Pre-Colonial Art in the Philippines

When one approaches the National Museum of Anthropology, the first thing you do is climb up its steps. And oh what steps they are.

The Museum looms over the simple awed visitor as they mentally prepare themselves for the experience of Philippine Anthropology.

Sufficiently awed, I make my way through the museum. In its silence, I gather my thoughts about our country. Our people. Our heritage. Everything we’ve left behind so far. I wonder that and think about where we should go next.

My task for this visit is to find 5 artifacts that I believe represent Pre-Colonial Art in the Philippines. While exploring the museum, these five pieces spoke to me from the exhibit:

  1. The Manunggul Jar

The Manunggul Jar is the oldest proof of a belief in the afterlife by people who lived in Pre-Colonial Philippines. The boat sculpted on the jar is believed to be ferrying the souls of the dead into the afterlife.

2. The Laguna Copper-plate Inscription

This is the oldest recorded proof of the use of a writing system in Pre-Colonial Philipppines. This plate is a document used to release the children of Namwaran from their debt in gold.

3. Lumad Kulintang

This Kulintang, a set of gongs, was used by the Lumad for entertainment. It shows the muscial nature of Pre-Colonial Philippines.

4. The Banton Cloth

The oldest existing textile in the Philippines. The estimated date of assembly is 13th to 14th. A living testament to the art in textile and weave work.

5. The Bulul

A rice guardian idol. The Bulul shows the deep connection Pre-Colonial Philippines had with its agriculture, specifically our rice. The Bulul was believe to guard the rice and harvest from pests and bad yield.

All in all, this museum visit made me remember how much Pre-Colonial Philippines was doing and could keep doing. It makes me wonder about now, what our industries have done to our heritage. Where can we go from here if? Maybe we’ll figure it out soon.

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