Ancient Filipinos

4 November 2012

My previous column on the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gold and Pottery Collection has opened doors for a little post-Halloween trivia.

Last week, I ended my article with ancient Filipinos and how they sent their dead in ''spirit boats'' to the afterlife.

These Filipinos of a thousand years ago decorated their beloved dead with special masks made of gold sheets, which they considered magical substances meant to keep inside the soul or to ward away evil spirits.

Aside from hiding their dead loved ones' features with these masks, the ancient Filipinos also used a variety of gold coronets, fillets, and other ornaments in adorning their dead.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, large burial jars were also made to hold the bones of the dead, along with other objects such as jewelry and other small earthenware.

The Filipinos of long ago believed that a person did not really die completely and that death was just a door leading to another world.

''As such, that person would need earthly belongings in that world as well,'' the Metropolitan Museum said.

Jewelry, according to the Museum, has always been a symbol of wealth and stature. The BSP Gold and Pottery Collection shows that jewelry has also become ''an indicator of development as a culture'' and ''a product of Philippine native genius through the ages.''

''Personal ornaments in the Philippines are more than just applied decoration and belong to the realm of expressive art, created within the discipline of style and in the context of traditions,'' the Metropolitan Museum said.

It added: ''Goldworks are more than momentary creations, they are historical objects, from which we may derive an idea of the economic, social and cultural development of the Philippine people through time.''

In the case of pottery, these were made to suit individual household needs in Neolithic Philippines.

Most pots (palayok) were produced and used for everyday cooking activities. Small pots with incisions, however, might have been intended for use as grave furniture.

Other forms of pottery during this ancient age included pouring vessels, jugs, dishes, vases, and native dippers (tabo). Others were made as ornamental ware such as goblets, footed dishes, and globular bottles.

''The Philippine pottery tradition reached its height during the Metal Age, from 200 BC to 900 AD. Hence the period is also known as the Golden Age of Pottery,'' the Metropolitan Museum said.

It was during that period, according to the Museum, that early Filipinos went into pottery specialization and experimented with form, design, and techniques.

Aside from using large jars to bury the dead, other forms of pottery were used for a myriad purposes.

Round-bottom cylinders were used for liquids or salted food. They were equipped with lashing around the neck for easier transport.

Footed trays, on the other hand, were used either for the household, to hold produce, or for ritual offerings.

Other pre-colonial pottery pieces had rims with perforations to tie through and hold down the ware during firing.

''These forms were present from the Late Metal Age (200) until the Age of Contact or the Age of Interactive Trade with the Great Traditions of Asia,'' the Metropolitan Museum said.

Note: My book ''Central Banking for Every Juan and Maria'' is now off the press.

Launch date is November 16 at Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City. You may e-mail us at totingbunye2000@gmail.com.