieces.
We made our way through the halls, which opened up to reveal more at each turn. This is a place that you can get lost in (in a pleasant way, of course) for the entire day.
There was a hidden corner for explicit pieces with strong language/sexual imagery.
Even if you’re not an art lover, the Pinto Art Museum is a wonderful, relaxing sanctuary that is worth the 45-minute trip from the city centre. After a few good hours soaking in the atmosphere, we left feeling refreshed and inspired.
PINTO ART MUSEUM
1 Sierra Madre St. Grand Heights, Antipolo, Rizal, Philippines
Opening hours: 9AM – 6PM (closed Mondays)
Admission fee: PHP 180 (RM 14)