Archaeology in the Philippines, the National Museum and an Emergent Filipino Nation
Archaeology is a means of studying the human past. It may be said that archaeology today is much more complex than it used to be. It is no longer just about excavations. Archaeology has become multi-disciplinary involving sciences such as geology, botany, zoology, climatology, volcanology, cartography, geography, ecology, soil sciences, and in some instances, including environmental concerns. Archaeology has become a multi-sectoral endeavor as well. Sites are not limited to specific areas but must necessarily involve entire communities where the projected fieldwork is to take place.
On the other hand, it may also be said that the study of the past, has now become much simpler. There are various new research techniques and state-of-the-art technology such as Radiocarbon and Thermoluminescense dating, Dendrochronology, X-ray microprobing or DNA testing to assist the archaeologist in the interpretation of the human past.
In remembering the beginnings of archaeology in the Philippines, herewith are some of the highlights and more prominent persons who have figured significantly in its development:
Alfred Marche was a French traveler and explorer who came to the Philippines in 1881. He traveled through various parts of Luzon, Catanduanes and Marinduque. At Marinduque, he found a cave called Pamintaan, which had been previously used as a burial site. His discovery represented “an abundant yield of Chinese urns, vases, gold ornaments, skulls and other ornaments of pre-Spanish origin.” (Burke-Miailhe writes in an introduction to an English translation from the French by Pura Santillan-Castrence.) Marche brought back to France the artifacts he uncovered. They are now housed at the Musee de l’Homme). Marche himself mentioned that a more detailed account of his findings would follow. Such a report however, has not been found to date (Evangelista, 1989).
Carl E. Guthe was a trained archaeologist sponsored by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who came to the country during the period 1922-24. The range of artifacts he collected included trade ceramics (dating from the 10th to the early 20th centuries), Philippine earthenware, various iron implements, shell, bracelets, glass, semi-precious stone beads and gold ornaments
Guthe’s recoveries were from graves and burial sites; some were surface finds and others were purchases. These artifacts as well as his meticulously kept journals now form part of the Asian Collection at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Perhaps, the most prominent name among these pioneers in Philippine archaeology is that of Henry Otley Beyer. Beyer conducted archaeological surveys, investigations and collecting tours in Luzon, Palawan and the Visayan Islands. A good share of these finds has been brought together by amateur collectors and treasure-hunters (Solheim 2002: 1). In 1926, he began fieldwork in Novaliches (presently known as the La Mesa Dam). Assisted by his Filipino student, Ricardo Galang, he discovered a major pre-historic site. Although many of Beyer’s earlier theories have been supplanted by newer data, he was such a prolific and indefatigable researcher that some of his earlier collections (such as nephrite adzes found in Batangas and environs) are still interesting to researchers of today.
Olov R.T. Janse came to the Philippines in 1940, under the sponsorship of Harvard University. He carried out excavations at three burial sites (accounting for some 70 burials) at Calatagan in Batangas and produced dating that proved to be near accurate according to today’s standards.
No fieldwork took place during the period of the Japanese occupation (1944 – 1945). But a Japanese civilian by the name of Tadao Kano was stationed in the Philippines to protect Philippine museums. Beyer continued his research and writing with the assistance and under the protection of Kano (Solheim 1981).
In the 1950s, after the end of World War II, as the country gradually returned to normalcy, fieldwork and research resumed with the Americans Robert B. Fox and Wilhelm G. Solheim II and their Filipino associates and students: E. Arsenio Manuel, Avelino Legaspi, Alfredo E. Evangelista, and Jesus T. Peralta.
Solheim came to the Philippines in late 1949 to study with Beyer. He did a brief excavation of a living site in the Zobel property at Calatagan in late 1950. This collection was turned over to Beyer and Solheim did not have the chance to study it further. Therefore no report was published.
Solheim’s major excation has been at the Kalanay Cave Site on the west coast of Masbate in 1951 and 1952. A Final Report on this site (Solheim 1964 and 2002) has been published. He made a small excavation of a jar burial site on the west coast of Masbate (Solheim 1954). He has surveyed and made test excavations in a limestone tower in Masbate (Solheim 1968) and further exploratory surveys and testing on Fuga Island in the Babuyanes in 1952 as well as at Batan and Sabtang in 1953 (Solheim 1960.)
In 1958, Robert Bradford Fox led a National Museum team in conducting extensive excavations on two sites at Calatagan, Batangas in what may be considered the first systematic excavation involving the National Museum in the country. Fox published his findings in 1959. His report was based on artifacts and information derived from 505 graves in two sites known as Kay Tomas and Pulong Bakaw (Fox 1970).
An important artifact, a pot with ancient inscriptions now believed to be Austronesian in origin (Dizon 2003) surfaced at Calatagan during the time of the National Museum’s excavations there in 1958. Although not systematically excavated, (it was dug up by the property owners during a weekend), the artifact was turned over to Alfredo Evangelista by the lot owner. Evangelista, who was then conducting excavations at the Talisay Site together with Avelino Legaspi of the National Museum, brought the artifact to the Museum where it has since befuddled several paleographers and would-be decipherers.
In the 1960s, Robert Fox, by then the head of the Anthropology Division of the National Museum of the Philippines led a six-year archaeological research project in Palawan where he focused mainly on the caves and rockshelters of Lipuun Point in the southern part of the island (Fox 1970). Its most outstanding site is the Tabon Cave complex, situated in an impressive cliff, a vertical rock wall towering up from the immediate sea level. Its large main cave delivered a stratigraphy with several occupation phases, from the Palaeolithic Age to Protohistoric times. It delivered the only Pleistocene human fossils found in the Philippines so far. The fossil finds include a skullcap, jaw bones, teeth and several other fragmented bones. Dubbed as the “Tabon Man”, the finds represent more than just one individual. Their age was recently determined using 230Th/234U isotope counting (Detroit and Dizon 2002) and gave dates between 16500 ±2000 B.P for the skull cap and 48,000 ±11-10,000 B.P. for a tibia fragment.
Manunggul Cave, believed
to be a jar burial cave in the Tabon Cave Complex was discovered in March
1964 by Victor Decalan, Hans Kasten and volunteer workers from the United
States Peace Corps. This group came upon the “find of the
century”, a unique burial jar with a cover featuring a “ship-of-the-dead”
motif. Fox described the artifact as “the work of an artist and
master potter”, heretofore “unrivalled in Southeast Asia”. It has
henceforth been called the “Manunggul Jar” and declared a Philippine
Archaeological Work in Luzon Island
Besides Palawan, the main island of Luzon has contributed significantly to understanding the Palaeolithic, particularly the northern region of the Cagayan River with the Miocene/Pliocene limestone formations of Peñablanca. The collection of Pleistocene faunal remains of H. Otley Beyer prompted G.H. Ralph von Koenigswald to travel in December 1957 to Cagayan and conduct a field survey. West of the city of Tuguegarao, between Rio Chico and Cagayan River is a wide plain, where von Koenigswald collected fossils of Pleistocene mammals and stone artefacts. He described them as pebble tools, made of quartzite and sandstone (von Koenigswald 1958). Commencing in the 1970s, the National Museum of the Philippines conducted archaeological surveys in the area and more than 100 open-air sites were discovered (Peralta 1981).
In the second half of the seventies, the activities of the National Museum focussed on the exploration and excavation of cave sites and rockshelters in the karst region of Peñablanca. Since then, more than 110 caves and shelters with archaeological remains have been catalogued (Ronquillo and Santiago 1977). Several sites, like Laurente Cave, Rabel Cave, Pedro Pagulayan Cave, Lattu-Lattuc Cave, Musang Cave, Arku Cave, Callao Cave and Minori Cave have been excavated and their artefact materials analysed. Radiocarbon dates suggest human presence in Peñablanca for at least 12,000 years (Mijares 2002, Pawlik and Ronquillo 2003).
Alfred F. Pawlik led a fieldschool of the Archaeological Studies Program in 2001. It was aimed to explore and excavate a new site near General Tinio in Nueva Ecija, named “Arubo 1”. This open site delivered a unique and distinctive assemblage of early Palaeolithic stone tools, including the only handaxe reported from the Philippines so far. The artifacts assemblage seems to have similarities with recently discovered sites in South China, those dating up to 800,000 years B.P (Pawlik 2002).
Archaeology in the Philippines with the National Museum leading the way has made considerable progress in the successful recovery of our country’s material remains and its interpretation. Archaeological work in Butuan in Northeastern Mindanao has resulted in the discovery of ancient boats (initially called “balanghay”) capable of traveling long distances. The Butuan Boat, as it is now known, has been subjected to minute scrutiny and study by maritime historians (Scott, Peralta, Santiago…). Vestiges of an old gold-working tradition have also surfaced in Butuan (Ronquillo 1989, Villegas…) and environs.
An astounding discovery of anthropomorphic burial jars with unique faces was uncovered in a cave in Pinol, Maitum, province of Sarangani (formerly South Cotabato) in 1991. Exploration and subsequent studies of this rare find have been conducted by Eusebio (Bong) Dizon in close collaboration with and Rey Santiago of the National Museum. The Maitum project has resulted in a publication entitled “Faces From Maitum”, edited (with an introduction) by Esperanza Bunag Gatbonton with the account of the discovery written by Bong Dizon himself together with Santiago.
A “Visayas Archaeological
Summit” was convened in November 2002 in Cebu jointly sponsored by the San
Carlos University through Jose Eleazar Bersales and the New Mexico State
University represented by visiting professors.
In the early 1960s well-known Filipino architect Leandro Locsin and his wife Cecilia Locsin, then a student of archaeology at the Ateneo de Manila University, conducted systematic excavations at Sta. Ana, in Manila. Their findings resulted in a publication in 1967 entitled “Oriental Ceramics Discovered in the Philippines”. It represents the first comprehensive illustrated account of trade ware ceramics found in the country through a controlled excavation.
The following year, the Locsins, teaming up with the University of San Carlos in Cebu, sponsored an excavation at Pinagbayanan in Pila, Laguna conducted by Rosa P. Tenazas.
Archaeologists discovered that ceramics in many instances appeared as the most visible artifact in the archaeological record. Voluminous quantities were being unearthed all over the islands attracting worldwide attention. A Manila Trade Pottery Seminar was held in 1968 with the support of UNESCO, Freer Gallery of Art and the Seattle Art Gallery. Several introductory monographs as guidelines for the seminar were prepared and published through the auspices of the Research Foundation in Philippine Archaeology, Inc. made possible by a grant from the Locsins.
Ceramics as a “collectible” subsequently became very popular in the country. Several large to medium-size private and museum collections in Manila and the provinces exist today. Most of these artifacts have been purchased from the antiques market. Although many potentially interesting archaeological sites have been destroyed through “pothunting” (unauthorized excavations), it has at the same time provided an alternative livelihood for many Filipinos.
As the number of local collectors grew, a group of aficionados decided to put up a ceramic society. Thus, was born the Oriental Ceramic Society of the Philippines (OCSP). The Society welcomes persons interested in the study of ceramics whether they have a collection or are merely interested. It seeks to disseminate information and further the study of ceramics. Founded in 1991 by Roy Baughman, Connie Carmelo Pascal, Josefina Pedrosa Manahan, Birgitte Woolcott, Erlinda Panlilio and Regina Paterno, the organization is still active today. The OCSP has published books on ceramics found in the Philippines and from time to time holds exhibitions and workshops.
In 1983, the OCSP sponsored the First Asian International Ceramics Conferences with Roger Davis as Conference Chairperson. Held in Manila, the conference was attended by ceramicists, ceramic historians and scholars active in the field of ceramic studies. The delegates enjoyed visiting the different local collections such as the Roberto Villanueva Foundation, the Arturo de Santos Collection, Juan T. Lim collection and other small to medium-size collections in the Manila area.
The OCSP recently collaborated with the Ayala Museum in an exhibition entitled “Pangalay” (Ritual Pottery In Ancient Philippines). Former president of the OCSP, Cynthia O. Valdes served as curator of the exhibition and editor of a catalogue with the same title that accompanied the exhibition.
A relatively new
phenomenon in the archaeological scene is underwater excavations. Archival research, modern scuba-diving technology and sophisticated
equipment are among its components. Without its own independent means of
conducting underwater explorations, the National Museum currently teams up
with foreign entities with the means and the resources to further the
cause of archaeology in the Philippines. This team-up has resulted in
several publications and that have served to draw international attention
to the country, its history and multi-faceted cultural background.
Archaeology as a University Course
In the last 50 years or so, Archaeology as a subject has been taught (albeit intermittently) at the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila, San Carlos University in Cebu and Siliman University at Dumaguete. The earliest students were taught archaeology and anthropology by E. Arsenio Manuel, F. Landa Jocano, Israel Cabanilla, Aurora Roxas Lim and more recently by Cynthia Neri Sayas of the U.P., Warren Peterson (a visiting professor), Alfredo E. Evangelista, Jesus T. Peralta of the National Museum were mentors of many of the current crop of practicing archaeologists; the Ateneo de Manila under Frank Lynch, S. J. produced and retained in its faculty, Mary Holnsteiner, Carlos Fernandez, Wilfredo Arce and others. Later students of Fr. Lynch were Cecilia Yulo Locsin, Socorro Paterno and Maria Isabel Ongpin.
In 1995, an Archaeological Studies Program was established at the University of the Philippines with Eusebio Z. Dizon, as its first Director. Today, Victor J. Paz heads the U.P. Archaeological Studies Program (U.P. ASP). Several National Museum archaeologists are members of its faculty. The program works closely with the National Museum on its many projects. Able support comes from eminent prehistorian and archaeologist Wilhelm G. Solheim II who has elected to make the Philippines his permanent home. For the past five years, the U.P. ASP has also benefited from the expertise in Palaeolithic archaeology of visiting archaeologist and palaeo-historian Alfred F. Pawlik. From time to time, prominent personalities from other universities and facilities visit the U.P. ASP to augment its teaching force.
Solheim’s work in Philippine archaeology
is embodied in the revised and updated edition of his book “Archaeology of
Central Philippines” (A Study Chiefly of the Iron Age and Its
Relationships). This publication was made possible through a generous
bequest from PHINMA Foundation facilitated by then PHINMA
Investment and Management Association)
and the Foundation’s Executive Director, Jocelyn Perez.
The Wilhelm G. Solheim II Foundation for Philippine Archaeology, Inc.
In recognition of his important contribution to archaeology in Southeast Asia and the Philippines, a group of Bill Solheim’s closest friends, has established a Foundation in his name. The W. G. Solheim II Foundation for Philippine Archaeology, Inc. (Solheim Foundation) was established in March 2003 with Bill Solheim as Chairman Emeritus and Cynthia O. Valdes as Founding President together with a nine person Board of Directors composed of Gregorio L. Magdaraog, Victor J. Paz, Alfred F. Pawlik, Allison I. Diem, Dolorlina S. Solheim, Eliza Romualdez Valtos, Johnny Wilson, and Danilo Galang.
The Foundation aims primarily to develop a research station at El Nido in Palawan and excavate the nearby Ille Rock Shelter. A website for the Foundation has been established through the initiative of Alfred Pawlik, rendering valuable support to the project. Its address on the Internet is: www.solheim-foundation.ph. Through the website as well as through its publications, the Foundation seeks to establish a worldwide link to other professionals in the field. The Foundation hopes to disseminate information as well as broadcast internationally any “late-breaking” developments in Philippine archaeology.
Solheim together with his
colleagues in archaeology and related fields are convinced of the great
potential of the Ille Rock Shelter for Philippine archaeology. Preliminary work conducted at the site by members of the U.P. A.S.P. and
the National Museum assesses the proposed site…. (It has)… “contributed
an enormous amount of information…. ….and opened (up new) questions
pertaining to the prehistory, not only of El Nido and the rest of Palawan
island, but of the whole Philippines and its neighboring countries.”
(Hara and Cayron 2001). Solheim himself thinks that the data from Ille
Cave has the potential to change the course of prehistory in the
Philippines and Southeast Asia. The excavation of Ille Cave is ongoing
since 1998 by members of the archaeological Studies Program, the national
Museum and the Solheim Foundation. Several burials have been recovered but
more important were prehistoric finds associated with charcoal flitter
from 1,5 m depth below the present surface which was Radiocarbon-dated and
revealed an age of over 10,000 years B.P. (Szabó et al. 2004). With the
chance of finding even older layers below as soon as the fieldwork
resumes, this site proves to be as promising and significant for the
Archaeology of the Philippines as Bill Solheim has already predicted.
International Community of Archaeologists
Well known archaeologists and other leading figures in archaeology and its related disciplines regularly visit the Philippines. Among them are Yoji Aoyagi and Gakuji Hasebe and their associates Hidefumi Ogawa and Kazuhiko Tanaka from Japan; Peter Bellwood from Australia, Ian Glover and Helen Lewis from Britain, Johannes Moser, Hansjürgen Müller-Beck and Alfred Pawlik from Germany, Roxanna Brown, Laura Junker, Bion Griffin, Jonathan Kress, Bill Longacre, John Peterson from the United States, Cheng-hwa Tsang from Taiwan,
To a large extent,
archaeology in the Philippines has benefited through close interaction
with foreign counterparts who contribute in a fair exchange, not only
financial resources but also expertise, improved methods and techniques as
well as new technology and the latest information.
Crop of Young Archaeologists
Meanwhile, the U.P. Archaeological
Studies Program has produced a number of graduates: among them are Grace Barretto, Carlos Tatel, Tony Nazareno, Jun Cayron, Leee Anthony Neri, Jack
Medrana, M.D., Ma. Josefina Belmonte who is finishing her Ph.D and
others. They have formed an organization called Katipunan Arkeologist
ng Pilipinas, Inc. (KAPI). A recently held conference at La
Mesa Dam in Novaliches has resulted in a publication of its proceedings
Anthropology, History and Ethnological Studies
The modern-day archaeologist must necessarily work hand in hand with the historian and ethnographer and other related disciplines to become ethno-historians. Perhaps the earliest recognized scholar in this field would be the nationalist Jose P. Rizal, who, while in exile (by the Spanish authorities during the colonial period in the Philippines) in Dapitan, in the province of Zamboanga in Mindanao, noted and correctly identified polished stone tools he found near river beds as adzes used by early inhabitants of this country. He corresponded and exchanged letters and information with his good friend, Ferdinand Blumentritt, a professor based in Leitmeritz, Bohemia, then part of Austria. Blumentritt was a staunch Filipinologist and friend of Filipinos in Spain. Compatriots of Rizal in the cause of the Propaganda Movement were Graciano Lopez Jaena and Marcelo H. del Pilar. Pedro Paterno and Isabelo de los Reyes were pioneers in nationalist writings.
There are Chinese accounts of tributary missions from the Philippines coming to the Middle Kingdom (China). The earliest of these is a 10th century reference to traders from Ma-I on a tribute mission to Kwantung (Guangdong) (Scott 1984) bring “valuable merchandise”. Another early account is that of a Customs Commission in the 12th to 14th century port of Fujian province, Zhao Rugua. His account has been translated into English by Friedrich Hirth and W. W. Rockhill.
We must not forget the first scribe of note who accompanied Ferdinand Magellan in his travels, the Italian Antonio Pigafetta, and recorded every detail in the “Primo Viaggio Intorno Al Mondo”.
Antonio de Morga wrote a “classic in Philippine historiography” in his “Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas”, according to later – day historians.
Pioneers in the field of ethnographic writings were Tome Pires, (who never actually visited the Philippines but wrote about the “Lucoes”; French, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Italian and English travelers and sojourners in the country such as Jean Mallat, Fedor Jagor, John Bowring, Paul de la Gironiere, Najeeb Saleeby, Tomas de Comyn, Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri, James Le Roy, and others; friars and missionaries who reported to their mother house in Spain: Diego Aduarte, Miguel de Loarca, Pedro Chirino, Juan de Plasencia, Joaquin Martinez de Zuniga. Berthold Laufer and Fay Cooper Cole from the Field Museum and ethnographers from the University of Chicago were the first Americans to visit and write about the country.
Other ethno-historians of note who have contributed significantly to the Philippine historical record are: William Henry Scott, Carlos Quirino, Robert B. Fox, Robert McMicking, Miguel Bernad, S. J., Harold Conklin, Charles Warren,
E. Arsenio Manuel, Zoilo Galang, Mauro Garcia, Austin Coates, Mario Zamora, Avelino Legaspi, Roland B. Dizon, Horacio de la Costa, Armando J. Malay, Francisco Demetrio, S. J., Alfredo Evangelista, Jesus T. Peralta, O. D. Corpus,
F. Landa Jocano, Juan R. Francisco, Cesar Adib Majul, William Lytle Schurz, John A. Larkin, James Francis Warren, Serafin Quiazon, John Shumacher, S. J., Jose S. Arcilla, S. J. Edilberto de Jesus, Alfred McCoy, Alfredo Roces, Alejandro Roces, Benito Legarda, Jr., Florentino Hornedo, S. V. Epistola, Leonidas V. Benesa, Renato Constantino, Adrian Cristobal, Virginia Benitez Licuanan, Carmen Guerrero Nakpil and Nick Joaquin. Later came Eric Casino, Nicole Revel Macdonald, Artemio Barbosa, Leo Batoon, Laura Lee Junker, Antoon Postma, E.P. Patanne, Regalado Trota Jose, Gabriel S. Casal, Delia Coronel, ICM, Ambeth Ocampo, David Baradas, Nicanor Tiongson, Abdullah T. Madale, Abdulmari Imao, Michael Mastura, George Ellis, Eric Zerudo, Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, Milagros Guerrero, Lourdes Rausa Gomez, Jose Maceda, Esperanza Bunag Gatbonton, Augusto Villalon, Luciano P.R. Santiago, Marian Pastor Roces, Pablo S. Trillana III, Gregorio Magdaraog, Ana Labrador, Margarita R. Cembrano, Luis Camara Dery, Ma. Luisa Camagay, Reynaldo C. Ileto, Ricardo Trota Jose, Arnulfo Dado, Arnold Molina Azurin, Maria Serena Diokno, Cecilio Salcedo, Anna Maria (Bambi) Harper, Ramon Villegas, Go Bon Juan, Joaquin Sy, Teresita Ang Sy, Jill Gale de Villa, Jonathan Best, John Silva and others.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)
The NCCA is an important agency that overseas much of local cultural and educational endeavors in the country. It has published numerous educational materials including archaeological studies. This has also been an important agency through which special projects have received the necessary funding support.
Upon his retirement from the National
Museum as Head of the Anthropology Division, Jesus T. Peralta joined the
National Commission for Culture and the Arts then headed by Jaime C. Laya
as Chair and Virgilio Almario as Executive Director. Peralta is a
prolific scholar and writer. His works are disseminated both through the
Internet as well as print media. They include Philippine prehistory,
Philippine earthenware pottery and ceramics. He was active in archaeology
during his stint at the National Museum as Head of the Anthropology
Division. Peralta, both an archaeologist and a multi-awarded playwright,
has produced extensive literature and studies on the peoples of the
Philippines focusing on ethnic groups. Today, he is the leading authority
in this field of study.
The National Museum Complex
Today, the National Museum under its Director Corazon S. Alvina, is an educational and scientific institution, conducting research programs combining integrated laboratory and field work in anthropology and archaeology, geology, zoology, botany, paleontology and related sciences. It functions as a cultural center taking the lead in the study and preservation of the nation’s artistic, historic and cultural heritage as it honors individuals who have contributed significantly towards nation-building.
The National Museum works as well to preserve what still remains of the country’s material cultural heritage through archaeology and its attendant disciplines. At the forefront of this endeavor are: Wilfredo P. Ronquillo and Eusebio Z. Dizon who have recently attained recognition as scientists; Artemio Barbosa and Leo Batoon of the Anthropology Division, Orlando Abinion of the Conservation Laboratory; Amalia de la Torre, Angel Bautista, Rey Santiago, Maharlika Cuevas, Sheldon Clyde Jago-on, Armand Salvador Mijares, Nida Cuevas, Bobby Orillaneda, and Louise Boluna, also in Archaeology.
The Education Division benefited greatly through the past efforts of Rosario (Chat) Tantoco who was trained at the East-West Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu. Today, it is capably headed by Zoo-archaeologist Elenita D. V. Alba. This division of the Museum performs a vital role in the dissemination of cultural information and educational materials throughout the Philippines.
Asst. Director of the National Museum, Cecilio (Sandy) Salcedo works together with the Director in performing the Administrative functions of the Museum. He likewise keeps an alert eye on the Cultural Properties Division which is tasked to regulate the traffic in antiquities which ideally should be retained in the country, if not in Museums, at least in private collections. There are many generous collectors who lend their collections for the enjoyment of the public during exhibitions.
Archaeological collections such as ceramics and other artifacts recovered from land excavations as well as recoveries of more ceramics, pottery, iron implements, beads, coinage, silverware, weaponry and items of clothing paraphernalia such as studs, belts and shoe buckles, a helmet, rosary beads, gold chains and sundry pieces of jewelry including a ring with a seal believed to have belonged to Captain Antonio de Morga who headed the ill-fated expedition of the vessel, San Diego. Artifacts, mostly ceramics, from other underwater excavations are displayed in several rooms. One room simulates the ocean’s floor with the remains of a ship’s hull, a few planks, jars and ceramic plates strewn about. Imaginative lighting and accompanying sound effects complete the scenario.
There is likewise a large and interesting assortment of ethnographic materials such as heirloom jars, baskets, wooden food containers, metal gongs and various beads and ornaments from the Cordillera. Artifacts from Mindanao include betel boxes, brass containers, weapons such as kampilans and kris with beaded scabbards, fishing implements, etc. A balanghai or Butuan Boat from northeastern Mindanao; jade lingling-o and bicephalous (two-headed) earrings from the Tabon Caves; nephrite adzes from Batangas and environs; the Laguna Copperplate (earliest existing written document found in the Philippines); bamboo artifacts with Mangyan and Tagbanua inscriptions; Rizal’s surgical instruments, notebooks and other paraphernalia are to be found over several floors at the Museum of the Filipino People.
We invite you to view the Manunggul Jar, the anthropomorphic jar covers and other significant earthenware pottery discovered in the Philippines at the Kaban ng Lahi room at the Museum of the Filipino People, one of three buildings in process of development as the National Museum Complex at Rizal Park, Metro Manila.
A Permanent Home for the National Museum
The Philippine National Museum finally found a permanent home through the efforts of a militant group of advocates led by the “Concerned Citizens for the National Museum” who instituted a sign-up campaign agitating for the Senate to give up its quarters at the Executive House. Taking up the challenge, President Fidel Valdez Ramos succeeded in relocating the Senate and signed into Law the bill espousing the creation of the National Museum Complex.
“Friends” Groups Who Assist the National Museum
During the time of then President Ferdinand Marcos, his wife Imelda Marcos was very much involved in arts and culture. It was through her efforts that the Cultural Center of the Philippines was established. Their daughter, Imee Marcos established a group called “Friends of the National Museum”. Among its members were persons then actively involved in the preservation of the national patrimony, among them were then Governor of the Central Bank Jaime C. Laya, Bebe Virata and others.
Laya was likewise the moving spirit behind the restoration of Intramuros (also known as the Walled City). This was the seat of the Spanish colonial government in the country. It was heavily damaged by American bombing at the end of World War II. Although his contribution to the preservation of this important historical remnant of our colonial past is in itself immeasurable, Laya will perhaps be best remembered for his tireless efforts in putting together for the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and thereby the Filipino people, the best extant works of Filipino artists (particularly in the visual arts), past and present. The Philippine gold collection now housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila is likewise a remarkable and significant collection of Filipino artistry in gold and bead ornaments. This collection was organized by Ramon N. Villegas. Lita Guanzon Legarda, a recognized specialist in coinage related to Philippine history, initiated and developed the Bangko Sentral Coin Collection.
The Concerned Citizens for the National Museum, was founded in 1987 by a group of ardent nationalists, artists and cultural workers through the efforts of art patron, Purita Kalaw Ledesma. Persons who have contributed significantly towards the progress of this organization have been the late Roberto Lopez, Esperanza (Chita) Gatbonton, Ana Maria (Bambi) Harper, Concepcion (Tata) Poblador and Amando Doronila. It is now known as the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. (MFPI) and currently headed by Maria Isabel Ongpin as President working together with a 15-person Board of Directors.
However, credit for the development of the three buildings making up the National Museum Complex properly belongs to the dedicated efforts of the National Museum Foundation convened by former Director Gabriel S. Casal and composed of hard-working professionals such as Ramon del Rosario Jr., Marinela Katigbak Fabella and others. Businessman Antonio O. Cojuangco, currently heads the National Museum Board of Trustees that supports and continually campaigns for the necessary funds to renovate, equip and maintain the Archaeological and Ethnographic Collection at the Museum of the Filipino People. The National Museum Board of Trustees is assisted in its work by U.S. trained cultural worker and fund-raiser John Silva as Consultant. Work is in progress to establish a National Art Gallery at the former Senate Building also formerly known as the Executive House. Through its fund-raising efforts, the MFPI has been able to contribute a significant amount towards the completion of the National Art Gallery.
The present Tourism Building will eventually house the Natural History Collection of the National Museum.
Another very active “friends” group assisting the National Museum and other museums in the country is the Museum Volunteers of the Philippines (MVP). It was established more than 20 years ago by Margaretha Gloor and her colleagues, most of them expatriates in the country. The MVP is an active group composed of wives of diplomatic as well as business professionals who work in the country including a core group of Filipinos. It is currently headed by Sonia Krug. Among its most active members are Winnie Zarate, Rebecca de Villa, Pandy Singian, China Lim Go, Colleen Mangun, Allison Diem, Tita Gamboa, and Sony Ng.
Access to Information and Continuing Education
Filipinos throughout the islands need to have access to new, dependable and updated information that they may have a better understanding and appreciation of their heritage and links to the past. Perhaps with the advent of more economically and politically stable times, improved educational facilities and more effective dissemination of information particularly to outlying areas, our countrymen will come to realize that the country’s material cultural heritage is a “non-renewable” resource (Ronquillo 2003) that will redound to the greater good of all if properly recovered and recorded. Gawin natin ang mas makakabubuti sa mas nakararami (Let us strive to do that which will benefit the most people).
The Role of Every Filipino in Nation-Building
It may be a long journey and we don’t expect that our dreams and aspirations will be realized tomorrow. However, with God and people working together, nothing is impossible. Our chosen profession (sometimes even considered as somewhat “odd” by the uninitiated), can, if we work together, be an effective means through which we can achieve the national goal of becoming ONE PEOPLE existing in harmony, friendship, and cooperation with others in the global community of nations. Patnubayan nawa tayo ng Poong Maykapal.
By Cynthia Ongpin Valdes
Latest update 25 Feb 2004
My sincere gratitude to Dr. Alfred F. Pawlik, who, after five fruitful years at the University of the Philippine as a visiting professor will be leaving our Philippines shores in April 2004 to go back to his home country. His initiative in developing the website has been invaluable.
I thank likewise, Dr. Victor J. Paz for the courtesies of his office and facilities at the U.P. Archaeological Studies Program. A warm welcome to our Filipino colleagues who have joined the Foundation (pretty much still a “start-up” organization which we are working hard to establish) as well as the international community of professionals who have elected to join us. We thank them for their trust, support and confidence.
Most of all, our heartfelt gratitude to Bill and Nene Solheim for their lasting contribution to Philippine archaeology, a research station in El Nido, Palawan. The memorabilia and library of Dr. Solheim will likewise be housed in this facility. May the work we have embarked on with a stout heart (and not without some trepidation) continue to grow and prosper for the benefit of future generations of Filipinos.
References and Further Reading:
Cheng Te-kun 1984
Detroit, Florent and Eusebio Z. Dizon 2002
Dizon, Eusebio Z. 2003
Evangelista, Alfredo E. 1989
Fox, Robert B. 1970
Fox, Robert B. 1978
Gatbonton, Esperanza B., Eusebio Z. Dizon and Rey A. Santiago 1996
Hara, Yoshiyuki and Jun G. Cayron, 2001
Junker, Laura Lee 2000
Koenigswald, G. H. Ralph von 1958
Locsin, Leandro and Cecilia
Mijjares, Armand S. B. 2002
Pawlik, Alfred F. 2002
Pawlik, Alfred F. and Wilfredo P. Ronquillo 2003
Peralta, Jesus T. 1981
Ronquillo, Wilfredo P. 2003
Ronquillo, Wilfredo P. and Rey A. Santiago 1977
William H. 1984
Wilhelm G. II 1954
Wilhelm G. II 1960
Wilhelm G. II 1964
Wilhelm G. II 1981
Solheim, Wilhelm G.
Szabó, Katherine, Mary
Clare Swete Kelly and Antonio Peñalosa 2004
Torre, Amalia de la
and Victor J. Paz, (Editors) 2003
Valdes, Cynthia Ongpin 2003