The Most Stunning Collection of Pre-Spanish Era Gold Artifacts


“Good God Damn!” was the unabashed and spontaneous reaction of an American tourist clad in a stereotypical plaid shirt. He had just stepped up to a massive “halter,” the “star” of the utterly stunning collection of pre-colonial gold that has ever so quietly opened to the public at the Ayala Museum. I will explain why his comment was a good one, and not intended to be blasphemous at all…

I was privileged and extremely grateful to have been invited to, and given what was tantamount to the finest private tour of the new exhibit : “Gold of Ancestors,” Pre-colonial Treasures of the Philippines. But this wasn’t supposed to be any special treatment whatsoever; a casual text invitation, a holiday lunch with friends, no formality in dress, then we slipped anonymously into the exhibit that had officially opened to the public just hours before. There were just 3-4 other visitors in the gallery at that point. It just so happens that the friends who gave me the tour, are members of the family that collected the artifacts and who have now permanently placed the pieces in a museum, available for the public to view. And while we were there, I was introduced to the curator of the exhibit and one of the authors of an upcoming book on the collection. Let me tell you, I had goosebumps for an hour, maybe more. It is rare that I would feel so incredibly proud to be Filipino, to think that many of these pieces were crafted and had come from an area geographically so close to where my own ancestors called home, (who were probably drying fish on the shores of Bohol and Cebu) unaware of the wonderful pieces that were being crafted and worn in Northern Mindanao, out of a yellow metal that spewed out of mountainsides and were panned for in pristine rivers in and around Butuan and Surigao.

Start your visit with a very well done short film that sets the stage for viewing the collection. Then stroll to the right of the viewing area to take in as much of the incredible artisty, beauty, history, culture and wonder that should overwhelm you, as it overwhelmed me, when I realized the collection included some 1,059 individual pieces of gold, ranging from tiny bits collected in graves and other sites, to pieces that simply boggled the mind, all estimated to have been made from the 10-13th century. Many were pieces of ornamentation such as earrings, diadems, rings, bracelets, pectorals (round shield like things that presumably hung from the neck and covered ones pectorals). There were sashes or “belts” in gold, bowls, and my favorite doodad, a pair of gold tweezers that, I was told, actually worked on thinning one’s eyebrows! I secretly wanted to try it on a nose hair or two. There was also an incredible array of orifice ornaments or pieces of gold that covered the eyes, nose and mouth of the deceased when they were laid to rest. Gold chastity pieces, and several pieces whose purpose still needs to be studied and confirmed. And as I speed through the description of items, the final, piece de resistance, a stunning over the shoulder “halter” which was the object of the plaid-clad foreigner’s comment up top.


This piece can only be described as the single most amazing gold doodad I have ever seen. Ever. And yes, I have seen the Crown Jewels. And I am being irreverent calling it a doodad because I am too uncultured to even partially understand how important this piece is and the whole collection that surrounds it. An intricate yet utterly modern sensibility made up of gold “rope” and beads, it weighs a whopping 4 kilos or nearly 10 pounds of pure gold. It is after reading the weight and staring at the piece, that the guy in plaid said, quite appropriately, “Good God Damn!” For me, the ultimate numbers guy, what should have been stunning alone was the weight of some of these artifacts, a beautiful bowl at 600-700 grams, a necklace at say a kilo or so, earrings so huge that they could have adorned the massive ears of a cow, for all I know. But ultimately, the goose bump effect wasn’t the richness and volume of the precious material. It was the sudden realization that for once, someone had bothered and at great personal expense I am sure, to buy up all of these pieces and put together a fabulous collection, then when they felt the time was right, have selflessly placed it in a museum so that the public, the Filipino people and guests from all over the world, can enjoy it and begin to learn more and more about an incredible period in our history. The goosebumps were also caused by the realization that the folks who inhabited these islands nearly a millenium ago were already so advanced in their craftmanship which was also true at different points of our history in the beautiful textiles, baskets, embroideries, etc. Unfortunately this craftmanship is rapidly disappearing and so many of our children have no inkling about this incredible amount of history and culture…

I know, there are many folks out there who will think, but what about the poor, starving, underprivileged citizens who would so benefit if all of this gold were sold off and the proceeds used to help them instead. For once, I say, have you completely lost your minds? This isn’t about the collection being worth its weight in gold (trust me, I did some quick crass calculations). It isn’t even that it is financially worth some 20-30 times its weight in gold had it been placed on the block at Sotheby’s or Christie’s… for the Filipino people, this collection is simply PRICELESS. And what are the wishes of the family who so generously made this possible? That making the collection available to the whole world will encourage extensive scholarly study of that period in Philippine history. That we all feel an incredible sense of pride in our local capabilities and craftmanship. That we give renewed attention to culture and history and a sense of perspective to who we are in the context of a millenia rather than perhaps the somewhat forgettable political foibles and “history” of the past 50 years. I realize many guests to this exhibit may not take away as much from it as I have, given such a personal tour which made it all the more real for me, but nevertheless, GO SEE THIS EXHIBIT if it is the ONLY cultural thing you do this year.

And back to the guy in plaid. As if his earlier comment wasn’t enough, he looked at us and said something along the lines of “imagine, if only you owned just a bit of this stuff?” Yes indeed, if only one did. If ONLY HE KNEW that the folks he was bantering with actually did once own it, and have in essence, returned it to the Filipino nation. I was watching this light exchange with a smile on my face. We had a really good laugh about it afterwards. So before you all go thinking this is Marketman and friends doing the ultimate golden fish pan post, I can tell you that not all wealthy folks are evil… a few of them do deeds like this one and you instantly understand the power of money, and more importantly foresight and a sense of national patrimony. Money can, and has, actually been used to preserve a priceless part of our history and culture. And I say bravo to that.

And as for the Spaniards who arrived in the 1500’s, discovered the cache of gold in Mindanao and took lots of it with them to make doodads of their own in Mexico and Spain, and in the process probably destroyed our local craftsmanship forever, that is another story altogether. But isn’t it ironic that some of their descendants were the ones who funded the building of the museum that now houses this fantastic collection? So the Zobel family that has worked so closely with the donors to provide a spectacular setting for a spectacular collection also deserve our thanks. And while at the museum, swing by the newly donated Chinese and Southeast Asian Trade Ceramics collection of the Villanueva family and an exhibit of old Philippine embroideries which are on loan from the Leiden Museum.

Oh and one final note. If you are feeling like the music and set up are giving you deja vu’s about recent movies like “National Treasure,” this is the real magilla. A TRUE NATIONAL TREASURE.

Gold of Ancestors
Pre-colonial Treasures in the Philippines
The Ayala Museum
Makati Avenue, Makati

Photos: The two photos used in this post are photos taken of the exhibit pamphlet handed out to visitors at The Ayala Museum.


55 Responses

  1. I could not link to the exhibit fromt he Ayala Museum site. I may have to wait for my next trip hoem to share your delight at the exhibit. There is a book written by a Filipina jewller which features a section on prehispanic jewellry with stunning fotos, but I cant recall the title nor where it is located in my library.

  2. quiapo, the exhibit is so new, the Ayala website isn’t even updated on it yet… you’d think as the recipient of such a wonderful collection, they would update their site pronto! The author you are probably referring to is Mr. Villegas. Here is a link to an article by Jessica Zafra in this week’s issue of Newsweek. Update, link has been changed to updated site… you can see more photos of the collection there.

  3. so there goes our history books/classes where they only showed us stone flints and clay jars to show our ancestry! I can only imagine those who discovered these fabulous “doodads”…there really is no way to describe them, is there? And I hope the Ayala Museum will not be prone to high-class thieves? The Bangko Sentral has also a permanent gold exhibit down in the basement of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila and very, very well guarded.

  4. The collection must be spectacular and belong to a museum for the public to enjoy and safekeeping and thank you for the generosity of the family who owns the collection for sharing them with the public. They are testament of the great craftsmanship of our forefathers. I consider it a big blessing for this collection escaping the eyes of Imelda Marcos. We all know when the Marcoses were at the whelm of their power – they own everything. Nothing was spared from their liking. They emptied the Central Bank with our gold bullion reserves and deposited them at their Swiss account. Imelda Marcos could have exploited them and minted them into an arinola or toilet seat! I hate it when our own people destroy our legacy and culture.

  5. bernadette, security is tight and world-class, I am assured. And while brilliant as well, I have it on good word that the Central Bank collection may not have had first dibs, if you know what I mean… :) MC, that is why the time had to be right for this to emerge.

  6. May is a month of heritage events, and the Ayala Museum’s display is on my list. They will also be holding an exhibit of the ceilings from Bohol churches, entitled Kisame. So for those going to Ayala Museum, try to go to both!

  7. I am in awe to see the richness of our indigenous heritage. How sad the Magellan had to land on our shores and cause our spirit and national pride to be broken because of colonization. If this was what we had then, it would not be hard to imagine how much more we could have achieved if we were left to our own devises.

  8. I had goosebumps and even felt a lump in my throat while reading your post sir. I am so glad and grateful to the family who so generously made the collection available for public viewing. If I am not mistaken I once read an article about the collection and it was there in that Filipino business magazine (was it High Style?) that I first saw some photos of that collection. I surely will bring my kids to the exhibit.

  9. Amazing and awesome! Thank you MM for posting this to make us aware of our filipino heritage and ancestry.It makes one proud to be a filipino and learn that our forefathers were world class craftsmen, too.
    We should all give the original owners a grand salute and acknowledge with gratitude their benevolence in sharing it with the Filipino people!
    Sad to say, I can only wish to see it personally. Maybe one day, whenever in Manila, it would be good to include in one’s iterinary.

  10. The first picture looks uncannily like Heinrich Schliemann’s mask of Priam and the second’s gold mass alone can at first sight (unfortunately, not its intricately wrought workmanship) provoke exorbitant astonishment. Cultural artifacts whose ready intrinsic value excite overweening greed, avarice and vanity only reach us through the skin of our teeth, to use Kenneth Clark’s expression. Let us celebrate too along with these tokens of wealth the fragile and ephemeral accomplishments of our race such as our music, handcrafts, plastic arts and cuisine.

  11. the vast and impressive asian artifacts collection at the metropolitan museum in new york city does not have anything from the philippines. i have searched all the nooks and crannies of the museum and did not find anything from the country. this gold collection is something we could certainly take pride in and an exhibit in the major museums in the world would be wonderful.

  12. The Ayala Museum site has been updated. However you have to go to instead of Why the museum has two sites is a mystery. Anyway, the other site has more images from the gold exhibit.

  13. in terms of craftsmanship, the item above could outbling the crown jewels in the tower of london.

  14. Mindanao, the “Land of Promise” — rich fertile soil, pristine beaches and lush mountains throbbing with veins of gold. To date, mountains in Mindanao remain flushed with gold with an active multi million dollar gold mining industry in Diwalwal. I was told that the area is a mini tent city, teeming with people from all over the place.

  15. Mr. Marketman,

    If what you’re saying is true that the earlier Pinoys likes wear that much “Bling Bling” then I’m not surprise how our kababayans in San Diego area how they front their Blings. My question is how in the world earlier Pinoys put together something like the necklace that weighs did you say about 10 lbs. Then everything that the early European said about the early Pinoys are incorrect, they need to re-write.

  16. This is why i like this blog, thanks MM. Not only i get educated with Pinoy recipe’s but with local places i’ve never been and treasures i would never know exist….and like golfing fans would tell Tiger,,,,,You d’mannnnn!!!!

  17. Marketman,

    Your ancestors in Bohol, Cebu, and elsewhere in the Visayas were also wearing beautiful pieces of gold jewelry that they crafted with their own hands. In 1565 Miguel Lopez de Legazpi issued a proclamation in Cebu requiring Spanish soldiers and sailors who dug up Cebuano graves in search of treasure to properly declare their finds to the authorities in order for the King of Spain to take his “royal fifths and rights,” his majesty’s “cut” in the loot.
    Such a great “quantity of gold and other jewels” was found in the “many graves and burial-places of the native Indians” in Cebu and so invested were Spanish officials to collect what they deemed was their rightful share in the stolen goods that more drastic measures had to be taken. Legazpi proclaimed:

    “[F]rom this time henceforth, no grave or burial-place be opened without the permission of his excellency, in order that there might be present at this opening one of the king’s officials…so that no fraud or deceit may occur, and so that an account and memorandum may be taken of everything–under penalty of five hundred pesos de minas and of returning all that was taken from such grave or burial-place, together with the fifth over and above this for his majesty’s exchequer and treasury.”

    One hundred years later so much had been lost. In the mid 1600s Jesuit missionary Francisco Alcina expressed what would be a common lament among Spanish observers in early colonial Philippines: native jewelry crafting traditions had been mostly forgotten and whatever the present-day “Indians” did produce paled in comparison to those made by their ancestors. Alcina, for example, writes of a gold chain found in Samar:

    “The kamagi, as they are wont to call it, is a kind of chain made of circular beads and which comes down from antiquity and is theirs in origin. Today [1668], rare is the person who knows how to fashion this chain; for producing one is a very curious and demanding task. Ordinarily they possess them and had them as heirlooms; these I have seen myself. These are two or more brazas in length (1 braza = 1.67 meters) even when doubled; whether standing or walking these drag on the ground. It was their custom to twist one of these around the neck many times in former times, but not any longer.”

    Little remained of such kamagi as well as other gold ornaments. What survived “the clutches of the Spaniards who bought, bartered, or took them by force” still dazzled however. Alcina writes:

    “I do remember that once when I was solemnizing a marriage of a Bisayan principala, she was so weighed down with jewelry that it caused her to stoop — to me it was close to an arroba or so (1 arroba = 25 lbs.), which was a lot of weight for a girl of twelve. Then again, I also heard it said that her grandfather had a jar full of gold which alone weighed five or six arrobas. Even this much is little in comparison to what they actually had in ancient times.”

    You can see examples of Philippine pre-colonial gold jewelry, this time in the Central Bank collection, here:

  18. pupuplatter, thank you so much for that comment, quotes and links… it brings more life and history to the collection described above. But yes, it brings some degree of underlying seething anger about what was stolen from hundreds, if not thousands of graves of ancestors… Just two weeks ago, while I was in Cebu, some graves near the Boljoon church were just discovered, and there were a few pieces of gold and ceramics there as well. The worst part for me is that most of that gold was melted down and turned into all kinds of other objects, the craftmanship lost forever…

  19. What an illuminating disclosure. How I wish Market Manila attract more comments such as pupuplatter’s above to prop and temper our enthusiasm with historical groundwork. I vividly remember it happening last when we were casually talking about egg-whites in mortar.

  20. thank you for posting this MM.. we’re definitely going to the museum tomorrow

    re: bohol churches, i love the “kisame” of maribojoc.. simply awesome

  21. i’m awed and sad at the same time on reading this. i’m awed by the craftsmanship of our ancestors and the level of culture and sophistication found at that time, something that makes me immensely proud to be descended from such people. what is heartbreaking is to realise that such richness has been lost thanks to spanish colonization. i just arrived yesterday from a trip to Galicia (Spain) which naturally included a visit to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and most other cathedrals and monasteries in the region, and it never ceased to amaze me the amount of gold, silver and the precious stones in these places, and i couldn’t avoid thinking all these had been worked from what they looted from their colonies including the Phil.

    the comment from pupuplatter is very interesting. if he could share us where such sources of information can be found, that would be wonderful (which books, for example). i, for one, certainly want to find out more about such little-known treasures that our country still has.

  22. Market man , you are THE MAN.

    I’d say to those suggesting to rewrite our history. Please do so and without bias. If the religion brought forth by the spanish invaders is being taught in public school then we should also teach how ISLAM came about before the advent of the spaniards in out land. Give our brothers and sisters from MINDANAO the proper credit and recognition of their roots (I’m pure Tagalog as inpure).

    In my grade schooling there during the late 70’s we’re taught, Aetas, Indones, Malays then Spaniards and Christianity then Americans, Japanese and so on and so forth.

    A smart man would ask hmmmm no recorded wars between any so called ISLAMIC countries or INDIA and any South East Asian countries and yet Hindu and Islamic influences are so prevalent all over? Indonesia, the biggest Islamic country in the world’ had only fought its wars against foreign European invaders and yet did not acquire the religion of their invaders/colonizer? Very much unlike the Philippines.

    Truth mga kapatid would truly set us free.

    Recognize our kapatid sa Mindanao, the original people of Mindanao not just those who benefited from the US and Philippine gov’t handing out titles to the banyagas from Luzon and Visayas. LAND GRABBING happened in the early 1900’s.(yes if you’re Tagalog, Ilocano, etc.. ethnically who was born or grew up in Mindanao, you’re family might be one the many recipients of these land titles taken from these natives of Mindanao – they didn’t know what the heck is a land title before.

    Give to Ceasar what is to Ceasar, Give to the original people of Mindanao what originally belong to the original people of Mindanao.

    Kapayapaan mga Kapatid! Know our roots!

  23. Sounds interesting … I think I always found the Php300 entrance fee “prohibitive.” But I’m sure whatever they charge visitors doesn’t even begin to cover their operational expenses. In any case, this should be easy enough to visit since I’m always in M Cafe anyway. =)

  24. Pahabol hehehehe.

    We DO NOT owe Spain anything! Some would say that they made us civilized. In what sense?
    We had our own form of gov’t, we have leaders and laws (maybe not written),we could read and recite poetries, we were not savages. Chinese and Arab merchants I beleive would not do business with savages or uncivilized people (YES people we did business with them even way before the Spanish Conquistadores came). Our 1st Nat’l Hero Lapu-lapu (a chieftain and a judge – yes he was a judge) woudl not be able to defeat the modern army of Magellan at that time if they were uncivilized savages. Of course savages and uncivilized people would never be able to create these beautiful pieces that MM just featured. Hmmmmmmmm esep esep heheheheheeh

    Thailand was never officially colonized and their modernity or “being civilized” is not behind ours maybe a little better than ours. So as our neightborin’ South East Asian countries, we ain’t much different from them (seen and visited all of ’em).

    So accept the truth, our KAPATID in Mindanao has a rightfull claim to their land. If we want to govern over their land, govern it with mutual respect by understanding them, look at Singapore, Mosque, Hindu Temple and Churches in very close proximity to each other can co-exist. A Hindu ro Singaporean is not IGNORANT of their MUSLIMS kababayan and vice versa..

    KNOW our ROOTS, study and read the history of SPAIN in relation to MOORS and the PHILIPPINES (moros and indios), our neighboring countries.

  25. U can onlu agree with you MM that this collecyion is indeed the most awesome gold collections…what a gift from the owner who has shared this invaluable gift to all if us~~

  26. isa pa, last na talaga.


    If you’re Filipino and born in the Philippines, (also those born in Puerto Rico and Cuba)and ABLE to stay in SPAIN for a period of at least 2 years LEGALLY and can pass the Spanish proficiency test, you could become a Spanish citizen. Hence is also an EU citizen and can work anywhere in the Europena Union. Hence can travel within Europe with out VISA or in the good ol’ USA or Canada.

    hehehehehehe, so mga kababayan GO GO GO kayo sa SPAIN, forget about USA mas madali sa SPAIN maging citizen, mas sosyal pa di ba. O ayan puede na tayo bawi sa pang aalila nila sa atin noon.

    Oist bago maniwala research po muna ninyo, pero peksman totoo po ‘to.

  27. Lava Bien, when I was in school in Manila many years ago, kokonti lang yung nakaalam ng history of the Muslims in the Philippines among my friends/classmates. I hope it’s different now.

  28. You always find ways to amaze your readers. This post not only provides us information that are not found in our history books at school but makes us really proud to be Filipinos! Bravo MM.

  29. MM, thanks loads for this post. As usual, another “must see” when I go home for a visit. I wonder how the donors accumulated these items, and from where; i.e., how would one know when a pre-historic artifact from the Philippines is for sale? I don’t often read that auction houses have Philippine items in their inventory.

    Apicio: The mask that MM posted sure looks like Schlieman’s mask. But don’t you think t is more elaborate and intricate? I’d say that the PI mask required more talent and imagination to create.

    Puplatter: any references or links for the info you posted? I would like to read more about this “grave digging” for gold by the Spanish soldiers.

    Lava bien: you are absolutely right. Mindanao and the influence of the Muslims in that part of the Philippines have not been treated or considered properly in our history books. In school and university, I don’t recall any subject that mentioned Mindanao and the Muslims in any detail. Sad, but true. Any recommended materials that correct this oversight?

    Interesting what you wrote about Spain. Quite an acknowledgement of the strong ties between the two countries that I suppose still exist today.

  30. For more on Philippine pre-colonial gold jewelry consult one of the following books by jeweler, collector, and cultural historian Ramon Villegas:

    Kayamanan: The Philippine Jewelry Tradition (1983)
    Hiyas: Philippine Jewelry Heritage (1997)
    Ginto: history Wrought in Gold (2004)

    For the inside story behind public and private collections of Philippine jewelry check out Consuming Passions: Philippine Collectibles (2003), edited by Jaime Laya. In a country where museums have little or no budget for acquisitions and archeologists receive little or no funding to conduct careful excavations, private collectors (or enlightened grave robbers?) stepped forward rescuing our pre-colonial heritage from being melted down into modern trinkets.

    For Philippine pre-colonial material culture, start with William Henry Scott’s Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society (1994)then browse James Blair’s and Emma Robertson’s comprehensive but flawed 55-volume The Philippine Islands, 1493-1903. Much of Blair and Robertson is available online or on CD-ROM (thanks to BPI).

    For Bisayan pre and early colonial material culture, read Ignacio Alcina’s 1668 History of the Bisayan People in the Philippine Islands translated by Cantius Kobak and Lucio Gutierrez, Volume 1, Chapter 3 (2002) and Volume 3, Chapter 7 (2005).

    I doubt that the makers of what has been called the “Surigao Treasure” were Muslim. Islam came to the Philippine rather late, less than 200 years before the Spanish conquest. We should also avoid idealizing, even as we begin to appreciate, the pre-colonial past: some of the pre-colonial jewelry recovered in Mindanao and elsewhere may have been hastily buried to hide them from Cebuano, Tagalog, or Samal slave raiders and looters. And it is difficult to determine who the “original” inhabitants of Mindanao really are. For much of the Spanish colonial period, agents of the maritime state of Sulu conducted slave raids throughout much of the Philippines. (Bisayans in particular resented this since before Christian conversion they claimed that they were so mighty that they would have been the ones looting, pillaging, and slave raiding their way across the Philippine waters.) These slaves gathered pearls, bird’s nest, wax and other products that were then sold to the agents of the British East India Company who, in turn, sold those products to China. It’s a complicated, global history. Consult:

    The Sulu Zone, 1768-1898 (1981) by James Francis Warren
    Muslims in the Philippines (1973, reprinted 1999) by Cesar Adib Majul
    State and Society in the Philippines (2005) by Patricio Abinales and Donna Amoroso

    Hope this helps.

  31. pupuplatter, thank you so much for those references, I am sure more than a few readers will be thrilled to have that roadmap to more interesting reading material!

  32. My hubby read about the collection on newsweek and finally yesterday with our son, we went to visit the ayala museum to see the collection for real…… FANTASTIC! And that 3.8kg torso belt was the best! Incredible! I’ve never imagined our ancestors were so skillful in arts and crafts! and in gold?WOW! I thought these things are found only in Egyptian treasures! We made 3 rounds of the exhibit before we could satisfy ourselves! Thanks to the L family for preserving these cultural heritage and sharing it with us. Horrors if such things went to the wrong hands! Kudos to the Zobels for the Ayala Museum. My family enjoys coming back to this museum often for their great exhibits. I hope more Filipinos will make it a habit to visit museums and learn more about the Philippines instead of going to the malls. We have so many museums worth visiting like the National Museum, Bahay Tsinoy, GBR Museum, Metropolitan Museum, Central Bank Money museum, UST Museum, Vargas Museum etc. Sadly, whenever we go visit these museums there’s only a handful of viewers around. :{

  33. pupuplatter, thanks for the info on book sources. i wonder though where they could be bought – some of them seem to be more like academic writing, and i wonder if all of these can be easily accessed by the public in local bookstores. or available for sale online somewhere.

    which brings me to the question of what the government is doing to help promote this awareness to the Filipinos in general, especially something of such historical and cultural importance? (i think this is government’s obligation, and goes beyond what can be expected of a private entity like the Ayala Museum to do) not to mention promoting it as part of the Philippine “image” abroad, e.g. in tourism or in exhibits? i was just looking quickly at the Dept of Tourism site, and do not see anything mentioned whether of this or anything related. what i’m afraid might happen is that this becomes a privileged thing and reserved only for the relatively few who are more “culturally aware” (and can afford the fees to the Ayala Museum). i wonder how in the future, these national treasures can be made accessible equally to all, the “privileged” and the “less privileged” alike, so all share in the honor and pride of our cultural history.

    just to add to a comment above about not finding any Philippine artifact at the NYC Metropolitan museum — i’ve had a similar experience in being frustrated also. been to a lot of museums in spain, and so far, have only seen about 3 objects from the Phil — and 2 of them were religious artifacts even. but to my pleasant surprise, in a trip just last week in Galicia, in the provincial museum in Pontevedra, found one (among dozens of objects from Southeast Asia, shame — and they were not even Spain’s colonies), a 400-year old small curved silver dagger with an intricate design carved into the handle and the blade. very interesting, and boy, did that lone artifact make me proud.

  34. andie, many good points indeed. Precisely why I did a post on it so thousands more can hear about it. And the Ayala museum has a relatively EXTENSIVE program to bring public school children to the museum to see these types of collections. In fact, they seek donors to fund the school bus rides for the children and chaperones. In this manner, thousands of kids who would otherwise not get a chance to see the collection will probably see it…and at little if any cost to them. But in general, yes, we have underplayed what we have as a nation historically and there is so little scholarly research, which unfortunately takes really big and sustained funds to do well…

  35. andie,

    All the books I’ve listed are available online or through inter-library loan in the US. Believe me, I’ve lived in NYC for years and am now deep in the heart of Texas and I’m still able to access those books. Also the books are far from academic, especially those on Philippine jewelry. One could cultivate “cultural awareness” on one’s own, without the prodding of the state (which in the Philippines would be welcome).

    There are Filipino artifacts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. In fact the curator of the Ayala Museum’s exhibit on pre-colonial gold ornaments used to work at the MMA and wrote a book about the MMA’s Southeast Asian Art collection.

    From Manila (most likely):

    From Sulu:

    There are loads of very significant Philippine works of Art in Spain. Check for example the collections of the Museo Oriental in Valladolid (along the Paseo Filipinos!), or the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Madrid, or the Museo Naval also in Madrid. At the Spanish Senate hangs a spectacular Juan Luna painting, the Combate naval de Lepanto:

    Since the centennial of the Philippine Revolution, several Spanish government agencies have sponsored exhibits dealing with Philippine culture and history and have generously made the exhibition catalogues available online for free.

    For example:

    El imaginario colonial: Fotografía en Filipinas durante el período español 1860-1900

    Filipinas, Puerta de Oriente. De Legazpi a Malaspina

    Exposicion Filipiniana

  36. Pupuplatter: Thanks very much for the list of books. Great that they are available on line or can be borrowed by interlibrary loan. I look forward to reading these books, especially, the ones on “hiyas”, the Bisayans, the Sulu Zone, and the Muslims.

    Nice to know that the Bisayans actually thought they were “mighty” at one time, and that someone has written about this. I remember reading a book quite a awhile back (the book was published in the UK) which included chapters on the voyages of Magellan. There was hardly any description of Magellan’s death in the hands of Lapu-lapu. The book only said that Magellan was killed by a native “fisherman” during a battle.

    Beth: Thanks for the list of museums. There’s 3-4 in your list that I would like to revisit just to see how they’ve changed.

  37. MM: i’m glad to know that the Ayala Museum has such a program – educating the young is the first step to national awareness. and ur blog is certainly proving to be effective in sharing this awareness to more people.

    pupuplatter: thanks for all that additional info. the online free catalogues are a treasure trove of information. i hope to look up those collections u mentioned sometime.

  38. The Filipino Channel (TFC) featured these gold treasures last night, June 8 – – – how they were found by a farmer while plowing his land, how he was duped by a Filipino priest to turn in most of these gold find for safekeeping and how… you know what happened…

  39. saw these gold stuffs just last night.. it was featured by a late night show together with the person who accidentally bump on these items..

    im wondering if filipinos are really the ones who molded those stuffs fine and amazing…

  40. thank you abs-cbn for airing the story of “Surigao Treasure”. my father who used to be friend of the treasure’s bumper mr. edilberto morales, told that story when i was in my primary school. its only normal to me that story since our province surigao is very rich in gold. but when i turned on that channel accidentally, i was amazed ‘WOWWWW!!! when i saw the “REAL” form of that treasure. I love the “sablay”, the kanari, the bracelets, belts, etc. Awesome!!!!!We Filipinos should be proud of that “SURIGAO TREASURE”, truly thats our “National Treasure”. I can assure there’s lot more in surigao. I love surigao!!!! marajaw karajaw surigao!!!!

  41. The Surigaonon are duped again. These treasures only belongs to the Surigaonons. Was there a Philippines in the 10th century?

    And for the typical ignorant Manileño, the Muslims lives only on the western and southern side of this large island that we call home.

    Marajaw Karajaw Magruyong!!!

  42. surigaonon, yes, I suppose, if you could trace your ancestry 9 centuries back to the same areas in which some of these artifacts were found, then I would agree you would feel it “belongs to you”. But frankly, it probably belonged a few wealthy locals and you would have to be a direct descendant of theirs to feel ownership. In the same manner that treasures in Greece and Egypt were owned by individuals and not political states. However, I should be very clear that this is NOT the Surigao Treasure as so many press articles and tv shows have claimed. This particular collection includes many many pieces unearthed in various parts of the country and as such, it is a National Treasure of a collection, NOT just a suriganon sourced cache. In fact, if you visit the collection, you will see some of the varied locations from where the gold was dug up. As for the population of Mindanao, I think there was definitely a huge difference since the 10th century to the last 100 years. As so many, maybe as much as 70-80% of the current population has roots in the Visayas and elsewhere in the Philippines, and those roots are less than 100 years old. So if you are certain your bloodlines reach back 10 centuries to the Surigao area, then you would feel a sense of ownership that others may not feel so strongly as you. As for the muslims, I would think they would lay claim to the entire island based on historical views of the ownership of mindanao and sabah by local sultans, so it is the Christians that might be considered to be intruders into their traditional ancestral land…

  43. I had my first encounter with this rare Philippine treasures when i saw it in ABS-CBN program. Where in they featured this things. To tell you the truth not only goosebump did i get when i saw them but rather i almost cried out loud. I am proud of being filipino once more. We should be proud of what we had in this country. Truly a country full of treasures, hidden or not hidden.

  44. yeah, it so amazing, we have just gone there last friday for our field trip and I was like shocked when i saw the designs of the gold necklace, the the design are elaborate and exquisite.

  45. nice artworks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hehehehehehehehehe it just show ho great filipinos are..

  46. As a Hispano Filipino, we have reserved heirloom artifacts and history from our Spanish and even Chinese predecessors, but only a few or none of our Naturales de Tagala, (native tagalong) which makes at least 60% of being a Hispano Filipino. The collection re-discovers my identity of being a Naturales, and proud of my Moreno skin, the color of antiquity whose identity has been lost, and now, re-discovered.

    Salut to the Naturales!

  47. im proud to be a surigaonon as well as a filipino…the artifacts dated 10th to 13th century found in surigao proves that we have our own culture and identity to be proud of…

  48. kung pupunta ba sa maga(Museum) doon kailangan bang nakpolo(formal) o pwedeng t-shirt at jeans. sorry di pa ako kasi ako nakapupunta ng museum e. sana makita ko rin

  49. To learn all about this surigao treasures and treasures and the sad stories about it, try to view the probe of che che lazaro about this artifacts and you will be amazed yet feel disappointing how greedy the people are.



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