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A glass house by the lake.

On the steep slopes of Hollywood Hills--no, not in Los Angeles, but in Tagaytay City--stands a gem of a museum, housing some of the best glass sculptures the world has ever seen. At the end of the Tagaytay-Santa Rosa Road is Museo Orlina, a center for culture and the arts in the heart of this breezy city, the so-called second summer capital of the country. It is the living, breathing monument of world renowned glass sculpture artist Ramon Orlina, a self-taught artist who shunned scholarships and capitalistic opportunities in the pursuit of his craft's purity. One of the few private museums to open in the country, his vision of a cultural space came true here, where his works of glass, metal, and bronze seem to come alive along some of the best views of Taal Lake.

Images by John Jerome E. Ganzon


Ramon was first an architect, having studied architecture at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and practicing it for a few years after, working for celebrated architect Carlos Arguelles and even putting up a firm of his own. When Martial Law was declared, however, his clients left, and he turned to art to continue making a living.

"I was best in freehand drawing back in UST when I was taking up architecture," the affable artist heartily recalls, boasting that his heart has always been artistic even as his mind was permeated by the rigidity of architecture's dimensions.

He was commissioned by Republic Glass to do a study on what he can do with, well, glass, and he soon realized that beyond the industrial uses for it, he can do art. At a time when glass sculptures were done using the traditional methods of glass blowing, glass casting, and glass fusing, he pioneered glass sculpting from big, massive chunks. His first major achievement in sculpting was when he did the Arcanum XIX, Paradise Gained that was displayed at the foyer of the Silahis Hotel in 1976, stunning even prominent Australian artist and designer Gerry King. He went on to be well renowned in several countries with his sculptures, mostly using green glass as his signature, and was even called "Maestro" by Czech Stanislav Libensky, then considered as the guru of glass sculpting, early in the unassuming artist's career. He's also won several prestigious awards like the "Mr. F Prize" of the prestigious Toyamura International Sculpture Biennale in 1999. He was offered several scholarships in different countries, but he turned them all down. He didn't want to be beholden to any person or organization. He wanted to remain pure, but he also wanted it to remain fresh. So he did eventually branch out from glass sculpting into using other mediums like bronze and steel, winning several more awards like in the II International Biennale of Basketball in the Fine Arts in Madrid for his Basketball Mi Mundo tubular steel structure. But more than anything, he wanted to give back to his people, the Filipinos, and he was able to achieve this with the establishment of his museum in December 2013.


As you enter the museum, you will notice how unpretentious the place is, making use of a basic black and white color scheme and maximizes natural lighting and ventilation to make a visit here comfortable without usually using airconditioning or turning on lights excessively. You will be greeted by a relief mural made of different levels of stainless steel, the material used primarily to counter the sulfuric characteristic of the Tagaytay air. The mural plays with movement in its stillness, a preview of the brilliance one will witness inside the museum's five levels. As you go through each floor, four of which are named after Ramon's children, you can see a story unfolding right before your very eyes--the story of his evolution as an artist.

On the Ningning level at the second floor, his early pieces such as Chasing Rainbows, the immense Rich Harvest in Banaue, and the haunting Dream Lady can be found, where his use of his signature green glass is prominent. Sculptures as far back as the 70's and as recent as a couple of years back can be found here, prominently displaying where his foundation as an artist started.

Moving on to a floor above at level Anna, some more glass sculptures are laid out, but this time, the gallery is mixed well with other works of art of different materials like bronze and steel. Here, Ramon shows clippings and photos of the 10-meter tall Quattromondial Monument that stand now on the ground of University of Santo Tomas, done by him to commemorate the school's quadricentenary celebration. A version of the Philippine Basketball Association's All-Filipino Perpetual Trophy that he created is also on display. Works of other artists like Benjie Reyes Silya ni Fely and Cocoon Chair by Ann Pamintuan are here, displayed with his own charily works of art like the Ghost Chair, which is made out of tempered glass, and the Orlina Romantic Chair, which explores the ideas of position and space in relationships.

Going two levels below, you will find at level Naesa the changing exhibitions, where he invites other artists to display their works in hopes of getting their brilliance to be noticed and to hopefully have some of their pieces sold. This is his way of truly giving back and how he pays homage to his humble, surprising beginnings. He knows how difficult it is for starting artists to get their break, and he's willing to help them out as best as he could. Currently sharing this level is an exhibition of classical sculptures by Isabelo Tampinco in order to provide something different for those yearning for something more than the abstractness of his works.

An amphitheater right after the lower level is present and was put there in order to provide a venue for the performing arts. He envisions the museum to be the cultural soul of Tagaytay, and the amphitheater provides a great place for dances and music to be emblazoned. The venue served as a venue for a concert of 16 bands last Sept.19, including Parokya ni Edgar and other OPM acts, and was attended by a thousand people amidst a Woodstock-like atmosphere. Hidden at the back part of the stage under a spiralling staircase is the carport, where two automotive vehicles served as canvas for Ramon, National Artist BenCab and Elmer Borongan, as they explore the realm of "rolling" sculptures.

So while a trip to Tagaytay usually meant going to People's Park or eating bulalo at one of the restaurants along the ridge, it's about time for us to recognize the brilliance of Ramon Orlina. His museum should be on top of anyone's list of things to do here. He's given the Filipino people so much pride, it's just right that we show our gratitude by immersing ourselves in the brilliance of his work here at Museo Orlina.

Museo Orlina is located at Hollywood Subdivision Road, Bgy. Tolentino East, Howllywood Subdivision, Tagaytay City.


Photo of Quattromondial Monument, which Orlina created for the University of Santo Tomas' 400th centennial anniversary; Pilita, a one-meter high bronze sculpture; a Mondrian-inspired car painted that Orlina painted

Ramon Orlina at Museo Orlina in Tagaytay City.

Ramon Orlina sitting on a glass chair, his glass sculptures at the back.
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Title Annotation:Arts & Culture
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Dec 7, 2015
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