National Museum of the Philippines, Part III (Museum of the Filipino People)

The Museum of the Filipino People focuses on anthropological artifacts that help in explaining Philippine history. There are five exhibits that highlight the journey of the Filipinos from the Paleolithic period to the present time. These include the San Diego Exhibit, The Origin, Five Centuries of Maritime Trade (Pre-Hispanic), Archaeological Treasures, and The Filipinos and Their Rich Heritage.

Museum of the Filipino People

San Diego Exhibit

Gallery II is solely dedicated for the massive number of artifacts salvaged from San Diego. San Diego was a Spanish battleship that sank near Fortune Island, Batangas (isn’t it ironic?) after it had collided with Mauritius, a Dutch warship. San Diego was four times larger than Mauritius but its size (and the incapability of its captain, Antonio de Morga) became detrimental to the fate of the 450 men aboard the ship. Luckily for the students of history, San Diego carried a superfluous amount of basic and luxurious items, which can aid current and future generations in piecing together the lifestyle in the Philippines at the turn of the 16th century.

Anchor of the ill-fated San Diego
1/50 scale model of San Diego by Mr. Robert Carpentier
Japanese merchandise carried by San Diego
The Manila galleons, merchandise and route of the galleon trade
Morions (copper alloy). These helmets were possibly made in the Philippines and were based on Spanish armaments
Three of the 14 cannons on board San Diego
Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas por Antonio de Morga, anotado por José Rizal (right and center), and its English translation (left).

Morga wrote the book in 1609, nine years after the sinking of San Diego. He claimed in Sucesos that the sinking of the ship and the eventual loss of more than 300 lives were not his fault. His narrative was refuted by the admiral of Mauritius who called Morga incompetent and coward. He was not a successful as a fleet leader, but he became a well-known historian.

Flora de Filipinas

The book contains detailed illustrations of various plant species in the Philippines. The illustrations are properly labeled and include local and scientific names, the locations where the species than be found, among other things. If I recall correctly, the book was done by a Jesuit.

The San Diego exhibit continues in Gallery III, which contains Spanish and Siamese jars on board San Diego.

Spanish and Siamese jars

The room adjacent to this houses Chinese porcelain that added to the heavy weight of San Diego. There are around 20 shelves that display blue-and-white porcelain, some of which were used by the admiral to wine and dine. San Diego had a nice kitchen with clay pots and a pharmacy.

Brown glaze jar with carved and molded dragon design
Blue-and-white jar with foliated lip rim and base
Blue-and-white porcelain with various designs
Jingdezhen porcelain
High life in high seas

The admiral’s table is a good example of the lavish lifestyle of the members of the Spanish elite in the Philippines in the 1600’s. The dishes and plates are high-quality Chinese porcelain. The silverware were obvious luxurious items as they were very rare at the time (natives used their hands as spoon and fork) and the glassware came from Europe.

Blue-and-white porcelain plates decorated with fallow deer
A footed glass cup from San Diego. It is similar to the style of William Kalf
The pharmacy of San Diego

Aside from porcelain, San Diego also carried jewelry to be worn by men.

Gold jewelry listed in the inventory of San Diego included a gold cord or belt that measures more than two meters and a 13-gram gold seal that had the coat of arms of Morga
An empty room adjacent to the San Diego exhibit

Lantaka of War and Peace

Lantaka is a small swivel gun or weapon used by Filipinos to protect themselves from raids and/or in participating in them. They were mounted on sea vessels or high regions in the communities to protect the people from enemy attacks.
Filipinos continued to use lantaka during Spanish colonization because they were more powerful than bolos or swords; however, not all lantakas were used as weapon. Lantaka with ornate designs were made to show the level of craftsmanship of the maker and were used to decorate the house.

The Origin (Pinagmulan)

This exhibit puts the spotlight on the roots of the Filipino people and how ancient Filipinos lived during the Paleolithic, Neolithic, metallic and ceramic periods. It includes preserved bones of animals that roamed around the archipelago, a recreation of an ancient burial and a kick-ass display of the Butuan boat.

Kasaysayan ng Lahi
Elephant long bone found in Cagayan Valley
Shell middens

Shell middens are dumps constructed by ancient people. They were the Smokey Mountain and Payatas of the Neolithic period, and the totality of the waste products that piled up on these middens show that the ancient diet was primarily consisted of shellfish, fish, birds and land animals.

A reconstruction of the geological layers of the Balobok rock shelter found in Tawi-Tawi

The Balobok Column is a three-layer shell midden structure made during the Neolithic period. The natives constructed the columns from the remains of the seafood that they ate. They cooked the seafood covered by their shells, consumed the meat and saved the shells to build the column. Aside from shells, the column contained animal bones, pottery, stone tools and human teeth, among other things. The ancient people knew how to reduce, reuse and recycle.

The burials in Duyong Cave, Palawan.

Duyong means sea cow, and the cave was named as such due to the plethora of sea cow remains inside the cave. These remains are believed to be the offerings to the dead. Located at the foot of the skeleton of an adult male are shell adzes, which were popular funeral offering during the Neolithic period.

Part of the preserved and reconstructed Butuan boat and a model of the Butuan boat

The photo shows one of the eight boats discovered in Butuan in 1978. The Butuan boat is a balanghay/balangai, an ancient boat used by seafarers to navigate in the waters of the Philippine archipelago and to visit and/or transact business with the neighboring Southeast Asian countries. This discovery boosts the claims of having boat-making technology in the Philippines before the colonizers arrived.

Five Centuries of Maritime Trade

This exhibit shows the maritime trade partners and routes of the early settlers in the Philippines before the arrival of the Westerners. There is a globe that shows the different trade routes conducted by the natives. There is a wall dedicated to the salvaged junks from the different shipwrecks.

Different artifacts salvaged from various boats
Model of the underwater excavation of the Pandan Shipwreck in Palawan

The darkest and eeriest room in the entire museum belongs to the Archaeological Treasures exhibit. This exhibit presents the collection of secondary burial jars excavated from different locations in the country. Ancient Filipinos exhumed the bones of dead loved ones, washed, painted and treated them for long-term preservation. These bones were placed inside the jars and were reburied. The star among these vessels is the Manunggul jar.

Secondary burial jars
Coffin carved out of wood
Anthropomorphic jar covers
Stone figure recovered from a dwelling or a burial site
Secondary burial jar that looks like a human male torso with arm detail
Manunggul jar

Mr. Manunggul jar is a late Neolithic burial jar found inside Manunggul Cave in Lipuun Point, Palawan. The top of the lid shows a boat with two figures – they represent the souls sailing to the afterlife.

The Museum of the Filipino People is in Agrifina Circle, a stone’s throw away from the National Gallery and Rizal Park. It is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00am to 5:00pm. It is closed on Mondays and public holidays. Regular admission price for adult is P150 (US $3.46), senior citizen with ID, P120 (US $2.77), student with ID, P50 (US $1.15) and children below four years old get in for free. Entrance is free to all visitors on Sundays. Gallery tours are available, just contact Museum Education at (02) 527-0278 or at (02) 527-1215.

For more information, please visit www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph.

2 thoughts on “National Museum of the Philippines, Part III (Museum of the Filipino People)

  1. Can I just say what a relief to locate a person who actually knows what theyre talking about on the web. You undoubtedly know the way to bring an concern to light and make it significant. Much more folks really need to read this and fully grasp this side of the story. I cant believe youre not much more favorite simply because you absolutely have the gift.

  2. Well, the Philippines has a rich history tracing back from the Neolithic period. A question suddenly entered my mind, an inquiry that has been included in the quests of the historians and histologists since long ago, that is still a mystery even at the present period: How did the history of human race really begin?

    I feel interested on rediscovering the Filipino culture and traditions through tracing back the history. In this way I can grasp a bigger picture of what is happening today in the Philippine society. I really have lot of things to know about our country. I am hoping to visit many historical places in the Philippines. Thanks for the blogs!

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