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Commentary: Be proper people inside museums

I’m starting to believe that a lot of Filipinos don’t know how to appreciate artworks and cultural spaces.

Case in point:

On February 15, 2023, artist Rodney James De Guzman posted a video on Facebook with the caption, “mag appreciate at matuto ❌ magTIKTOK at patungan ng cellphone ang artwork 🤦🏻‍♂️💯 FYI that is a marble artwork, nakalagay na do not touch, PINATUNGAN NAMAN!”

As of this writing, the video now has 1.1 million views, 23k reactions, 51 comments, and 15k shares.

Many Filipinos online expressed their sentiments towards the two individuals that were filming a TikTok video on one of the exhibits of Impy Pilapil in the National Museum of the Philippines, who clearly did not follow the rule of “don’t touch the artwork”.

The backlash was swift, and some have even pointed out the observation that a lot of people actually film TikTok videos (presumably TikTok DANCE videos) inside the museum.

TikTok at Museum comments - 1
via Facebook
TikTok at Museum comments - 2
via Facebook
TikTok at Museum comments - 2
via Facebook
TikTok at Museum comments - 2
via Twitter
TikTok at Museum comments - 5
via Twitter
TikTok at Museum comments - 6
via Twitter

To be honest, who in their right mind would be happy about people disrespecting a place of art and culture? There’s nothing entertaining about what those two people did, and placing a cell phone on top of one of the displays? It’s obvious that these two didn’t listen to their teachers and tour guides during field trips.

There’s nothing so hard to comprehend about the rules in museum, as they’re pretty much straightforward: “Don’t Touch The Artwork,” “No Flash Photography,” “No Taking Of Videos In The Museum,” etc. There’s a reason museums impose such rules, and that is to avoid incidents such as the one captured on the viral video.

In the National Museum of Fine Arts in the Philippines, a majority of the artworks there are the obra maestra of some of the country’s finest painters, artists, and sculptures in history—Juan Luna, Félix Resurección Hidalgo, Guillermo Tolentino, Vicente Manansala, Carlos “Botong” Francisco, and some contemporary works from Isa Lorenzo, Ferrante Ferranti, and others. Even Juan Luna’s magnum opus, the “Spoliarium” is there. With museums having such a wide array of masterful works stored inside of it, surely it’s a place that exudes an air of grandeur and commands respect from all its sponsors, advocates, and the public, right?
Filipinos should learn how to appreciate art and culture in spaces such as museums. These pieces aren’t just for show, or to boost one’s influence on social media.

These pieces reflect our country’s history and an appreciation of the Filipino people and their talents. Art isn’t made just to please the eyes, it’s also made to help the public understand the country’s past and to make them feel uncomfortable about realities previously not shown to them.

So really–it’s okay to call people out when you see them blatantly disrespecting art. It is but right.

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