Last Updated: May 15th, 2018
Formerly known as the Museum of the Filipino People, the National Museum of Anthropology is one of the three pillars of the National Museum Complex in Rizal Park. In this two-part series, we’re going to explore the exhibits currently on display in this neoclassical structure–from the works of some of the country’s National Living Treasures to the artifacts recovered from the shipwrecked warship–The San Diego.
Before we get to the exhibits, here are two of the most photographed areas of the National Museum of Anthropology–the Marble Hall in the main lobby and Ifugao House in the courtyard.
1. The San Diego: 500 Years of Maritime Trade
Originally built in Cebu, the galleon ship was formerly known as San Antonio before it was hastily converted into a warship and subsequently renamed as San Diego. Although detailed historical accounts are incomplete, the ship reportedly sank on December 14, 1600, approximately 50 kilometers southwest of Manila. This, after it clashed with the Dutch-owned ship, Mauritius.
It was not until 1992–400 years after it was shipwrecked when it was discovered by Franck Goddio and his team, in coordination with the National Museum of the Philippines and financially supported by Foundation Elf. Over 5,000 artifacts were discovered by the team–among those involved in the discovery of the wreck included historians, archaeologists, scientists, divers, film crews, photographers, restorers, curators, and journalists from the Philippines, France, Spain, Germany, and the United States.
Worth crediting for its discovery is Patrick Lize who conducted an extensive research to find new information on the battle that occurred in Manila Bay. His research led him to Seville, Madrid, and the Netherlands which was based on the accounts of 22 survivors, memoirs of two priests from Manila, and the inventory of the weapons and provisions on the San Diego.
2. Garing: The Philippines at the Crossroads of Ivory Trade
The material of choice during prehistoric times–ivory, was considered to be one of the most valuable commodities among wealthy buyers for its clean white color and unique characteristics. A single piece of ivory alone could be carved into multitude shapes and sizes such as miniature figurines, ornaments, buttons, religious images, among others.
Due to the high demand for ivory, China began to ship ivory goods to the Philippines from 1565-1815, even before the Spanish occupation of the Philippines.
Global demand for ivory eventually declined after the use and trade of elephant tusks became highly controversial. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species placed the Asian and African elephants, among the main source of ivory in the world, on its Appendix in 1979 and 1990, respectively. This action prevents CITES member countries from trading goods derived from these species. This, however, does little to stop the black market for ivory in parts of Asia.
Garing: The Philippines at the Crossroads of Ivory Trade explores the early roots of ivory trade in the country while looking into contemporary issues that promote the fight against elephant poaching and illicit trafficking of ivory.
3. Manlilikha ng Bayan Hall (National Living Treasure)
Displayed in this gallery are the works of National Living Treasures (also known as Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan). The award is administered by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and is conferred to a person or group of artists recognized for their contributions to the country’s cultural heritage.
4. Lumad: Mindanao
Prior to being recognized as “Lumad”, they were originally categorized as Manobo and non-Manobo groups. The term “Lumad” means “born from the Earth” and refers to the non-Muslim groups of Mindanao. The use of the term can be traced back to the first political assembly of local and regional organizations in Cotabato on June 26, 1986.
As described by the National Museum, the exhibition features “the material culture of 13 of the major Lumad groups from the National Ethnographic Collection which aims to explore the significance of Mindanao natural reserves and resources to Lumad identity”.
It also presents “previous and recent historical and anthropological data, particularly on their experiences, encounters, and established linkages and ties with neighboring groups and foreigners throughout the years; and in the process attempt to give an insight into how perceptive the Lumad peoples are of their place and purpose”.
Read Part 2 here: 4 Exhibits To Visit at the National Museum of Anthropology (Part 2)
The Manila Project
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- National Museum of the Philippines
- National Commission for Culture and the Arts