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Eye-to-eye with the Sistine Chapel ceiling  

By SCOTT & THERESE GARCEAU Published Jul 02, 2023 5:00 am

No more neck aches, from gazing up at Michelangelo’s masterpiece.

That was the hot take from VIPs we spoke with on the gala night opening of Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition, now on view at 2F North Wing, Estancia Mall, Pasig.

We asked CNN anchor Rico Hizon if he’d seen the original ceiling frescoes in the Vatican.

President Marcos gestures upward at Ezekiel fresco: “You can really see the brush strokes up close.”

“Oh, yes, I’ve been there, and I had a neck ache just looking all the way up,” he says with a laugh. “It’s really nice to see it up close and personal—all the little details of the Sistine Chapel, especially ‘The Creation of Adam,’ which is my favorite. It’s lovely to see that it’s here in the Philippines, for everyone to see, if you can’t go to Rome. I will definitely come back maybe a few times, because I love art.”

The Creation of the Sun, Moon and Planets shows God from two angles—facing forward and from behind—in the midst of Genesis.

Ageless entertainer Gary V. made the same neck-craning gesture when we asked him to compare: “In the Sistine Chapel you’re down here, looking up at it—in this one, you’re up close, you can get what it’s all about.”

Couple Anthony and Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan have also visited the Sistine Chapel, where lines are long and photos are not allowed.

The Fall of Man and Expulsion from Paradise

“Yes, we’ve been there. But we were looking this way,” Anthony says, gazing painfully upward.

Maricel added, “It’s a dream come true for our dear friends Ruth and Arnold (Co),” who brought the traveling exhibit, which has toured 70 cities worldwide, to Manila from where it will move to Cebu. “It takes a whole lot of effort and funding to make this happen, but most especially the goal is to bring the Sistine Chapel exhibit of Michelangelo to the people.”

Santi Belmonte, Philippine STAR president and CEO Miguel Belmonte, Milette Belmonte, Defense Sec. Gilberto Teodoro, PAL president and CEO Capt. Stanley Ng

The exhibit features 34 actual-scale frescoes brought down from Michelangelo’s ceiling and displayed in a darkened hall illuminated by votive candles (scented by perfumer Ruth and Arnold’s daughter, Sabrina, to mimic the actual aroma inside the Sistine Chapel), and for the gala night, elevated by the Manila Symphony Orchestra and choir under the baton of conductor Marlon Chen.

President Marcos looks to the heavens with US licensor-partner Martin Ballias and Arnold Co.

You can download a free app using QR codes to provide audio commentary on each masterpiece.

While the stars filled the interior mall exhibit—which opened July 1 and runs until Sept. 30—it was one special appearance that had necks craning and swiveling when President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. arrived with arts-loving First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos at 7:15 p.m. 

Down-to-earth masterpieces: Ruth Co, First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and organizer Arnold Co at the gala opening of “Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition” in Estancia Mall, Capitol Commons, Pasig

The presidential couple was escorted through the show by Arnold and Ruth Co and SEE Global USA head Martin Ballias, creator of the touring exhibit.

It was an elevated evening nonetheless, with the MSO playing a program largely of Italian composers such as Vivaldi, Corelli, and Ennio Morricone pieces from The Mission and Cinema Paradiso. The Virlanie Voices Choir arrived carrying candles, passing through rows of seated VIPs to take the stage with the orchestra.

MSO Conductor Marlon Chen, Virlanie Voices conductor Ma. Lourdes Hermo, President Marcos, First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos and soloist Odin Rathnam

Arnold Co thanked the MSO for its special program and directed a quotation to the First Couple: “‘Cultural treasures are the priceless gems that enrich our society, reflecting our humanity and inspiring future generations. Investing in the arts is an investment in the human spirit, fueling innovation, creating engagement and enlightenment.’ Mr. President, if these words sound familiar, it’s not the words of Michelangelo, but the words of your mother,” former First Lady Imelda Marcos, a noted arts champion. Co added “that torch has been passed to our new First Lady, who we understand is not only a fan of the arts and classical music, but all music, ranging to Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars.”

Alfred Ty and Cherry Tan-Ty with kids Ariana and Gio, with former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, Miles Osolio as Pope Julius, Matthew Barbers as Michelangelo, and two Swiss Guards

Which would explain why, later in the evening, the orchestra played as a finale Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours, said to be a personal favorite of BBM and Liza,  since it’s played every time the family celebrates her birthday. The First Couple started laughing when they heard the tune, which Arnold Co asked the MSO to add to its repertoire for the evening.

Pastor Peter Tan-Chi and Deonna Tan-Chi

Dr. Peter Tan-Chi spoke of the “illumination” of seeing Michelangelo’s masterpiece frescoes up close, and emcee Tim Yap had a skit involving the Renaissance artist and Pope Julius II time-traveling from the 1500s (and yes, taking selfies with Yap).

It was a night of eye-popping wonder. Even the celebs were awestruck.

Cultural treasures are the priceless gems that enrich our society, reflecting our humanity and inspiring future generations. Investing in the arts is an investment in the human spirit, fueling innovation, creating engagement and enlightenment.

“I love the fact that you can scan the QR code and listen to stories as you walk from one location to another,” said Gary V. “I think it’s very timely.”

Gary V with wife Angeli Pangilinan

San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora said it was “an opportunity for foreigners and us Filipinos to see the works of the Renaissance master” up close. “Not everyone gets to go to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, so this is really something I’m very happy about. As the president of the Metro Manila Council, I’ll coordinate with my other fellow mayors in Metro Manila and also in nearby provinces to help invite people to come and see the exhibit.”

San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora and wife Keri Zamora

For actress Bela Padilla, niece of Robin Padilla and a Jehovah’s Witness, the show has a personal memory: “I visited the actual Sistine Chapel in 2017. I was alone, it was  winter, raining outside. So I took coverage inside.” She loves the votive candles next to the fresco displays: “I’m not Catholic, but I know one thing you do when you enter the church is light a candle, so that will pull a lot of heartstrings.” She thinks this is the perfect way for most Filipinos to get a view — and take a lot of selfies next to “The Creation of Adam.” “Filipinos are very much attached to the religious paintings of the Sistine Chapel, but I think it’s found its home in Manila. This is the perfect view.”

Bela Padilla

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Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition is now on view at 2F North Wing, Estancia Mall, Capitol Commons, Pasig. Sponsors include Globe Telecom, Philippine Airlines, Security Bank, The Philippine Star, CNN Philippines, Globetronics, and SMDC. Visit for more information or to purchase tickets.