detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Sunday, January 01, 2006

: .Book of the Month

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Ginto: History Wrought in Gold
by Ramon N. Villegas
Manila: Bangko Central ng Pilipinas, 2004
Hardcover; 193 p.; ill.; 32 cm.
USD 90.00
ISBN 9719178590


India -- Mary Martin Booksellers, USD 90.00, Shipping USD 8.33 (International Air Mail -- 3-4 weeks)

Related Articles:
Treasures from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
by Augusto Villalon

A Shining Moment
by Carmen Nakpil
Book Info:
In 1983, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas published The Philippine Jewelry Tradition as Volume III of the Kayamanan Series. That book dealt with its collection of pre-Hispanic gold artifacts in the context of the whole continuum of Philippine jewelry history, and against the background of other public and private collections.

Ginto: History Wrought in Gold this time focuses solely on the Gold Collection of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, cataloguing its holdings exhaustively.

More significantly, it is a reading, as historical text, of pre-Hispanic artifacts in the precious metal, in the light of the most recent data and the latest theories. Ginto is an attempt at a historical narrative about the Philippines before 1500, drawn from the in-depth study of techniques and designs in Philippine gold artifacts, the few extant primary sources, scattered archeological data, and wide-ranging cultural studies.

The Bangko Sentral Gold Collection is part of the national heritage not only because of its material value, but more importantly because it is a legacy from a golden age.
Author Info:
Ramon Nazareth Villegas wrote The Philippine Jewelry Tradition, the third volume of the Kayamanan Series, twenty-one years ago. Now fifty years old, he belongs to the fourth generation of a Batangueño family of jewellers.

He graduated with honors and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, major in Literature, from the De La Salle University. He was a student lecturer on literature at his college at the age of 22, and received the school's Award for Excellence in the literary field. He left the academe after a few years to concentrate on writing on art and history, as well as his family's line of business. He now manages Yamang Katutubo, a recondite gallery in Makati.

Villegas wrote Hiyas: The Philippine Jewellery Heritage, published by the Philippine Jewellers' Guild; and the art and culture half of Volume IV of Kasaysayan, History of the Filipino People, published by the Reader's Digest and A-Z. Marketing. He was Editor of Batangas: Forged in Fire for the Ayala Foundation and Tubod: The Heart of Bohol for the National Commission on Culture and the Arts. He has written two cover features for the prestigious Arts of Asia magazine of Hong Kong.

As an independent curator, Villegas worked on the permanent exhibition of the Bangko Sentral Gold Collection; "Tresors Philippine", an exhibition on Philippine pre-Hispanic gold at the Musee de l'Homme in Paris; "Sheer Realities", an exhibition on 19th century Philippine costume for the Asia Society in New York, Seattle and Manila; and "A Brief History of Philippine Currency" at the Ayala Museum, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, among others.

Villegas headed the Galian sa Arte at Tula, a group of modernist poets in Filipino which National Artist Virgilio Almario helped found; the Antique Dealers'Association of the Philippines; the Bayanihan Collectors' Club for several years; and the Philippine Numismatic and Antiquarian Society, founded in 1929. He was a Board Member of the Jewellers' Guild of the Philippines, Concerned Citizens for the National Museum, and the Museum Foundation of the Philippines.

His collection of Filipiniana has been an important resource for curators, researchers and publishers.
Foreword -- 7

A History Wrought in Gold

A Golden History -- 11

Artisans and Design Precepts -- 39

Gold Working Techniques -- 51

Ancestral Gold -- 69

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gold Collection -- 72

Acknowledgements -- 191

References -- 192


Artisans and Design Precepts

Mining requires expertise and brute force. Greater are the skills needed to fashion raw metal into wrought gold.

In traditional Philippine society, the importance of specialists with particular skills was emphasized by the bestowal of the title 'panday,' in recognition of mastery of an art, an applied science. They performed unique roles in their communities' struggle with nature; they attended to the birth of valued functional and ritual objects. In western Mindanao languages, midwives are called panday. Skills in various materials were specified: there was the panday-anluwagi (builder-carpenter), panday-bakal (blacksmith), or panday-ginto (goldsmith).

Natives of gold mining areas would have had several options, as shown by the career of contemporary artisan and National Craftsman Arcilla of the town of Paracale, in the province of Camarines Norte. The name of the southern Luzon town is derived from kali, or gold pit-mining. From a landowner he acquired mining rights, for a fixed monthly rental plus 10 per cent of the metal yield. He opened the land to diggers on condition that he would have first option to buy the gold. At the same time, he trained and organized goldsmiths and paid a fixed rate for their labor, based on the weight of the finished pieces. He sold raw material for a marginal gain, and finished pieces in Manila for a larger profit. Even the landowner's share is worked by him. He has bought his own parcels of gold-bearing land, to be worked on later Similar arrangements may have been entered into in prehispanic times.

Given the availability of gold in most parts of the archipelago it is probable that even in the first millennium of the Christian era, itinerant panday moved continuously, effecting technology transfer and the diffusion


of design concepts. A report from 1586 states that in Camarines "there are many excellent goldsmiths after their fashion. Those men roam the island in order to gain their living" (BR 34: 386). Lesser artisans moved from town to town, and would have been fed and housed while work was in progress. If goldsmiths were not slaves or in servitude for debt, they had relative freedom of action.

But highly skilled panday-ginto would have settled in major population centers, where there were wealthy patrons and more importantly, the challenge of cosmopolitan influences. The gold trade must have brought foreign traders and techniques with jewellery to sell and designs and techniques to impart.

The Indonesia Question

What was the extent of that influence? In the late 1960s, following the prevailing ideas about diffusionism, the archeologist Tom Harrisson explored the evidence on Hindu-Buddhist and Indonesian influence on the Philippines, through Borneo and Sulawesi, which are immediately to the south of Mindanao. Harrisson concluded then that "On the present evidence...the art of 'Hindu-Buddhist' motivated goldsmiths had significant visible impact up the Borneo coast as far north and east as Brunei Bay, dwindling all the way and only crawling north ward... Sarawak and Manila (are approximately) 700 sea miles apart, a long haul before the advent of steam, and with many and varied other islands and peoples in between... This, in turn, liberated the more northerly peoples from conventions in gold-craft not ideally suited to local materials and outlook, thus producing the much livelier (forms) seen in Manila" (Harrisson 1968: 80).

Because the pieces Harrisson saw in the Locsin and de Santos collections were found mostly in southern Luzon and Mindoro, he came to the conclusion that "There is a notable Philippine scarcity of well-known Indo-lndonesia forms which predominate... in West Borneo." His comparison of "about 300 gold pieces from West Borneo with about 800 from the Philippines (mainly Luzon to Mindanao) gives some 4% of the former with any discernible affinity to the latter, although this is necessarily at this stage based on partly subjective criteria. Less than 4% could reasonably be called closely similar or'the same'.

Harrisson himself is bothered: "This is somewhat surprising and probably significant in view of the elaborate traffic of goods, especially precious goods (e.g. ceramics), which developed through both areas after 1000 AD." He concluded that "Indeed, most of the material found in Borneo south of Brunei is evidently either much influenced by or directly imported from islands further to the west; but not, on present knowledge (still very inadequate) by or from the Philippines to the north" (Harrisson 1968: 77-79).


There are those who suggest attributing the gold artifacts found in the Philippines to the "more advanced" civilizations, particularly the Javanese. It seems only reasonable to ascribe craftsmanship of Indianized gold ornaments to the society that produced Borobudur. Several reasons however; must dissuade us from this attribution.

First, the comparative scarcity of the metal. Harrisson points out that "Although Sumatra has been much mentioned in scholarly literature as a center of gold trade and craft, in reality it is not rich in gold, and in recent times even 'unrewarding'...Java has never been a significant source of mined or washed gold, but has a high reputation for the art of its goldsmiths, especially those...centered in middle Java" (Harrisson :45). Closer to the Philippines, "It is only possible to prove actual production of gold in western Borneo back to (the year) 1760..." (Harrisson 1968: 9)

Miksic concurs: "The Javanese did not choose gold to make symbolic objects because it was easy to get...the rocks of Java contain very little metal. The Javanese have had to import most of the material for their tools, weapons and ornaments. Java has few deposits of gold, and there is no evidence that they were worked in ancient times. Most if not all the gold they used was probably imported" (Miksic 1990: 19).

"In 1656," he adds,"a Dutch envoy to the central Javanese kingdom of Mataram marveled at the low price of gold: 'He could only explain it by the constant plundering of pre-lslamic graves in which so much gold had been buried'..." (Miksic 1990: 15) This was in contrast to the consistent reports of gold mining activities in the Philippines at that time.

Second, the higher quality of early gold artifacts. "The strong impression one gets from looking at the treasure cabinets of Philippine friends is that there was a very different, more florid, vigorous local goldsmithing tradition in the pre-Hispanic Philippines, when compared with West Borneo, where few gold artifacts at present known show any particular local dynamic." Philippine gold work, he continues, "is often beautiful and sometimes elaborate; seldom resembles that from adjacent Borneo; and tends to differ from that of island Southeast Asia generally" (Harrisson 1968: 77-79).

Harrisson compared Borneo finds with gold artifacts in important Manila collections, particularly of Leandro and Cecilia Locsin's (Harrisson 1968: 43). He concluded that the Limbang hoard shows close Philippine affinities, though the group is strongly "Javanese" as well. Second, small but significant "Hindu-Buddhist" influences are suggested, or more vaguely as Indonesian ("Indian") influence rather than anything "Chinese."

Also, "as in West Borneo, few gold pieces can be dated very early and the major goldsmithing appears to have occured after 1000 AD -- and perhaps especially between 1200 and 1400 in Borneo so in Philippine pre-history, remarkably few fine things of gold seem to have been made later than about 1400 AD -- perhaps because of a change in trade patterns and export requirements to the mainland after the start of the Ming dysnasty (or the equivalent), and/or the new attitudes evoked by Islam after 1400" (Harrisson 1968: 77)


Finally, he reiterated that Philippine gold artifacts in general tend to be more elaborate and better crafted than most from West Borneo.

Harrisson looked at the Dr Arturo de Santos collection (part of which was acquired by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) as well, and observed that "...the range of Philippine gold jewelry...includes many pieces of a complexity and finesse that is beyond anything attempted in Borneo" in so far as what had been found at that time (Harrisson 1968: 56).

Throughout Indonesia there was a relationship between gold artifacts and the ruling aristocracy, in the class-power centers which developed on the coastal plains around the middle of the 1st millenium AD (Harrisson 1968:44). Precious metals were worked 'exclusively in those areas where the influence of Hinduism was strongest': he includes Java, Bali, southern Celebes and the coastal districts of Borneo. These areas developed as centers with established hierarchies, which necessitated the conspicuous display of wealth (Harrisson 1968: 47).

There was a demand for gold, which the Philippines could have supplied. It would be reasonable to suggest that one of the main sources of Javanese and Bornean gold was the Philippines. That trade would have been important enough to have been direct, by-passing minor pass-on players say, in Sarawak or Sulawesi. Moreover, the early interest in gold from the Philippines would have been in the raw material rather than wrought artifacts. In turn, local interest would have been on goods not made of gold, which they had plenty of.

To paraphrase Harrisson, "This, in turn, liberated the (Filipinos) from conventions in gold-craft not ideally suited to local materials and outlook, thus producing the much livelier (forms) seen in Manila" (Harrisson 1968: 80). Indianization in Philippine gold ornaments, therefore, was a matter of selective adaptation, rather than wholesale adoption.


Indo-Filipino Gold

An ear ornament form also found with enhanced variations in Butuan and Samar-Leyte is also found in India. In a temple fragment from Khajuraho, central India, a woman wears an unmistakeable "uod" (caterpillar), a fistulous, U-shaped ornament composed of welded half-domed rings slit along the length of one side which appears to be 'wrapped' around the extended ear lobe.

There are uniquely Philippine, massive chip-carved conical ornaments fashioned in the spirit of Pallava and Chola architecture of the tenth and eleventh centuries (Swarup 1968: xxiv). Other examples found in Samar and in Butuan have marvelous burit or granulated siding. I have suggested that "perhaps they were finials for waist cords, meant to hang down the thighs" (Villegas 1983: 62), This was based on the Tagalog plate in the Boxer Codex, an illuminated manuscript of ca. AD 1600. Stutterheim suggests that similar ones found in Indonesia were ear ornaments (Miksic 1990: 48-49). The late Dr Arturo de Santos had always maintained the same view. It is possible that smaller; lighter ones may have been used in ear ornaments to gather a cluster of pendent bead tassels, like those worn by figures in Indian sculpture (Craven 1976: fig. 52; Swarup 1968: vii).

Undocumented but known to be in the Locsin collection in Manila are a massive vaishaya caste cord and oil lamps in the form of apsaras.

The three-layered collar of granulated pendant beads is Indian in concept, but Filipino in sensibility. The gilt one in Strange 1988: 80, is an example of this type. Certain sashes with square clasps appear to be similar in form to collars worn by yaksha, or guardians of the mountains (Swarup 1968: 11; Craven 1976: 45-46; 108). Weren't the Butuanon rulers, in effect,'guardians of the mountains,'the source of gold?

In the Philippines, gold ornaments are found similar to those found both in Central Philippines and Java, such as rings with Sri inscriptions. The Sri motif was based on three characters in old Javanese script spelling her name. Flourishes were added to the characters, which were eventually developed into pictorial representations or abstract designs of fish, waterpots and lotuses, and conches. "In later Hindu mythology Sri was considered the consort of Vishnu. The conch and fish are Vishnu symbols; in one legend Vishnu is said to have been a fish, Matsya, who saved Manu, the ancestor of the human race, from a great flood in which all perished. In India today some people wear rings decorated with fish motifs as a way of invoking Vishnu's protection" (Miksic 1988: 13-14).

Another motif associated with Vishnu are the vajra. Ear cuffs with the claw and ball motif were described in colonial Indonesian literature as "bird-rings" (Miksic 1988: 54-55. See Miksic 1990 for more examples). The examples in the BSP collection have pendient lotus buds.

Garuda ornaments have also been found in the Philippines. A garuda ornament obtained by Dr. Robert Fox in Brooke's Point, southern


Palawan, on exhibit in the National Museum in Manila, was stolen in the early 1980s and never recovered. Others were subsequently found in Agusan del Sur in 1989 and 1990. In Hindu mythology, the garuda is the mount of Vishnu; the garuda is also the sun bird or sun eagle, and as such is opposed to the snake which symbolizes water and the underworld. In Old Tagalog, the word for sun was hari, which also refers to 'ruler' or 'king'; the garuda was therefore a symbol of royalty.

Graeco-Roman/Indian are the elliptical rings for the finger with tubular shanks set with cabochon and intaglio stones being found in Southeast Asia. So are loop-in-loop chains, which are similar to those in the British Museum in London (BMP 1977: 112, 118, 125). One type is on the Tiruvelangadu bronze of Siva Nataraja, ca. AD 110 (Swarup 1968: xxii).The Liang Shu, a Chinese annal, records a mission from Langkasuka, on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula in AD 515. The document recounts that "the king and the high ministers wore a yunxia cloth to cover their shoulders, with necklaces of golden cord. They wear gold earrings. The women just wrap a cloth round them and surround the body with jewelled necklaces" (Miksic 1990: 34).

Also found in the Philippines are sheet facing for wooden ear spools. Another type are open ones with flared rims (Ellis 1981: 245; Sariadini 1985: 84,245; Miksic 1990: 64). Lingling-o or C-shaped ornaments (Lewis and Lewis 1984: 34-35) are also part of other Southeast Asian gold traditions. There are conical gold ear ornaments similar to those still worn by the Karen people, but in ivory (Lewis and Lewis 1984: 57). Delicate, grain-like beads are still made in silver by the hill tribes of Thailand (Mookerjee and Khanna 1977:41ff.).

Though the grasp by Philipppine artisans of the aesthetic principles and sensibilities of the Indianized world appears to have been broad, we cannot assert ideological comprehension and religious belief. Some writers, for example, have interpreted the flower/sun motif in Philippine gold ornaments as Hinduistic yantra and chakra.The wheel with four, sometimes eight spokes was the chakra of Vishnu and was also the ancient symbol of the sun.

But solar and floral motifs were universal and may have been the result of independent conceptualization. For example, "The king of Boli, in east Java, was served by ladies who decorated themselves with golden flowers...In the 4th century the king of Linyi (Champa) wore a hat decorated with flowers" (Miksic 1990: 34). While it is conceivable that ancient Philippine artisans may have exchanged pleasantries with their Javanese and Cham counterparts, they did not need to do so, just to depict the sun and flowers.

Perhaps the most intriguing artefact with Hindu-Buddhistic significance is the Golden Image of Agusan. Francisco cites the anthropologist Garvan as saying it was thought to have come from a town swept away during a big flood in the late 19th century (Francisco 1971: 38-46). Oral history, according to Van Odijk (1973) and Schreurs, recounts that a town called


Linao, located between Talacogon and Bunawan, had been so devastated by flooding sometime in the past that its inhabitants moved to Bunawan. Linao may have been the town the informants of Garvan were referring to.

The Agusan Image may be related to the figure on the Mindoro cuff formerly in the Arturo de Santos collection and now in the Yap collection. According to the late collector, this cuff was alleged to have been excavated in Mindoro. The figure's pose is very similar to that of the figure on a coin of the Kalachuri king Gangayadeva (1015-40 AD) of Tripuri, northern India (Stronge 1988: 25, pl. 33). The swirled flanges on the shoulders signify the aura of kingship and divinity. In the 18th-19th century Indonesian rectangular pectoral (Rodgers 1985: 235), the aural device was transformed into wings.

Both depict figures seated in a "yogic" position. But most Filipinos -- and Malays for that matter, Indianized or not -- sat with their feet drawn in, just so. Pigafetta, Magellan's chronicler, described Filipinos seated "with feet folded like tailors".

Some of the non-Indian borrowed designs found only in their original sources and in the Philippine area suggest direct linkages with other cultural currents from the Indian Ocean. Among these are kamagi necklaces (Aldred 1978: 105) and penannular, barter rings which both show Egyptian influence (Aldred 1978: 20, 94). The earliest insular Southeast Asian products reached the Mediterranean through a port on the Arabian Gulf, which were transported overland to the headwaters of the Nile, then shipped down to Alexandria. Austronesian traders are also known to have reached Madagascar (Miller 1969; Taylor 1976), so the African connection is an established fact.

Hellenic-Asian or Parthian-type earrings have been found in Butuan (BMP 1976: 122). West Asian influence is also seen in the conical necklace finials with triangular massed granulation similar to those found in Afghanistan (Sariadini 1986: 113, 115, 117). West Asian-type bullae-like elliptical disc pendants have also been found in the southern Bicol peninsula and northern Samar ( BMP 1976: 76, 84, 123, 131, 135).

Though China had a limited gold tradition, Chinese contact inspired the crafting of small gold ware such as bowls and stemcups, and vessel fittings found as part of the Surigao Treasure (To compare with Chinese artifacts, see Gyllensvard 1953). On the whole, however, as in Borneo,"...parallels...point primarily, though not exclusively, towards Java, and through Java to "Indian" influences thereon...there is no suggestion of Chinese influence. The whole atmosphere is Hindu-Buddhist, with a mild emphasis on the Tantric version of a sort of Animo-Buddhist outlier which seems to have prospered in West Borneo through the 13th and 14th centuries..." The ideological framework appears to have been "Tantric-Buddhist-Hindu-Animism," in the words of Harrisson (1967:49).

The vocabulary of borrowed designs seen in the Surigao Treasure as an assemblage, and in prehispanic Philippine gold in general, argues that Indianization was part of a larger process of cosmopolitanization. It was a product of economic and political opportunity and cultural convention, rather


than of the abiding faith and philosophical grasp that, for example, brought Borobudur into being.

The Indigenous Force

Even as we discuss foreign influences, it is important to remember that artistic borrowing and technology transfer were not necessarily contingent on each other. The motives of expression and the requirements of form brought about indigenous, innovative technology.

Spontaneous and independent technical invention surely gave rise to a common range of aesthetic modes that logically ensued from the nature of the technique. For example, there has been some discussion on the influence of Tantric mandala-diagramming on classic Philippine design (Legeza 1988: 129-36). Any society with knowledge of weaving, however, will sooner or later evolve design concepts based on cardinal points; any society with knowledge of pottery cannot but arrive at the concept of the circle.

External conditions and centrifugal forces acted on Philippine gold forms and technology. It is important to remember, however, that indigenous cultural characteristics provided the fulcrum for its outward orientation, and ultimately, the centripetal force that sustained its integrity.

Animism remained a strong undercurrent in the Filipinos' belief system and in fact endured among groups in the interior. In many cases, it is difficult to distinguish between foreign influence and indigenous confluence.

Many forms have been derived from nature. Sea-life forms are understandably abundant in the art of peoples living in an archipelago. There are pendient elements in the form of abalone shell found in Samar and of course there are the suso beads, which are obviously derived from the shape of long spiral shells. But the conch-shell form in one ring cannot but also be symbolic: the form represents a cornucopia, or symbol of plenty or prosperity. It also represents Vishnu, the Preserver

Another example is the bird motif, perhaps a royal symbol, which recurs in Surigao sword handles. The stylized bird has a long beak, at the tip of which is a disc. The bird is surrounded by flames, which represents magical power (van der Hoop 1949: 170). Is the bird a symbol of the Hindu fire god, Agni, who was associated with gold? (Miksic 1990: 19). Is the bird related to the Chinese phoenix, with a flaming pearl at its beak? Is the motif a local take-off from the garuda, the sun bird? Or does the bird represent the bird of premonition?

Other avian-form ear ornaments in private collections appear to have been whimsey on the part of individualistic artisans or patrons. Some cutwork diadems depicting the stylized bird and snake (Maranao: sarimanok, naga) allude to the Southeast Asian mythic principle of cosmic dichotomy—


male and female, sky and land, mountain and sea. Among the Dayak of Indonesia, there is a god of the upper world -- symbolized by the hornbill; and a god of the underworld, symbolized by the watersnake (naga) (van der Hoop 1949: 274). It may have symbolized mastery over a realm that is both inland and littoral, and which the Maranao people, who retain the same stylized motifs in their tradition, once exercised (Orellana and Endriga 1982). The Butuanons too were masters of the seas, the great Agusan river and marshland; they also controlled the Diwata range, which formed the core of the Butuan and Caraga realm.

The serpentine naga was a powerful, pervasive image, and snake spine may have been the model for the ball-and-socket mechanics of the so-called "gear beads" which comprise the kamagi necklaces. Similar beads were also found in a Tantric shrine at Bongkisam, Sarawak. They found "Eight thin hollow circles of gold with a pebbled surface of textured design in small raised dots of gold. (Obj. No. C.7-14) These ring-like objects were probably personal adornments, either strung on a chain or sewn in clothing. The largest has a diameter of 9 mm and the smallest 6 mm" (Harrisson 1968: 22-23). They have found similar disc beads built of little pellets of gold, aside from a Very beautiful woven chain in Kuala Selinsing, Perak, Malaysia (Harrisson 1968:48).

After analysing vocabularies, Scott (1992) concludes that the most spectacular item in the Visayan inventory was the kamagi, a heavy gold necklace of beads so tightly interlocked that it is as solid and sinuous as a golden serpent. The term also referred to multiple "loop-in-loop" chains. The individual loops were called goar. When woven in their simplest form, they were called sinoyot; but if square, pinarogmok; or if octagonal and with large round finials called tontonan, they were called siniwalo. A single large kamagi strand was called saay, but the long thin barbar could reach 4 meters and so swing grandly to the ground even when doubled or tripled. Such jewelry may have been exported. Scott points out that the royal regalia of the Makassar Gowa dynasty on display in Sungguminasa (Sulawesi) includes a gold chain necklace said to have come from Manila.


Snake heads are alluded to in the finials of the loop-in-loop chain in the Ayala Museum collection (Villegas 1983: 97) and in the smaller one in the Que collection.

The strong streak of Filipino individualism, ultimately traceable to the Philippines' atomistic society and archipelagic topography, found expression in their jewellery's multiplicity of parts. The overwhelming majority of Philippine gold ornaments are beads or necklace elements ranging from less than 0.1 cm to same 1.0 cm, though a rare few reach -- and rarer still, some surpass -- 3.0 cm in length.

Perhaps every variation in form, texture and construction technique was mastered by Philippine bead artisans, whose works survive in the thousands. Scott found words referring to beads in the early lexicons compiled by Spanish chroniclers. These include the four sided matambukaw, long hollow tinaklum, and fancy pinoro finials with granules added to their surface like tiny gold islands (poro/pulo). Others were shaped like little fruits -- arlay like job's tears, tinigbi like tigbi fruit, or bongan buyo like betel nuts.

Assemblages as found suggest that within their owners' lifespan, varying artisans were commissioned to make the elements in batches, at various times. By their very nature as disparate elements, the arrangement of gold beads could be altered at will by the wearer; as such, they were individual histories, markers of personal circumstances and transitions.

A related Philippine aesthetic principle was articulation, or the movement of joined parts. A prime example is the penannular earring with multiple pendants of floral forms. Ear ornaments constructed on the same principle, made of glass beads and similar cut-out forms in shell and sheet metal, are still made and worn by isolated mountain groups in northern Luzon, and eastern and central Mindanao (Ellis 1981: 234, 244, 246, 248; Rodgers 1985: 306-68). Very similar barter ring and pendant types are also found in Egypt (Aldred 1978: 111.94; Wilkinson 1971: ills. XLV and XLVI).


Surface decoration was another artistic trait. Most Philippine jewellery shapes remained elementary throughout, but particularly in pieces associated with ceramics from the late 10th to the early 14th. Texture was achieved through a whole gamut of techniques. Few areas were left unembellished, an aesthetic trait that one Filipino art writer dubbed as horror vacui, or the fear of emptiness. The tendency may be seen beginning from what appears to be earlier stylus work, as in the over-all meandering swirl pattern through burit-work, or granulation, wire and sheet appliques, to the later tradition of Malay vegetal repoussage. The Philippine variegation of Khajuraho-type ear ornaments is characteristic of the tendency to elaborate, which stopped just short of excess. In examples from the Surigao Treasure, part of the surface is granulated, while a Samar type does away with the ridging altogether; replacing it with applied rondelles and crimped sheet appliques, as in some examples. In the 'half-moon' variety, flanges were added.

Both men and women wore ear ornaments, Scott concludes from early European accounts, and as the plates in the Boxer Codex depict. Men had one or two holes per lobe, while women had three or four. Visayans at first contact wore earrings with or without pendants, which were held by tubular or folded wire pins slipped through the ear and fastened behind. The women wore ornaments in all of their ear holes. Palbad were the more delicate rosettes worn in the uppermost hole; dinalopang, were shaped like the yellow blossom of the dalopang (also known as kastuli, Urena lobata). Kayong-kayong was any pendant dangling from an earring, while sangi (i.e., divided) was a single ring worn in one ear only.

Pamarang or barat were large gold plugs, sometimes wheel-shaped, with a gem set in the middle. They stretched holes as wide as two fingers; some lobes were so distended that a person could stick his fist through. Similar forms appear in Indonesia (Miksic 1990: 33). In the Cordilleras, northern Luzon, there are still some individuals with large holes on their lobes.

Panika referred particularly to those finger-thick gold rings which were split on top to be fastened to the earlobe "like the letter O", Father Alcina reported in 1668, "without being able to see the opening once they were inserted." These penannular "barter" rings were thick as a finger, usually hollow but heavy enough to pull down the earlobe until the gold touched the shoulder They were sometimes decorated with burit or granules. The men wore such single, heavy rings in the lower holes, called (panikaan). Dalin-dalin were simple hoops smaller than the panika, perhaps like those worn by T'boli women with multiple holes in their ears.

The multiplicity of elements, the sense of articulated movement and profuse surface decoration, belie the intial impression of insufficient ornamentatrion conveyed by many Philippine gold artifacts when examined singly. The vibrant complexity of the full-dress costumes of traditional Philippine groups today give us an idea of the total look that would have been achieved by prehispanic Filipinos.


Ornamentation was also used to indicate status. The measure of social prestige was in direct proportion to the amount of gold a person displayed. The wealth of regalia that constituted the Surigao Treasure gives us an idea of the height of the aspirations of the Butuanon royalty. Even the royal weighing scale pan is made of gold, as is the royal bowl, a skeumorph representation of a bao or halved coconut shell, the common man's vessel. There is a massive gold rim for perhaps a porcelain or wood vessel. This writer personally saw some other gold vessels or fragments thereof which went to private collections: a lid, a stemcup, a smaller bowl. There were reports of a plate or shallow dish.

The Surigao pieces were grander in scale. The usual gold clasps for royal belts (Mindanao languages: kandit) measured around 1 1/2 inches each side, and were apparently meant to secure a belt made of woven thread or fiber. In the Surigao examples, the clasps are dramatically larger; and the textile was replaced with "woven" gold.

It is true that gold belts have also been found outside of the Philippines. For example, along the Sungai Terus stream in the Merbok estuary, in Kedah, West Malaysia a boy fishing found a belt of woven gold wire, with a lion-head (singha-mukha) worked in the clasp in repousse, held together by a split pin (Harrisson 1968: 42). The interlocking pin-on-tube mechanism on its clasp, however, sets aside the Malaysian example from the Philippine type, which would have been held together by a cord made of organic fiber; knotted in some way.

Even tikus vine leglets, still worn by Manobo warriors (bagani) well into the 20th century, were found in the treasure as skeuomorphs in gold (Villegas 1983: 63). A Manobo epic mentions the tikus: "For he would fix his leglets,/ Showing much concern / Over his leglet trimming which if/ disarranged, /Would make his foes laugh at him..." (Manuel 1976: 88, photos 30-31).

Scribed swirls and waves on headbands and facial covers from Butuan inspired by waves or the niaga, the snake or dragon motif, which symbolized the sea, which the ancient Filipinos mastered. The abstract pattern expresses the dynamism of ancient Philippine civilization. Those patterns and motifs survive in the southern Philippine okir design tradition. Artisans used a stylus -- perhaps just a pointed bamboo stick -- to scribe the patterns on the hammered sheet. [Caption -- page 86, Image -- page 87]

Across the centuries, an ancestor's energy seems to reach out to us from this complete set of diadem and facial covers, which went through many steps of folding, cutting out, unfolding. Each set is unique and expressive of an individual personality. [Image -- page 88, Caption -- page 89]

The so-called uod or caterpillar shaped ear ornaments, usually found in Samar-Leyte. They are slit at the back, as seen in lower left, so that, in effect they wrap around the extended lobe. This ear ornament can be seen on female figures carved on stone reliefs in Indian temples of the same period. The form is not seen in other parts of Southeast Asia, suggesting that there was a direct and intimate connection between Indian and Samarnon artisans. [Caption -- page 108, Image -- page 109]

Suso pendant beads inspired by long spiral shells. They are made of tapering granulation so fine that the tinier spheres are smaller in diameter than rice grains. They average 25 to 27 granules per bead...The beads range from very fine, on top, to thicker ones, as in the two lower necklaces. [Image -- page 132, Caption -- page 133]

A set of high-carat bracelets found by a farmer in Baggao, Cagayan...[E]lliptical cross-section bangle with rib-like hammerwork in the outside, with herringbone pattern engraved on the flanks. Batangas earthenware are similarly decorated. [Caption -- page 163, Image -- page 164]

A set of high-carat bracelets found by a farmer in Baggao, Cagayan...[C]uffs with handforged fluting with reverse scallop appliques emphasizing the rims. Heirloom, lesser-karat examples of the wide cuffs have come from Tabuk and Tanudan, Kalinga-Apayao province. [Caption -- page 163, Image -- page 165]

A dagger handle from the Surigao Treasure. The swirling lines and the asymmetric form suggest raging flames surrounding a bird's head with a disk at the tip of its long beak. In Indonesia, the garuda or sun-bird was the god Vishnu's vehicle. In old Philippine languages, the sun was also called hari, or king. The symbolism here, then, is that the Butuan kings were vehicles of the divine. [Image and Caption -- page 169]

[A] pair of very heavy waistcord finials shaped like Hindu-Buddhistic architecture. In the late 16th-century manuscript known as the Boxer Codex, illustrations show Filipino noblemen wearing such ornaments. Five chip-carved tiers with layered radiant spikes are relieved by ventanilles of flattened wire slats on struts. The bottom is formed with declining concentric wire rings, and the whole is surmounted by an edged collar. The ornament is slit along its whole to permit the intromission of textile. [Caption -- page 176, Caption -- page 177]

Gold finials for fabric sashes...[A] pair of finials, meant to be joined by a cord slipped through the folds placed side by side. Each has an efflorescent center from which radiates five entities of graduating energy. From this circle or mandala, power emanates into the cardinal directions. Was this the diagram of the Butuan polity? [Caption -- page 178, Image -- page 179]

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