The Vargas Museum on the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, is largely known for its Filipiniana collections or artworks of Filipino National Artists. The ground floor holds rotating exhibits and contemporary local arts. The second-floor gallery hosts paintings by legends of the Philippine art scene including Vicente Manansala, Fernando Amorsolo, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Juan Luna, Antonio Dumlao, and Guillermo Tolentino.
What is not known to most is that the museum also owns a treasure trove of paintings recovered from the Marcos family. Imelda Marcos was the wife of disgraced former president Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted from his position in 1986 after a tumultuous 20 years in power. Imelda is largely known for her large and lavish shoe collection, but she also amassed various works of art from Italy, Russia, and the old Yugoslavia to be exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. In the years after the family was ousted, the museum focused on collecting and showcasing pieces that would enrich the Filipino culture and arts. Imelda’s conscientious arts collection needed a new home. The succeeding President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order 1 to form Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) specifically to “recover ill-gotten wealth.” The PCGG recovered paintings by Botticelli, Raphael, and Titian, which have been auctioned with the proceeds going towards agrarian reform. But some of the pieces remained.
From the Vargas Museums website, ‘These objects are art from Europe, some originally meant for worship, others for patrons, some made by known artists, others supposedly by peasants. They are paintings on canvas, glass, and wood; crafted from the tradition of lacquer, the medium of egg tempera and copper, the ornament of gold leaf, among others.”
Know Before You Go
The Vargas Museum is within the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus. Entering the main gate, take the Roxas Avenue lane on the right immediately after the Quezon Hall with the oblation statue. Open from Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The PCGG collection is on the third floor.