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Awe-Inspiring Public Artworks Hidden in Plain Sight in Metro Manila

by Mich Escultura

You might be surprised to know that Metro Manila is actually a pretty artsy place, with works of art hidden in plain sight. While you might see monuments and statues as landmarks that keep you from getting lost in the metro, it’s still a good idea to slow down and marvel at the many public artworks in Manila that you might not have paid attention to before.

No idea where to look? Here are our top 7 picks for Metro Manila public artworks that will take your mind off the typical hustle and bustle of the city.

The UP Oblation

metro manila public artworks #1: The Up Oblation
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The UP Oblation is undoubtedly the most famous piece of artwork you’ll find in the UP Diliman Campus. Created by national artist Guillermo Tolentino, the statue was created based on Jose Rizal’s poem Mi Ultimo Adios. The UP Oblation symbolizes our forefathers’ utter dedication to the nation, with its pose of complete surrender.

Trivia: Many have speculated on the identity of the model for the UP Oblation, but the most popular theory is that it is Tolentino’s assistant Anastacio Caedo, who himself is a famous sculptor.

Ganap

metro manila public artworks #2: Ganap street art
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While driving through the southbound lane of EDSA, you might pass through the strange yet wondrous street art created by Jose Tence Ruiz along Magallanes. This public masterpiece is called Ganap, which symbolizes the beauty and chaos of natural evolution alongside the emergence of technological progress. So even while you’re stuck in EDSA, you can feast your eyes on the strange sea creatures, elegant flowers, and nature-inspired fractals to keep your mind off the rush hour traffic.

Trivia: Ganap is one of the artworks commission for the Everyone Deserves Safe Air (EDSA) Project, which uses a special type of Boysen paint that claims to help eliminate nitrous oxide and nitrogen dioxide to make way for clean air.

Bonifacio Monument

metro manila public artworks #2: Bonifacio Monument
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Let’s go up north where a monument stands for one of the figureheads of the Philippine Revolution. The Bonifacio Monument by Guillermo Tolentino is located in Caloocan, and it depicts the revolt against Spanish colonial rule by the Katipunan. The 14-meter high monument consists of the revolutionary figures at the base atop an octagonal plinth to represent the 8 provinces that fought against Spain. And at the very top of the obelisk is the winged figure of victory, a copy of which may be found in the lobby of the National Museum.

Trivia: The plinth where the bronze figures are situated has three steps, which symbolizes the three centuries of Spanish rule.

The Transfiguration

metro manila public artworks#4: The Transfiguration
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Another noticeable figure you’ll find while you’re driving through the North Luzon Expressway is Napoleon Abueva’s The Transfiguration, a 33-foot high brass and bronze statue of Jesus Christ at the entrance to Eternal Gardens Memorial Park. Napoleon Abueva has been known as the father of Philippine Modern sculpture, and his skill at creating such an emblematic religious event with a modern twist shines through in this masterpiece.

Trivia: Napoleon Abueva received the National Artist Award at the age of 46, making him the youngest recipient of the award.

The Statue of the Sentinel of Freedom

metro manila public artworks #5: The Statue of the Sentinel of Freedom
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Controversially known as the biggest monument in a park named after another national hero, The Statue of the Sentinel of Freedom in Rizal Park depicts the first leader known to have resisted foreign rule. Lapu-Lapu’s 30-foot bronze statue was a gift commissioned by the Koreans in honor of the Filipino freedom fighters who helped save Korean democracy back in the early 1950s.

Trivia: The creator of the statue, Juan Sajid Imao, is a multi-awarded artist who chose to depict Lapu-Lapu in the curvilinear art often seen in Maranao art. Remarkably enough, Imao has risen to become one of the most lauded sculptors in the Philippines despite an eye condition that could render him permanently blind.

Boy Scouts Rotonda

metro manila public artworks #6: Boy Scouts of the Philippines rotonda
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If you’re a frequent visitor of the Morato area in Quezon City, you may be familiar with one of the area’s most popular landmarks – the Boy Scouts Rotonda at the Timog and Tomas Morato intersection. This public artwork commemorates the 20 boy scouts, 2 veteran scouts, and 2 chaperones who died in a plane crash back in 1963 as they were on the way to Greece to represent the Philippines in an international jamboree. In 2007, an obelisk was erected in the middle of the rotunda wherein a statue of Tomas Morato stands.

Trivia: The streets located near the Boy Scouts Rotonda are named after the 24 scouts depicted in the monument.

Filipino Struggles Through History

metro manila public artworks #7: Carlos Francisco's street art
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Known to be Carlos “Botong” Francisco’s magnum opus, Filipino Struggles Through History has perfectly captured the ordeals of the Filipino people in his distinct style. Completed in 1964, this masterpiece was a commissioned piece for the Bulwagang Villegas in Manila City Hall. With three panels depicting historical scenes from the first Rajas of Tondo all the way to the American colonial period, Botong’s timeless painting remains one of the most iconic murals about Philippine history.

Trivia: Botong Francisco is one of the country’s most renowned muralists. One of his most famous murals, The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines, was once displayed at the Philippine General Hospital for 58 years. To preserve this national treasure from wear and tear, the original 4-panel mural was moved to the National Museum in 2011 while a reproduction remains at PGH.

There are plenty of other public artworks all around Metro Manila, way too many to be compressed into this list. So which of these public artworks do you usually see on your daily commute? Which of them inspire you? And what other public artworks do you think deserve to be on the list? Let us know!

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