Lantaka – of War & Peace

This is the first time I’ve heard of the word “lantaka”. I bet most of us aren’t familiar with it, yeah? Well, fret no more as you are about to get enlightened 🙂

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I didn’t realize our ancestors had such sophisticated weapon in their arsenal. However, not only as an implement of war but also during times of peace are these lantakas proven useful, like during celebratory events, and as a form of warning signal when there is impending danger, much like a siren does in modern times. There’s this one article I read that says during those times, the number of lantakas (aside from the number of wives) a man has, are considered status symbols.

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This is just another proof of a vibrant, thriving culture during pre-Hispanic times. And proof positive of our predecessors’ knowledge of metallurgy.

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I can go on and on babbling about this subject but I should really stop myself because I realized I took a photo of the museum’s informational guide (for obvious reasons) – it should do the talking, right? I thought so.

Well, enjoy reading 🙂

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A Day at the Museum | The National Museum of Anthropology – Part 1

Treasures of the San Diego

You’d be glad that our museums are free of charge, would you not? At least those under the auspices of the National Museum, that is. One could kill time away and explore new knowledge for practically nothing, at no cost.

The story of the San Diego should interest every Filipino because not only does it shed light into the kind of world our forebears lived in, but because it’s teaching us some important life lessons too, if we are only to look closer and really listen.

I know nothing much about the San Diego myself, so I’m sharing this so we could learn together. I’m kind of curious too if this has already been part of school text books. It should be. Children, especially, with their impressible minds, should visit the gallery because nothing beats seeing the artifacts with one’s own eyes. I was kind of happy seeing groups of school children touring the museum. There is this one group in the lobby being briefed by the guide before the tour started. Although most seemed excited, you can see in some of the children’s faces that they are getting bored, what with their short attention span – some looking spaced-out, others forcing a somewhat interested/engaged look, perfunctorily nodding to every thing the guide says, but that you know their mind is wandering some place else. Sorry kids, you need to learn these stuff 🙂

Just a disclaimer, though. The article you will be seeing below were taken purely from museum references and informational guides. It does not reflect the author’s words or opinions.

The San Diego – a 16th Century Galleon

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A model of the San Diego

The San Diego was a 3-masted trading ship built in 1590 in Cebu by Basque, Chinese and Filipino shipbuilders. It used different kinds of Asian woods and was about 35-40 meters long, about 12 meters wide and 8 meters high. It had at least 4 decks and could hold about 700 tons of cargo.

The discovery of the San Diego has significantly expanded knowledge of Renaissance shipbuilding techniques. On the basis of the finds and the positioning of the wreck, the construction of the ship had been studied.

Detailed investigations were only conducted on selected planks because of conservation problems. A large part of the wood remains were left under-water and covered with sand for future researches.

The Sinking of the San Diego

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photo courtesy of Wikipedia

On December 14, 1600, about 50 kilometers southwest of Manila, the Spanish battleship San Diego under the command of Morga clashed with the Dutch ship Mauritius. All odds were in favor of the Spanish. The San Diego was four times larger than the Mauritius. It had a crew of 450 rested men and massive fire power with 14 cannons taken from the fortress in Manila.

It sank “like a stone”

Unfortunately, this was also the weakness of the San Diego. Morga had the ship full of people, weapons and munitions but too little ballast to weigh the ship down for easier maneuverability.  While the gun ports had been widened for more firing range, not one cannon could be fired because water entered through the enlarged holes.

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The San Diego sprung a leak beneath the water line either from the first cannonball fired by the Mauritius or from the impact of ramming the Dutch at full speed. Because of inexperience, Morga failed to issue orders to save the San Diego. It sank “like a stone” when he ordered his men to cast off from the burning Mauritius.

The events were recorded in Morga’s book, Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas. The book portrayed Morga as a hero of the battle. Olivier van Noort also wrote about the battle.

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photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Antonio de Morga (1559 – 1636)

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photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Morga came from a family of bankers in Seville but decided to have an administrative career. He was appointed as Advisor and Lieutenant General to the Governor of the Philippines in 1593 by the Spanish King. This did not make him happy being posted “at the ends of the earth”. He saw his chance to change his fortune when he heard the news of a Dutch pirate ship entering Philippine waters.

Through political maneuvering, he was promoted to admiral and later commissioned the San Diego, a merchant vessel anchored in Manila, to be a battleship. Morga thought that a swift victory over the exhausted intruders would put him in a favorable stead with the King.

Morga’s ignorance as a captain was proven during the sea battle with the Dutch. He gave wrong commands that led to the sinking of the San Diego, but as one of the few survivors, he successfully depicted himself as a hero of the battle and even got promoted. He was sent to Mexico in 1603 and to Peru in 1615.

Olivier van Noort (1558/59 – 1627)

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photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Olivier van Noort was a tavern owner in Rotterdam. He was described as a humorous, courageous, stubborn, but enterprising man. In 1598, he was entrusted to command a small fleet financed by some merchants and the Dutch stockholder, Maurice of Nassau. His mission was to ascertain the trade route to the Spice Islands and, along the way, plunder any vessel he could find.

In the latter part of 1600, van Noort, reached the Philippines with two ships. On December 14, the battle between his flagship Mauritius and Morga’s San Diego took place in front of Manila Bay. Although far outnumbered, 59 to 450, his men fought bravely. Van Noort tricked the Spanish into fleeing by setting fire to his own sails. Through his nautical skills and tactical cunning, he was able to escape the Spaniards.

One year later, van Noort returned to Rotterdam broke. The expedition was a failure. But his knowledge of the trade route, allowed Dutch participation in the spice trade in the Moluccas. Belatedly acknowledged, he finally took a post as garrison commander until 1626 when he retired.

The Wreck of the San Diego

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The hold of the San Diego contained food and water supplies. Stoneware jars doubling as containers and ballast were placed in the hold. About 800 of these were found in the wreck. These jars came mostly from Burma and dated from the 16th century.

Antonio de Morga sailed into battle with the Mauritius, commanded by Olivier van Noort. Early in the morning, Morga neglected to inform his Vice Admiral Juan de Alcega. Morga at first seemed to gain the upper hand, and his soldiers even captured the standard of the Mauritius. The Spanish galleon was under full sail when it violently rammed the Dutch ship. The seasick Spanish admiral, however, failed to follow up on his advantage despite pleas from his officers and crew and soon lost control of the situation.

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The Admiral’s table

A major leak was discovered in the hold, obviously a result of the violent impact. Morga gave the fatal order to cast off the lines holding the ships together. The astonished Dutch could not believe their eyes. When the lines had finally been cut, the San Diego sailed 330-660 feet (100-200m), nosed over and went straight to the bottom. The time was approximately 3:00 pm, on Thursday, December 14, 1600. Three hundred people are thought to have drowned. Another hundred apparently survived by swimming to nearby Fortune Island. Morga himself was rescued by his secretary.

A Day at the Museum | The Ayala Museum (Part 3)

This is the last leg of my museum experience.

Previously in this series:

A Day at the Museum | The Ayala Museum (Part 1)

A Day at the Museum | The Ayala Museum (Part 2)

There are actually three other exhibits on display at the time – two of which I was able to see, the other (In My Father’s Room) I had to forego due to time constraints.

On the 3rd level of the museum you will find one of the, I think, permanent displays called Pioneers of Philippine Art namely Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo and Fernando Zobel.

On the same floor is “The Tree of Life”, an exhibition of works by 48 contemporary ceramic artists from Southeast Asia. It hasn’t formally opened at the time I was there, but seeing some of the works being installed, I was already mesmerized. This couldn’t have come at a better time too, with the ASEAN integration almost around the corner and with our country as its chair for 2017.

On the 2nd level is The Diorama Experience. I have long wanted to see this. Carved by artisans from Paete, Laguna, it depicts sixty major events and themes in our country’s history. The Dioramas, they say, are unique achievements in woodcarving, as well as in miniature painting and decoration.

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It is interesting to note that as part of the museum’s participation in the international Google Art Project, fifteen select dioramas were uploaded to the web and can be viewed at home at high-resolution. Visit the Dioramas at Google Art Project here.

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How far we’ve come from the days of our ancestors. ‘May mga saplot na tayo ngayon’ 😛 Pictured here is the building of the famed Rice Terraces of Banawe.

I have to admit, there are a lot I don’t know or understand about Philippine history, especially the pre-Hispanic, the colonial periods, and the Revolution. History can have certain nuances, others outright lies and falsehoods, depending on who the power players are at the time. It can be twisted and misinterpreted to suit some influential and powerful person or group’s interests. The saying ‘history is written by victors’ couldn’t be farther from the truth. I think that’s what makes the study of it all the more interesting. Finding historical truths are like solving a mystery. Unfortunately, some could probably never be solved.

“Ang taong hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan”-Dr. Jose Rizal

I would have to say, the Diaroma experience helped me understand things by shedding light on some of those areas in history I’m not too familiar with. It’s like tying loose ends, or filling-in a jigsaw puzzle with its missing pieces. Presenting history on a timeline also helped me see things from a different perspective. One gets to see the bigger picture and how we are all connected to the past. If you come to think of it, who we are right now is a culmination of everything that had happened in the past. It’s amazing to learn how far we’ve come and how far we are in the stream of time. One has to ask, where will humanity be heading next?

It’s true what Dr. Jose Rizal said, “Ang taong hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan”. Oh yes, the folly of not learning history. Maybe this also explains why we couldn’t seem to get our act together as a nation. This seeming lack of understanding of our past. We keep on repeating the same mistakes (how’s that for cliché?) 🙂

The Diaroma experience culminates with the People Power, chronicling events from the tumultuous years of the 50’s to the Martial rule, leading up to the First EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986.

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The same political atmosphere seem to pervade us today. We should forever be vigilant in safeguarding our civil liberties and freedoms. We know how easily they can be taken away from us.

I’m ending my museum experience on a fascinating note with this maritime vessels display. Aren’t they beautiful to look at? According to the museum’s website, this “collection of finely crafted ship models is a tribute to the boats of yore that were used for everything from warfare to transport and dwelling. This selection includes the local skiffs as well as foreign ships that dropped anchor at Philippine shores”.

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You can check the museum’s Maritime Vessels article online to know more about the different types of vessels on display here.


Visit the Ayala Museum at

Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street
Greenbelt Park, Makati City
1224 Philippines

A Day at the Museum | The Ayala Museum (Part 2)

Previously in this series:

A Day at the Museum | The Ayala Museum (Part 1)

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[1], second only to South Africa[2].

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.

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A short film about the “Gold of Ancestors” collection. Pictured here is part of the Sacred Thread piece.

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 😛

[1] http://asiasociety.org/new-york/exhibitions/philippine-gold-treasures-forgotten-kingdoms

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwNRf8Mlb1M

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
1224 Philippines

A Day at the Museum | The Ayala Museum (Part 1)

It’s funny how the museum is just a stone’s throw away from places I would usually frequent in the Makati area (the malls, parks, and restaurants) and yet I never seem to have found the time to visit it. There is in fact heavy foot traffic around it (being surrounded by such establishments and other recreational places I mentioned), plus, it’s a major “thoroughfare”, if you will, of people just passing by going to and from work. But the irony is that not a lot of people seem to have the interest to experience it despite its accessibility. Well, I decided to change that this day.

As is usually the case with museums, it would sometimes have temporary exhibits featured in its galleries and halls. Such is the case of the Doble Mirada, which is a look back at the Madrid and Manila Expositions at the turn of the century. What really piqued my interest though, is that the admission is free. You know what that meant to my inner cheapskate, right? 😉 So, acting anxiously, I would walk to and fro the elevated walkway and would have extended stare at the exhibit behind its glass barriers, my face glued and my neck adjusting like a compass towards its direction, even as I pass by and never really stopping.

I could only hold my uneasiness for so long, however. Soon enough I was able to muster the courage to go inside.

And there it was, the Doble Mirada. A lesser known fact in our history, which was almost a decade apart, shy of 2 years, and is about a year before the Philippine Revolution erupted. Here you will find interesting artefacts from a bygone era – old photographs, books, paintings and other memorabilia.

Both expositions aimed to stimulate trade and commercial activities in the Philippines. Some of the highlights of the exposition were the industries that have flourished and have made a big impact in the economics of the day. Pictured below is one of the industries and exhibitors – Destileria Ayala y Cia, who won a Diploma de Merito & Medalla de Oro. The vintage bottles below are a throwback to that time.

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Could you imagine these books are more than a centuries-old already? Props to all who have gone through great lengths to preserve pieces of history.

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“Baybayin”, or what is commonly mistaken as “alibata”, an ancient writing system of our forefathers have still interested people then, even as we have already lost it due to disuse. There surely shouldn’t be any lack of interest from the very people who invented it – us, even as we are in the modern age, don’t you think? I’m all for the revival of the “baybayin”. Let’s be proud of our culture 🙂

Excuse the photo, by the way. Couldn’t make it any clearer.

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I love how these books illustrate the daily lives of our forefathers back then, or maybe even earlier. The hammock hasn’t lost its appeal even to this day. Nothing beats the comfort and refreshing feeling it brings during a hot summer day. One only needs a shade from a good ole tree and some gentle breeze, and you’re off to lala-land. And in the case of the woman below, two strongly-built men, to wherever.

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There is also the participation of famous artists of the time. Some of those featured were those of Juan Luna. He entered two of his pieces at the 1887 Exposition in Madrid, the La Batalla de Lepanto and Rendición de Granada (Surrender of Granada). Both won the first prize. Prior to this, in 1881, his La Muerte de Cleopatra (The Death of Cleopatra) pictured below (lower painting), won him a silver medal. The painting at the top, known as Una Mestiza, alternately called “Charing”, was created in 1887 and has also won an award.

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Top: Una Mestiza or Charing. Bottom: La Muerte de Cleopatra (The Death of Cleopatra)

Not sure whose artwork these were, but the subjects/models surely know how to pose fierce, right? They seem to have invented fierce before even Tyra Banks did! Haha!

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Since I was already fully absorbed soaking history in, I thought, why don’t I just go all-out with this museum experience? And so I did. I found myself at the museum lobby buying ticket. Unfortunately, I was told by the lady at the counter that taking photos are not allowed on all floors except 2nd (where the diorama is) and first. No distracting flashes and sounds, I was told. ‘Sure. Like I love taking photos’, I told myself (tongue in cheek, of course). No, seriously, I respect that. People should see for themselves what gems are hidden inside and what they are missing if they don’t. Seeing them in photos just wouldn’t cut it. Museums are supposed to be experiential. That’s what they are there for. Besides, it is one’s duty to learn more about one’s heritage and culture. The least we can do is appreciate it by getting off our bu**s, stop procrastinating and go visit 😛

Ayala Museum

Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street
Greenbelt Park, Makati City
1224 Philippines