Sculptor Orlina opens museum in Tagaytay

Posted at 04/04/14 5:28 PM

From the main street level, the first view visitors get of the museum is the sign on its roofdeck with Taal Volcano as a stunning backdrop. The letter “O” in the museum logo showcases Ramon Orlina’s signature green glass sculpture. Photo by Susan A. de Guzman

MANILA -- Glass sculptor Ramon Orlina has ticked one item off his bucket list – to establish a museum showcasing his creations from a career that has already spanned 39 years and which continues to flourish.

And in his case, the movie adage “If you build it, people will come” is proving to be true.

Since its soft opening in November, Museo Orlina in Tagaytay has been drawing hundreds of visitors – a combination of local folk, the city’s weekend residents and fine arts students from Metro Manila schools.

“We hoped that the museum would become an art destination and we’re glad people have really been coming to see it,” the 70-year-old artist told ABS-CBNnews.com.

Museo Orlina will have its formal inauguration on April 9, with the blessing of the four-level structure and the unveiling of works in the sculpture garden and amphitheater fronting the museum.

Orlina’s works in glass, spread out in various levels within the building, have been known to elicit gasps and a sense of awe among museum-goers. His sculptures in green glass which have become synonymous with his name are shown alongside later versions carved from crystal in hues such as amber, pink and blue.

Spectacular sights are offered at Museo Orlina, inside and outside. Ramon Orlina’s signature green sculpture has the Taal Lake and Taal Volcano as backdrop, with the museum’s sculpture garden below. Photo by Susan A. de Guzman

Aside from the evolution of his glass sculptures, the museum highlights Orlina’s prolific output as an artist who has also produced large-scale public art (monuments), functional objects (metal chairs) and wearable art (necklaces with carved glass accents).

His experimentations in other media such as brass, cast bronze and steel, as well as his passion for cars, are likewise represented or documented.

Vacation house

Orlina had been toying with the idea for a museum as early as a decade ago. While he initially thought of building it in his hometown of Taal, Batangas, he felt it wouldn’t be a right fit as Taal is primarily characterized by heritage homes. He opened an art gallery there, though.

In 2012, he and his wife Lay Ann acquired a pair of townhouse units in Tagaytay overlooking Taal Lake and Taal Volcano.
Though originally meant to be just a vacation house for their family, the artist later started wondering if this place – which offered such picturesque views and cool weather – could be turned into a museum instead.

The decision was eventually sealed. Months of renovation followed to transform the building into an appropriate art space, with Orlina – an architect – thinking of the needed design solutions to challenges posed by the existing structure.

Eyeing the vacant lot in front of the planned museum, the Orlinas made inquiries and were later able to purchase it as well.

What was originally intended as a home merely for the visual arts has since expanded into a venue for other art forms. Noting the sloping terrain, Orlina mused how the additional land would be suitable for an amphitheater with a stage.

Museo Orlina has an amphitheater where musical and theatrical performances may be held. The grounds also double as a sculpture garden featuring works by Bencab, Lor Calma, Daniel Dela Cruz and Orlina himself. Photo by Susan A. de Guzman

“Now, the museum is a tribute to the seven arts,” Orlina enthused.

Activities such as poetry readings, concerts, ballet performances, plays and other cultural events can be held on the grounds. He plans to have a musical that he produced in honor of Our Lady of Caysasay (script by Nestor Torre and music by Ryan Cayabyab) restaged there.

The amphitheater doubles as a sculpture garden. Aside from Orlina’s own geometrical works in metal, there are also pieces by National Artist Benedicto “Bencab” Cabrera, Lor Calma, Daniel Dela Cruz, Ann Pamintuan, Olivia d’Aboville and Leeroy New.


The museum levels, named after the Orlina children, boast various galleries. Level 1, dubbed Naesa (after the eldest daughter), features the reception lobby and opens into the Reflections Gallery which is the venue for changing exhibitions as run by the Paseo Gallery. Reflections Gallery extends to the Lower Level which has a doorway leading to the sculpture garden.

Level 2 or Ningning has two galleries, one exhibiting Orlina’s early pieces and the other his more recent works.

The extensive range of Orlina’s works includes the PBA trophy in stainless steel, brass and 18K gold plating, and an array of carved crystal sculptures in various colors. Photo by Susan A. de Guzman

Level 3 or Anna bears the maquettes and photographs of Orlina’s monumental indoor and outdoor works found here and abroad.

Finally, the Roofdeck, dubbed Michael – an excellent vantage point to Tagaytay’s most famous attractions – is the location of Greenbean Café which serves organically grown coffee. At the moment, the café is open only on weekends.

One of the elements Orlina proudly shows off is an interactive display system on Level 3 that visitors can tinker with. From the start menu on the wide screen, they can choose from more than a dozen applications. They can see TV interviews with Orlina, read newspaper and magazine features about him, play a memory game, even watch CCTV clips showing a thief snatching an Orlina sculpture from a gallery in Alabang!

Ramon Orlina explains the interactive display system in his museum which contains information, images and games for visitors. On the wall is a rendering of the artist’s ancestral home in Taal, Batangas. Photo by Susan A. de Guzman

Upon seeing the interactive system in Thailand, he decided to have a similar set-up in his museum to further engage guests.

Orlina also aimed to showcase his love for automotive vehicles but still infused with art. The carport built below the amphitheater stage displays art cars – a Volvo that he transformed into a “Homage to Mondrian” and a Volkswagen Beetle which he asked Bencab to paint with his iconic Sabel images. Orlina disclosed that another car to be handpainted by Elmer Borlongan will soon be added.

Ramon Orlina handpainted this Volvo which he dubbed “Homage to Mondrian,” after one of his favorite artists Piet Mondrian. Photo by Susan A. de Guzman
National Artist Bencab handpainted a Volkswagen Beetle upon Ramon Orlina’s request. The result is this art car Bencab titled “Sabel sa Beetle” now displayed in Museo Orlina’s carport. Photo by Susan A. de Guzman

Even as the museum has yet to be launched formally, the artist already has his sights set on expansion. Admitting that the space is quite cramped, Orlina is hoping to acquire the adjacent townhouse units behind the pair that they own. If ever, that would bring the total lot area to nearly 900 square meters.

On many recent afternoons, Orlina has found himself in quiet reflection in the garden. As the sun sets, with music wafting from hidden speakers, and a museum of his own behind him, his heart fills with untold joy. “Talagang masasabi ko na mahal ako ng Diyos. Because all my dreams have been fulfilled.”

Celebrating the arts through Museo Orlina is his way of expressing profound gratitude for all that he has been blessed with.

Museo Orlina is on Hollywood Subdivision Road, Barangay Tolentino East, Hollywood Subdivision, Tagaytay City. It is open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission fee is P100, with a discounted price of P80 for students and senior citizens with valid ID. For more details, visit the website www.museo-orlina.org.