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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Filipino art, culture and history

As a new resident of the Philippines, I want to immerse myself in the city so that I can enjoy my stay, learn and share cultural knowledge.

Acceptance Criteria: Attend cultural events, visit museums, tour the cities, ask questions.

Staying in Makati was probably the best way to be introduced to the Philippines because it is home to two museums with great historical information about and artifacts from the Philippines.

The Yuchengco museum is the private collection of a man who straddled both the Philippine and Chinese cultures. He was a well-traveled ambassador who rubbed shoulders with many heads of state.

His collection includes paintings, sculpture, textiles, interactive art installations as well as static, and his collection of maps, war memorabilia, newspapers and coins from all over the world. There is also an interesting mini-collection of things distantly related to Jose Rizal; ostensibly the hero of the revolution against Spanish rule in the Philippines.

I say distantly because it includes furniture from the home of a woman purported to be the love of Jose Rizal's life (who was apparently quite the playboy), but she was married to someone else.

The art of the local artists is beautiful; very colorful. It reminded me of Gauguin, especially the paintings from his time in the tropics.

My favorite was the Hanging Garden or the Zen Garden; which is an art installation made entirely from recycled materials.

Outside the museum is a large sculpture by Eduardo Castrillo called Spirit of EDSA, which depicts the People Power Revolution which resulted in the Phiippines independence from Marcos' regime which I really didn't understand until I got to Ayala museum.

Ayala Museum is part of a mall area called Greenbelt. It is well known for a couple things; the landscaping which is quite lush, jungly and beautiful, and for the stores--Prada, Gucci, Hermes, Chopard, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton... you name it they have it. Very high end. Very chi chi (pronounced shee shee).


The museum (450p = $10) is fronted by a large art installation of a carriage of sorts  It lights up at night and looks like a carnival ride. It is a mash up of Filipino history and a Japanese anime show the artist liked as a child, but is meant to remind people of the dark history of the Philippines.

Inside the museum has several exhibitions that held my attention for several hours. First on the fourth floor is the gold; Philippine gold and its history. Now, I like gold as much as the next person and I figured it would be interesting to see this exhibition, but I had no idea. 

The gold, its history and the pieces they have on display are phenomenal. I could not take photos but I pulled some from the internets to share with you because I was floored. Many of the techniques we see today in very expensive jewelry and associate with amazing artisans from Italy, Spain and elsewhere are present here from some very primitive peoples and times.

When you walk onto this floor a video begins that tells you much of the history and show you many of the pieces. Awe-inspiring and beautiful, I was certain these were recent pieces that they used in the video to depict what they believed was the type of metal work done by early Filipinos. Boy was I wrong. 

The museum is very modern, all glass and shiny metal, with raised floors under which they display artifacts.  I couldn't take a photo inside but once outside I got this shot of the glass enclosed stair case inside. The floors were very much the same as these glass walls with the x's supporting each pane of glass in four corners. It felt like you were walking on air and about to fall through at any moment. Remember the floor in the James Bond movie Die Another Day? Like that.

Under those glass plates were relief maps of the islands of the Philippines showing where the gold was discovered or mined and where certain designs originated, as well as where Catholic priests settled in order to control the gold. It was used for adornment of the natives and to indicate wealth, and was used for trade as well.

They have more than 1000 pieces of gold displayed in the exhibit and it ranges from tiny remnants of gold buttons or decorations to complete necklaces and head dresses or crowns, death masks and earrings, tassels and belts, bowls and bracelets, and it is all archaeological. That is, no one saved it and handed it down from generation to generation; it was buried with people. It was all discovered as they dug up the ground to pour foundations for buildings. 

 This is a goddess; she was damaged--crushed and somewhat mangled--but this close up shows you the amazing detail.

This is a bowl which has a detailed design around the rim and though I'm not sure what these flat pieces were they show how deft they were with the repousse technique that created this design.

These bracelets were tubes that were bent and soldered closed or pounded and decorated with hot drops of gold or repousee. 

This necklace is made of beads, which they had to make before they could string them... on more gold.

This belt is a combination of beads and woven gold strands, which you can see in the close up.

This ceremonial belt was really the piece de resistance (and not from the Lego Movie). The intricate weave and beading, as well as flat sheets used for the buckles just blew me away.

All in all, a great two hours of time spent oohing and aahing over jewelry.

Check out the next blog for Part two of the Ayala Museum and its treasures.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing! Thank you for taking the time to blog so we can live your adventure vicariously!