Tuesday, March 13, 2018

122. GINTO: Pre-Spanish Gold Collection of Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)

"BSP precolonial collection provides insights into a glorious past we Filipinos can be truly proud of. First, that we had a distinct culture and art tradition that resulted from a fusion of indigenous and diverse foreign influences. Second, that our ancestors had both the artistry and the technical ingenuity to craft these magnificent and complex gold pieces that remain much-admired by contemporary artisans. And, third, that we had a flourishing economy with active domestic and international trade conducted through barter and gold payment" - BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr.


This royal kandit or belt for high royalty is the heaviest of seven magnificent gold sashes in the Bank Sentral ng Pilipinas Pre-Hispanic Gold Collection.  It weights more than one kilogram (1055.7 grams) and is 74.2 centimeters or 29 inches long.

It is handcrafted by inserting very fine gold wires in a tight and solid loop-in-loop weave – a techniques unique to ancient Philippines. If this were to be made entirely by hand today, it would tak an artisan about a year to complete.

The kandit is a symbol of power in traditional societies in Mindanao to this day. The modern day kandit is made of handwoven silk and other prized materials.


Gold ornamentation was an indication of status with the amount of gold on a person directly proportional to one’s prestige.
These finials or belt buckles are meant to be joined by a cord slipped through the folds. At the center of each buckle is a mandala from which graduating energy or power appears to radiate. This is believed to be diagram or depiction of the ruling elite.


It was not uncommon to find classic gold ornaments with diagrammatic forms or with composition based on various combinations of squares, circles or crosses. These large ear ornaments from Mindoro resembles an abstract flower where deft snips on the sides suggest petals. In each center is a dome surrounded by rings of plain wire and circles twisted ones. The centers’ rims are edged with dot work. Because of the frequency of this motif, it is believed that the flower was extremely important as a symbol of ancient concepts of life. The design also suggests familiarity with Hindu-Buddhist concepts as well as Chinese mythology, fused with indigenous traditions.


It is said that some of the most aesthetically pleasing ancient gold ornaments have been found in the Philippines. It was during pre-colonial times that there was such political, economic and social progress, allowing the development and honing of primary artistic skills.

These dangling earrings are called, patan-aw or “look at me” earrings as their movements are meant to call attention to the wearer. Articulation or the movement of joined parts is achieved by fusing zigzagging gold wire into hallow hoops. From these dangle multiple round rhomboidal and foliate spangles.


Then and now, gold remains as a store value. Gold was not only used as jewelry but also as currency. In ancient times, barter rings called panika and pellets called pitoncitos were used for exchanged within and outside the tribe, even in international trade, Butuan, Samar, Mindoro, Bohol, and other Philippine Islands were part of a trading system that included parts of Borneo and Sulawesi starting in 10th century.

These barter rings- as big as doughnuts-were formed through a technique of hammering and extrusion through a metal block. Waves reminiscent of the sea and running scrolls are engraved on the rings. The rings were used as dowry for royal weddings and kept as heirlooms.


Weapons with gold handles were used in ceremonies, and gold itself was regarded to have amuletic properties, an important property of rituals, gold was thought of as a divine substances conferring longevity on the possessor or a powerful talisman capable of protecting the bearer.

This intricately designed dagger handle from the Surigao treasure seemingly depicts a sub amidst mystical flames. In several cultures, birds are associated with the supernatural- as they fly, bringing earth and sky, In old Philippines language, the sun was also called hari or king.


Fashioning raw materials into fine pieces of wrought gold called great skill.

This handicraft necklace is made up of 6,000 to 7,000 drops of granulated gold granules. Some beads were flattened to create a shimmering effect reminiscent of the tails of a dragonfly or tutubi. The strands overlap in multiple layers and are meant to be worn high on the neck.


These conical finials are usually fine. The granulation, using sizes of up to 0.025 centimeters, coud have only been executed by a master of the technique, a skilled panday-ginto or goldsmith.

This pair of funnel-like necklace terminals is the biggest pair in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas collection. Their uniqueness lies in having “double gourd” annexes at the narrow and with their flaring and strips wrapped and reinforced around a wire ring. The detail of each funnel is phenomenal as each has three main bordered sections: the middle has a rhomboidal pattern, while the upper and lower sections have long-haired human figures, holding long banners as they dance around the archetypal tree of life.


Ornamentation elaborately provided by this necklace was a measure of prestige and wealth. Gold was also considers protection against stealth attacks. This long linked–up kamagi is made up of interlocking tooth-like graduated, short, and spherical beads with semated edges. A snake spine may have been its inspiration. The necklace has conical finials with granulation. It incorporated imported glass beads, which at that time were very rare and expensive.


Ancient Filipinos exhibited strong individualism expressed in the multiple parts of their ornamentation and in the unique details in their designs. The combined weight of these five gold forearm sectional wraps is 32.4 grams. Made of strips of gold sheet edged with twisted gold wire and tube-and-pin locks, the motif and pattern of palmetto and rosette suggest early contact with the west. It is believed that a clear indigenous cultural identity allowed an outward orientation while sustaining the integrity of the unique Philippine design.


These heavy ornaments of pure gold are design unique to the Philippines. The widest bracelet, which is completely hand-forged, is waisted and features transverse furrowed lines with thick curved leaves at both ends. The narrowed cuff has hick reverse scallops, deepening their concave effect. The pattern was raised by hammering. There appears to be no sign of casting.


The borrowed designs of these finials shaped like Hindu-Buddhist architecture hint at an era of cosmopolitanization, brought about by cultural exchanges, trade, conventions and permitted by economic and political opportunities.

In the ancient manuscript known as the Boxer Codex (ca. 1590), illustrations show Filipino noblemen wearing these ornaments weighing down a waist cord.