Why you should get your ass over to the National Museum

I get it. Museums are boring and leave your feet hurting for hours as you stand before countless paintings and preserved things wondering whether or not you could summon natural curiosity or appreciation.

Baybayin, the first Filipino alphabet.

Look, you don't have to understand or like everything. You don't even have to go there for the sake of educating yourself. You just need to empathize. Think of it as an exercise of intentionally connecting. You don't have to be interested at first, because being intentional means knowing your goal, and doing things as if you planned or intended for something to happen. So intend to connect, because many times in life, you'll be needing that skill, even if it's just for being constantly aware that the world isn't just about you and your struggles.

The National Museum (visual arts building)

Drag your feet forward, from one gallery to the next. You might realize that some art forms don't appeal to you, and some pierces through your heart. Ask yourself why. If we don't put ourselves out there to discover the world, it'll take forever before the opportunities come for us to figure out which things or "pieces" in life we want to keep, or throw away, or pursue. Know that whatever you choose speaks volumes about who you are as a person. You get to know yourself better in the process.

It didn't take me long until I found myself in a gallery full of Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo paintings. There were so much detail and emotion. So many times I just wanted to cry because even though I didn't understand art, it understood me. It knew the pain and the loneliness in my life. It knew the dull colors, the subtle twist of the mouth, and the sunsets that have been longed for. Sometimes we interpret art differently from why it was created in the first place, but the important thing is, we were able to relate to the expression. We don't all have to see things in the same perspective in order to appreciate beauty.

A painting by Juan Luna

I read a book which said that sometimes only beauty heals, like when you send flowers to someone grieving a loss. No amount of condolences would heal, but the flowers would steady the heart. I think it's true. I have found that the most beautiful things in this world are either created with joy or pain. We have the capacity to turn something so ugly and painful into something so beautiful. That's what God has been constantly doing to us, and He has given us the same ability to create things, to move on, and do something beautiful and better with our lives. It doesn't have to be an artwork -- it could be a community project, or loving and taking care of ourselves better, as long as we create something, whether it speaks of hope or desperation, because we know deep inside someone out there will understand.

A painting by BenCab.

Don't feel too bad if you just can't appreciate the intellectual worth and the symbolism in the art or the history. Accept that those things just don't speak to you. The day will come when you find yourself liking other things instead -- that you'll put behind the classic Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo, and opt for a more modern, brightly-colored piece of BenCab artwork. Life comes in bulks of seasons. We may no longer connect to something as deeply as we have before, and that's okay. It only means we've moved on to a different chapter in life. Maybe one day we'll come back, maybe not. But there will always be something we can connect to.

There is healing when we finally understand that we are never alone in what we're going through (even if the person who has gone through the same depth of pain is a painter who's been dead for ages).

*finally realizes why painters are called pain-ters hahaha*

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