Previously in this series:
As mentioned in the previous post, taking of photos are not allowed in all levels of the museum except second and first. Hence, the absence of pictures, save for some stolen shots of the short film at the Gold of Ancestors gallery.
The collection on the 4th floor are actually divided into three parts: The Art and Order of Nature in Indigenous Philippine Textiles, Gold of Ancestors and A Millennium of Contact.
The Art and Order of Nature in Indigenous Philippine Textiles
What struck me immediately about the indigenous textiles were the intricacies of the patterns. One could only imagine the hard work, the skill, the passion and the love that goes into the process of creating one. The collection consists of 111 textiles representing different indigenous communities in the Philippines – from the Cordilleras to the North, to the Muslim regions of Mindanao to the South, up to the Sulu archipelago. The patterns, interestingly, aren’t just for aesthetics. It reflects the universal order of nature. In one of the infographics I saw featuring a particular type of weave from a certain tribe, it shows the connection a human body has (particularly its symmetries) to the earth and to the cosmos. It’s in effect saying being one with nature and the divine. The weaves therefore, are as much a spiritual expression as they are utilitarian.
It is also amazing to think of the cultural diversity of our country. Every region has its unique cultural identity that were represented differently by these ethnic weaves. And just like the weaves themselves, interestingly, our country forms an intricate pattern that shows we are all interconnected, even as the notion of nationhood is foreign at the time. The semblance is undeniable. The metaphor couldn’t be more apt. Surely, we should be doing more to promote and appreciate this heritage. Also, this is telling us to shun divisiveness.
Gold of Ancestors
This collection boasts of more than a thousand archaeological gold objects unearthed from the country showcasing the sophisticated cultures that existed in the islands prior to the colonization of the West in the 16th century. It is interesting to note that even today, the Philippines has the 2nd largest gold deposit (per area) in the world, second only to South Africa.
The most extensive collection of archaeological gold in the country were those found in the Surigao/Butuan area. I would say the crowning jewel of the Surigao gold is the Kinnari, a winged-female divinity of the Hindu religion which originated from India. Aside from its excellent craftsmanship, this particular Kinnari is unique during its time in that it was made in three-dimensional form – maybe one of the firsts, if not the first, to be done in that manner. Experts say they have never seen anything like it in the region, not even in the Javanese or Indian art forms of the same period. The rendering of it can only be explained as uniquely Filipino.
This shows how, even in the seemingly challenging geography of our region (being archipelagic and all), nothing could stop the exchange of ideas, culture and trade from flourishing. Our country has always been a melting pot of cultures. Given our knack for creativity and ingenuity, we built on these new ideas, gave it our own unique spin and flair, and owned it.
My favorite among the collection however, is the Sacred Thread – a halter-like adornment weighing a heavy 4 kilos. Wearing it would give one some serious “royal” feels… and maybe some “royal” backache too because of its weight 😛
A Millennium of Contact
On display in this collection are 500 pieces of ceramics of all shapes and sizes, from China and other parts of Southeast Asia. Proof positive of a lively trade that occurred in the region in ancient times. This forging of social and commercial ties with China and surrounding neighbors, spans a thousand years, pre-dating the building of the Rice Terraces by about 150 years. This is just to emphasize how old our relations with China is. We seem to have always been in its sphere of influence.
Given our current political situation, this is giving a lot of room for retrospect as our country embarks on a renewed, albeit uneasy, alliance with our giant neighbor, what with the territorial spat still in the offing. A lot has changed since those early trading years. We have since become sophisticated societies and civilizations, with the idea of a sovereign state coming to form. Whenever tensions arise, we should refer back to this epoch and remember how a simple exchange in culture and trade could foster friendship and mutual respect. I hope that in these tension-filled days, everyone, especially our leaders – people who call the shots, be always reminded of this era so they could be more level-headed. This country does not need another war.
Visit the Ayala Museum at
Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street
Greenbelt Park, Makati City