Gold of Ancestors: Pre-colonial Treasures in the Philippines
Makati Ave. cor. De La Rosa St., Manila, Philippines
www.ayalamuseum.org - +63.2.757.7117
Gold of Ancestors: Pre-colonial Treasures in the Philippines Manila Reviews
And They Called Us BARBARIANS?? Aug 03, 2008
For a nation that was under Spanish rule for close to 400 years, there's still the great debate whether their colonization worked to our advantage, as many to this day still resent their occupation of the country. During that time, the Spanish subjugated our people and ruined our native cultures. They stripped us of our riches and took away our self-worth. In the end, and thanks to centuries of miseducation, we were left with a mindset that they were responsible for everything we acquired both intellectually and culturally.
Only in later times did I learn how much more complex our pre-Hispanic civilization was as opposed to the barbarians they were made out to be. Our ancient society was stratified who lived by a set of laws and followed indigenous religions.
After visiting the Gold of Our Ancestors exhibit I discovered even further just how sophisticated our forefathers were. I was totally floored by and in utter disbelief to the showcase before me. There were over 1,000 pieces of gold on display, intricately crafted by native goldsmiths into earrings, rings, diadems, pectorals, funeral masks, and orifice pieces for the eyes, nose and mouth that date as far back as the 10th century and used by the elite. Other and more obscure objects include bowls, tweezers, belts and chastity pieces! The highlight though, would most definitely be the sash or halter that weighs almost 4 kilograms (that’s 10 pounds!) that automatically elicits an expletive from anyone who lays eyes on it.
(Cue colonial mentality) It’s sad that it was hard for me to fathom at first how our ancient ancestors were so highly advanced in their craftsmanship. I’d never seen anything like it locally made before. But inasmuch as it was astounding and instilled a sense of pride, I couldn’t help but feel resentful at how the Spaniards had stolen these objet d’arts and brought them back to Spain, together with the skills that were eventually lost.
Through the generosity of National Artist Leandro Locsin who funded numerous archaeological expeditions throughout the years, these artifacts are now back where they rightfully belong. It took him 25 years to find the right time and place to present this fabulous collection to the Filipino people due to the disparate social landscape. Under the stewardship of the Zobel-Ayalas, who are ironically the descendants of some of our colonizers, they are now permanently housed at the Ayala Museum. But hey, hats off to them for paying it back (at least I’d like to think so) and for being instrumental in acquainting us with what were once lost national treasures.
*Photography in the museum is not allowed; photos lifted from the Ayala Museum website.
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