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‘Gold in the Philippines. Forms, Meaning and Metamorphosis’, in F. H. Capistrano-Baker (ed.), Philippine Ancestral Gold. Manila, Ayala Museum; Singapore, NUS Press, 2011: 162-188.

Philippine Gold in Early Asian Trade
Style and Dating
Goldworking Techniques in the Ayala Museum’s Collection
Ke n n e t h es g u e r r a
Chapter 3
Gold in the Philippines
Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
Jo h n gu y
The Moros understand the laws of gold better than we do.
In this island there is much gold, in sheets, among the natives; and,
although they trade but little, they understand the value of the gold, and
know how to adulterate it by mixing it with silver, tin, copper, brass, and
other metals brought from China.…The best gold obtained is [a] grade called
guino-gulan, which means “the lord of golds;” it weighs about twenty-two
karats. From this is made the jewelry which they inherit from their ancestors,
with which they never part.1
So reported Francisco de Sande, the Spanish governor-general of
the newly claimed Philippines, on June 8, 1577.
Gold has long held a fascination for the peoples of Asia, and from
the earliest available records for the Philippines, these islands were no
exception. Since the beginnings of the history of metallurgy in Asia, gold
has been harvested, rst gathered as nuggets from riverbeds and other
alluvial sources and then extracted from mined ore. In the Philippines,
the rugged young land formations rich in gold ore are subjected to the
annual onslaught of the monsoon, causing them to yield up their riches
every year in the owing rivers and allowing rich harvests to be panned
through placer mining. Particles of gold have been panned from the
riverbeds and estuaries of these islands and wrought into ornaments
since at least the early centuries BC. Although Spanish accounts indicate
that mined gold ore was being extracted in the Cordillera mountain range
of Luzon island and elsewhere before contact, widespread subterranean
mining (lode) appears to be a later development. Larger scale mining was
encouraged by the Spanish in their desire to extract maximum wealth
from the “islands of Philip.” Both techniques of gold gathering are still
practiced in the Philippines today.2
Goldworking skills accrue over millennia. In the Philippines, a
person who masters important skills was known as panday, a generic
term applied to blacksmiths, goldsmiths, and other craftsmen in the
sixteenth century.3 Goldsmiths were probably peripatetic, moving among
communities in need of their skills and gravitating to the most powerful
centers of patronage. A set of small tools, scale, and touchstone was all
that was needed (gs. 3.1 & 3.2). Goldsmith’s touchstones have been
found archaeologically, and the early Spanish observers commented
with some surprise how common it was to see local villagers equipped
with such a tool. Governor-General Francisco de Sande wrote that
should any local person be paid in gold, he “immediately takes out
the touchstone which he carries with him” to ascertain the purity or
otherwise of the gold offered in the transaction.4
The Wu xue Bian (a non-ofcial history of Ming up to 1521) by
Zheng Xiao states that “Luzon produces gold which is the reason for
its wealth.”5 A distinctive type of gold punch coin, the piloncito, was
recorded in nds in Rizal and Laguna provinces, near Manila.6 This
type of coin is known from Srivijayan sites and found in two shipwreck
cargoes discovered in the Java Sea: the Belitung (Tang) shipwreck dated
to the second quarter of the ninth century and the late tenth century
Intan shipwreck. Clearly these early gold punch coins circulated widely
along the Southeast Asian intraregional trading system.
Philippine Gold in Early AsianTrade
Among the earliest archaeologically recorded gold nds are gold
earrings unearthed in association with a Novaliches pottery complex in
Luzon, dated from the early centuries BC to no later than the third or
fourth century AD. Gold beads of similar date have been recorded in jar
burial assemblages in Palawan island, an indication that the processing
of gold for personal adornment was established early in the history of
the Philippines.7 Other datable nds, such as those from Bohol, in the
Fig. 3.1 Goldsmiths in Pidië
(province of Aceh, North Sumatra)
Photographer unknown, approx. 1910
Courtesy KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute
for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies
Fig. 3.2 Balance scales from the so-called Surigao Treasure
Compare with those seen in Fig. 3.1. Similar scales have been
recovered from a mid-10th century shipwreck cargo excavated in the
Java Sea, the so-called Cirebon shipwreck.
Cat. no. 81.LC.5124
Gold in the Philippines
Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
Jo h n gu y
166 Philippine Ancestral Gold
167Chapter 3 | Gold in the Philippines: Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
central islands of the Visayas, include more complex assemblages of
gold artifacts, such as repoussé ornaments, beads, dental inlay, and
gold foil. Some of these items may date as late as 900 AD.8
These earliest Philippine archaeological records make clear that
gold was intimately associated with funerary practices. Gold was the
favored material for dressing the dead with items of adornment. In
addition, gold-sheet covers were placed over bodily orices as part of
the internment, a custom practiced throughout mainland and island
Southeast Asia (g. 3.3).9 The widespread use of sheet gold—cut,
repousséd, and chased—has its origins in the Bronze Age culture of
coastal China and Taiwan, where it was employed in the manufacture
Fig. 3.3a One-piece eye cover
Probably Leyte
Cat. no. 71.4039
Fig. 3.4 Local sailing craft (
) of edge-pegged and lashed construction and 15 meters
in length, during excavation in a riverine site at the estuary of the Agusan River near Butuan
City, Agusan del Norte province, Mindanao
Dated by association with Song period of Guangdong ceramics to 10th-12th century
Courtesy the National Museum of the Philippines
The nds of pre-Hispanic gold in the Philippines are largely
concentrated around the small area of sea bordered by the Butuan region
of northern Mindanao, Bohol, Leyte, and Samar. Other major sources
are Mindoro, Cuyo, and Luzon. The Chinese Song Shi (Song History) lists
Ma-i (Mindoro) among the foreign countries whose merchants were to
be regulated when they traded with China. The post of Superintendent
of Maritime Trade was established at Guangzhou in 972, linking the
Philippines directly to the international trading system of the late rst
millennium. Butuan (P’u-tuan, according to the Chinese), by contrast,
is listed as having regular trade with Champa rather than with China.
However, within 30 years Butuan was emboldened to bypass Champa
Fig. 3.5 Dish with iron-painted oral
Xicun, 10th-12th century
Courtesy the National Museum of the
Fig. 3.3c Nose cover
Liloan, Leyte
Cat. no. 67.4026
Fig. 3.3b Mouth cover
Probably Leyte
Cat. no. 71.4041
of funerary masks and individual eye, nose, and mouth covers. The
earliest Philippine contacts were presumably with southern China,
or Nanyue, and Champa in central Vietnam. Although the meaning
attached to these burial accoutrements remains unclear, these objects
are presumed to assist in protecting the soul of the deceased.
In the late phase of the prehistoric period of Southeast Asia—
dened as the rst millennium BC to mid-rst millennium AD—there
already existed shared cultural practices linked with the burial of the
dead as well as the production of associated gold artifacts of a unied
concept and style. To explain such a degree of cultural homogeneity in
specic terms is difcult, but a general assumption can be made that
these practices reect some degree of common ancestry of which these
afterlife beliefs were a part.
Gold sources in the Philippines were rst systematically recorded
by the Spanish who, fresh from their conquests in Central America,
were intent on plundering these newly discovered islands. Antonio
Pigafetta reported in 1521 that his captain, Ferdinand Magellan,
prized the island of Cebu in the Visayas for its trade in gold and slaves.
The neighboring island of Bohol was said to be another rich source
of gold. The startling nds of spectacular gold jewelry in the past 30
years conrm the importance of nearby Samar and Mindanao as both
gold sources and manufacturing centers. The nds from around Butuan
City in Mindanao are of a consistently higher quality than those from
Samar, suggesting separate manufacturing centers.
and open direct relations with Song China. In 1003 the ruler of Butuan
sent the rst annual tribute mission to China, trading, among other
goods, camphor and cloves, which in turn must have been sourced from
eastern Indonesia. Butuan at the beginning of the eleventh century was
therefore actively connecting Sabah (for camphor), Sulu (for pearls),
Maluku (for cloves), and probably Timor (for sandalwood) with the
markets of China.10
The kingdoms that emerged and were sustained by this trade wealth
supported one of the most splendid chapters in the history of gold in the
Philippines, as the modern discoveries from Butuan testify. A clear link
between gold and trade was established with the excavation of several
local sailing craft, or balangay, in riverine sites near Butuan City (g.
3.4).11 These intraregional trading vessels were found in association
with tenth-to-twelfth century Chinese trade ceramics predominantly
produced in Guangdong in the Northern Song period (960-1127) and
southern Yue wares of the following two centuries, providing a reliable
indicator of dating of the sites and associated artifacts, including
processed gold. The kilns of Xicun, located a short distance upriver
from Guangzhou, are most heavily represented, though other southern
kilns of Guangdong are present, including Dongguan, Nanhai Guanyao,
and Meixian.13 A particularly distinctive ceramic for which secure tenth-
to-eleventh century dating exists is a Xicun dish with incised or carved
oral decor on the cavetto combined with iron spotting (g. 3.5).12
The iron-spotting decor is also applied to covered boxes assigned to
Xicun kilns, in direct imitation of Fujian and Jiangxi qingbai wares.
A 1981 excavation at Masago in Agusan del Norte near Butuan led
by Warren Peterson yielded examples of these wares in carbon-dated
burial contexts associated with processed gold, including both jewelry
(necklace chain, an ear ornament, and what appear to be gold appliqué
168 Philippine Ancestral Gold
169Chapter 3 | Gold in the Philippines: Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
discs and lozenges) and funerary eye covers (see Peterson, in this
volume). Two gold items are particularly valuable nds in this dated
context, a chain necklace of “gear” beads and an ornament presumed
to be an ear decoration. These nds demonstrate the existence of
complex goldworking techniques in this period.
Two other securely datable archaeological contexts for Five
Dynasties (907-960) and early Northern Song ceramics and gold
artifacts have appeared in recent years. These are the Intan (1997)
and Cirebon (2004-5) shipwrecks, both found in the Java Sea and both
assignable on numismatic as well as ceramic evidence to the mid-tenth
century. Both vessels were of lashed-lug and doweled construction, a
Western Austronesian tradition of boatbuilding.14 Both also are in the
same maritime tradition of ship architecture as the balangay of Butuan.15
The cargo mixes of the Java Sea wrecks are likewise comparable, with
large volumes of Chinese southern kilns ceramics and lesser quantities
of West Asian trade goods and regional products.
The Intan’s Chinese lead coinage was issued by the Southern Han
(Nanhan) kingdom of Guangzhou and was in circulation for much
of the century from 917.16 The Cirebon’s lead coinage is identied as
belonging to the Qian Heng Zhong Bao era of the Nanhan kingdom
(917-971). The ceramic cargoes are the largest corpus of evidence we
have of Chinese ceramic production for the tenth century export trade.
Many of the glaze types—white wares, Yue wares—are represented in
the National Museum of Indonesia’s historical collection, indicating
that other cargoes of this time frame also circulated in Indonesia.
Both cargoes included not only large volumes of utilitarian bowls and
dishes, but also select luxury wares, such as Yue glazed ceramic pillows
and incense burners. The ceramic nds from tenth-century Mindanao
appear less varied, being conned largely to Guangdong wares.
The Cirebon wreck had a signicant number of gold objects and
a set of goldsmith’s scales. Precious metal objects include jewelry,
some set with semi-precious stones, a gold hinged box, and two highly
ornate hilt xtures (g. 3.33). The Intan wreck had a consignment
of 97 Chinese silver ingots, presumably representing payment to a
merchant for a major order, perhaps of aromatics, delivered to the
markets of Guangzhou. Both the Java Sea wrecks had high-value
components to their cargoes.
The balangay excavations in Butuan yielded traces of raw and
wrought gold and some tools associated with gold processing and
working. These suggest that the vessels played a role in the distribution
of gold around the Philippines and perhaps beyond, and that goldsmiths
traveled on these crafts. The nds point to this region being established
early—some time in the rst millennium—as a gold producing and
processing center with regional and perhaps international connections.
Indian traders, for instance, were already operating at the kingdom of
Kutei on the eastern coast of Borneo, days sailing from Mindanao. 17
These centers of goldworking in the southern Philippines must
have become part of the Asian trading boom around the end of the
rst millennium. At the beginning of the eleventh century the kingdom
of Butuan was recognized by the Northern Song government of China
as an important trading partner. The ceramic nds associated with the
balangay of Butuan and those associated with the Masago burial sites in
Agusan del Norte, upriver of Butuan on the Agusan River (see Peterson,
in this volume) give substance to these claims.
While many gold discoveries in the southern Philippines are found
with grave goods, the most dramatic and signicant hoards discovered
in modern times appear to be associated with royal citadels. The nds
in the Butuan region were retrieved from a number of habitation and
burial sites, some of which included tools and materials associated with
goldworking.18 The scale of these hoards, however, suggests something
more. No goldsmith would have had such a store of wealth, nor would
individual graves have yielded such concentrations of riches. Rather,
we may be looking at nds that indicate a palace treasury. One of these
nds, the so-called Surigao Treasure was uncovered in nearby Surigao
del Sur province by accident and dispersed by looters, so its precise
nature cannot now be determined. It comprised some 10 kilograms of
gold jewelry and weapons. The objects, discovered during construction
work in 1981, were recovered from a localized area in Magroyong, in
the township of San Miguel.19
It is possible that the Surigao hoard represented the treasury of the
Butuan kingdom, and the site, now destroyed, its citadel. The location
of a local ruler’s fortied citadel on the high ground overlooking a
major river estuary is typical of a pattern of early Southeast Asian
urban settlement seen throughout the rst millennium. It is the norm
in the coastal kingdoms of early Champa and is repeated in Borneo,
Sumatra, and at numerous locations in Southeast Asia. Such locations
had the dual advantage of controlling access to the hinterland—the
source of a region’s mineral and forest products—and allowing access
to the maritime trading system that desired such commodities. This
provided the model for the transition from clan polities to larger
political units and the emergence of kingdoms, often cloaked in the
trappings of Indian kingship and statecraft. The Surigao Treasure is
most substantial evidence that the Butuan kingdom was centered
there, as few architectural traces remain. Unlike their counterparts in
coastal Champa, for example, which built in red brick, the Butuan
rulers appear to have constructed their citadel in timber, no doubt
fortied with a bamboo palisade, of which nothing survives.
Early Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, is largely devoid of
a written history, and it is to neighboring cultures that we must turn for
the earliest descriptions of gold in the region’s societies. Indian texts
that have their origins in the early centuries BC refer to the island regions
to India’s east as Suvarnadvipa, or Island of Gold, and Suvarnabhumi,
or Land of Gold.20 Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain texts contain references
to Indian merchants venturing east to these distant lands to secure
supplies of gold. Chinese silk was imported at Pompuhar, the ancient
port of Kaveripattinam in coastal Tamil Nadu, South India, in the
early centuries AD, according to the romance-drama Cilappatikaram,21
probably by Tamil merchants operating via entrepôts in the Malay
Peninsula. Western Indonesia, in particular, yielded a steady supply of
gravel—and river-borne alluvial gold. Sumatra, Borneo, and the Malay
Peninsula all played a role in this trade.
Was the Butuan region of Mindanao also linked to this trading
system? Evidence of goldworking activity in Borneo conrms that
Tamils were active in this process. By at least the fth century, Indians
of South Indian origin were an established part of the community at
Kutei, located at the estuary of the Mahakam river system in eastern
Kalimantan. This is evidenced by the presence of seven Sanskrit yupa
stele inscriptions found at Muara Kaman, dedicated by a local ruler who
assumed the Indic-form name of Mulavarman to record the performance
of Vedic sacrice rituals. The Kelai-Segah river system north of Kutei is
noted by the Dutch Borneo Expedition of 1925 as being a particularly
rich source of alluvial gold.22 Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula were
also key centers of this early gold trade activity, along with others in
Borneo itself, such as Sarawak.23
A goldsmith’s touchstone found at one of the earliest identied
entrepôts of peninsular Thailand—Wat Khlong Thom, Krabi province—
bears a newly deciphered inscription in Tamil-Brahmi script of the
third or fourth century: Perumpatan kal (“[This] is the [touch]stone of
Perumpatan”), patan or pattan meaning goldsmith.24 This is the earliest
known Brahmi inscription in Southeast Asia and clear evidence that
Indian merchants ventured early to the region to secure gold. A fth
or early sixth century stone stele erected in the Lembah Bujang river
estuary in Kedah, Malaysia, records thanksgivings for a safe journey
expressed by a Buddhist merchant calling himself “Buddhagupta,”
probably a resident of another entrepôt in the region.25 Three such
commemorative steles have been recovered from the river valley,
indicative of sustained activity by Indian Buddhists.
The activities of these Indian traders and artisans may have been
the catalyst for commercial-scale extraction of alluvial gold from the
rivers of Sumatra, West Java (Sunda), the Malay Peninsula, and Borneo.
Certainly Indian gold traders have left evidence of their activity in
many of these places.26 Although we have no direct evidence of their
presence as far north as the Philippines, the importance of such centers
as Kutei raises the possibility that gold-rich regions like Mindanao were
engaged in supplying gold to the Indonesian trading network.
The discovery in 1917 of the “Agusan image,” most probably a
Buddhist goddess, from the Agusan-Surigao area of northeastern
Mindanao, is rare but not unique; Buddhist bronze images have
reportedly been found in Cebu.27 The goddess is a solid-cast gold
image of a seated female deity weighing 1.8 kilograms. As discussed
170 Philippine Ancestral Gold
171Chapter 3 | Gold in the Philippines: Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
in Chapter 4, the image may be identied as a Buddhist Tantric female
divinity associated with Vajradhatu mandala ensembles known in
Javanese Buddhism of the late tenth to eleventh century.28 Comparison
with Javanese bronze images indicates the type: a gure in meditative
posture, adorned with a torque, armbands and bracelets, and a body
cord that passed between the breasts; a diadem and tiered chignon,
with nimbus, complete the representation (g. 4.75). The prototype is a
Vajrabodhisattva, possibly belonging to the Tattvalokakari Vajradhatu
mandala, composed by Anandagaraba , a scholar-monk probably based
at Nalanda mahavihara, or monastery, in Bihar, eastern India, in the
tenth century (g. 3.6).29 This Tantric mandala was rapidly disseminated
throughout the Buddhist diaspora and is known in Java from the late
tenth century.
Its Hindu-Buddhist associations alert us to the possibility of trade
between Mindanao and the Java Sea realm. While this image belongs
to the Hindu-Buddhist tradition of Java, it may have been made locally
based on an imported model or at a regional outpost known for its ob-
servance of these traditions, most notably one of the small kingdoms
in eastern or southern Borneo. As noted, the kingdom of Kutei was a
major producer of alluvial gold since at least the fth century, support-
ing a community of Indian Brahmin priests for their spiritual needs.
The site of Muara Kaman, where the yupa stones were recovered, also
yielded in 1840 a small, gold seated Buddha and a gold standing Vishnu
image (gs. 3.7, 3.8 & 3.9). This ancient Vishnu image has been mount-
ed on a garuda wings setting in later times and is seen being worn as
part of royal regalia at Kutei around 1883.
Another seated Buddha was found near Tabang, Kutei. This may
be compared with the Agusan image.30 The Dutch archaeologist F.D.K.
Bosch, who rst described the Tabang nd, insightfully compared it
with Nganjuk-style bronzes of eleventh century Java, though he missed
the prototype, that of a Buddhist goddess from a Tantric mandala.
Kutei, then a major historical gold supplier with links both to the
Hindu-Buddhist realm of the Java Sea and to Mindanao via the Sulu
archipelago, is a likely contender for the source of the Agusan image
or as an intermediary for a Javanese import. A Chinese Yuan source,
Fig. 3.6 Seated Esoteric Buddhist Deity
Indonesia (Java), Eastern Javanese period, ca. second half of the 11th century
Bronze with traces of gold lacquer, 6 3/5 in. (16.8 cm) height
1987.142.58 Samuel Eilenberg Collection, Gift of Samuel Eilenberg, 1987
©The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, N.Y.
Fig. 3.8 Vishnu amulet found in 1840 at
Muara Kaman, Kutei
Attributed to the 10th century
Solid gold, ca. 10 cm height
Kutei Museum, Tenggarong, Kabupaten Kutei,
East Kalimantan
Photograph courtesy E. Edwards McKinnon
Fig. 3.7 Crown-prince of the Sultanate of Kutei,
wearing the Vishnu amulet (Fig. 3.8)
East Kalimantan (the former East Borneo)
Photographer unknown, ca. 1883
Courtesy KITLV/ Royal Netherlands Institute for
Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies
Fig. 3.9 Seated Buddha in earth-touching
posture (
Found in Muara Kaman in 1840 and formerly
part of the Kutei Sultanate Regalia
Attributed to the 10th century or later
Solid gold, ca. 6 cm height
Kutei Museum, Tenggarong, Kabupaten Kutei,
East Kalimantan
Photograph courtesy E. Edwards McKinnon
the Nanhai Zhi of ca. 1300, acknowledges the ongoing existence of this
kingdom as Ku-ti.31 This same source recognizes a number of Philippine
The Cham kingdoms are presumed to have had close trading
links with the Philippines from the rst millennium, although the
archaeological record to support this dates only from later times as
witnessed by the recent excavations at the Go Sanh ceramic kilns in
southern Binh Dinh province in Champa, which were active from the
fourteenth century through the later sixteenth century. Ceramics from
these kilns were recovered from the Pandanan shipwreck found in
Philippine waters.32 Nonetheless, earlier connections seem highly likely,
172 Philippine Ancestral Gold
173Chapter 3 | Gold in the Philippines: Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
Fig. 3.10 The Laguna copper plate inscription
Dated Saka Era 822, equivalent to AD 900
Recovered in 1900 during the dredging of the Lumbang River,
Laguna de Bay, Luzon
Photograph courtesy the National Museum of the Philippines
as the Chinese sources suggest. A signicant and early link has been
postulated on the basis of shared linguistic characteristics of Cham
and Tagalog, which point to the possibility of shared ancestry.33 Added
to this is the presence of Sanskrit loan words in Tagalog, which must
have been transmitted via prolonged interaction with the western
Indonesian world. The Srivijaya kingdom of Sumatra used Old Malay,
and the Central Javanese and Majapahit kingdoms employed Old
Javanese, both languages laden with Sanskrit words. This linguistic
indebtedness points to the early Philippines as having strong and
sustained contacts with both mainland and insular Southeast Asia.
This has major implications for the role of gold in early Philippine
culture and supports the interpretation of the use of gold in these early
societies as reecting a shared ancestry and culture.
The oldest record to afrm the material value of gold in Philippine
society, as opposed to its symbolic value, is the Laguna copper plate
inscription, dated Saka Era 822, equivalent to 900 AD (g. 3.10).34 This
is both the oldest dated inscription yet known from the Philippines and
a unique document, the only Philippine record written in the Early Kawi
script associated with Java of the eighth to tenth century. That it was
locally produced and not imported from Java has been demonstrated by
the identication of place names, most notably Pulilan, a former name
Northern Song period in Butuan, the kingdom probably used Guangzhou
as the preferred port of entry. According to the Song Shi, the rst mission
arrived on March 17, 1003, from Butuan, which the Chinese called P’u-
tuan, trading both local products such as tortoiseshell and exotic birds
and others that suggest links with West Asian trading systems, such
as glassware, sugar, and rosewater. Islamic-period West Asian glass
and ceramics recently recorded in ninth and tenth century shipwreck
cargoes from the Java Sea adds credibility to such accounts.39 Three
years later the Butuan mission was denied payment in precious metals,
suggesting that the Chinese authorities recognized that the outow of
gold and silver had reached an unacceptable level.40 In the course of
the next two centuries, Chinese awareness of the numerous kingdoms
of the Philippines grew, as did trade, so that by the beginning of the
thirteenth century, regular exchange took place between south China,
increasingly via the Fujian port city of Quanzhou, and Luzon, Mindoro,
Palawan, Basilan, Cebu, and Butuan. A Sulu chief, Paduka Batara, died
in China in 1417 while on a trade mission, underscoring this ongoing
These early commercial exchanges between the Philippines and
China open up the possibility of both the circulation of processed gold
and stylistic exchanges. Yet there is scant evidence of either. Chinese
gold was certainly sought by Southeast Asian traders in the eleventh
century, but whether these included Filipinos is not stated. What is clear
is that the bulk of the goldwork produced in the Philippines prior to the
fteenth century shows little stylistically that suggest an indebtedness
to Chinese models, save when direct copies were being made of Chinese
vessels, such as a footed cup and stemmed bowl (cat. nos. 69.3309 &
81.5166). One notable exception is an openwork container depicting a
kilin, or a mythical quadruped, on one side and a phoenix on the other
(Cat. no. 81.5180).
The discovery of a number of gold items in a Chinese shipwreck, the
Nanhai I, off the coast of Guangdong in 1987, raises some interesting
evidence in this context. The vessel is a Chinese junk and was, judging
from its surviving cargo of ceramics from the Jingdezhen, Longquan,
Dehua, and Cizao kilns (the latter two centers particularly famous
for export production to the Philippines), on its outward journey. The
vessel can be dated on numismatic and ceramic evidence, to the second
quarter of the twelfth century, the early phase of the Southern Song
period.42 The cargo included a gold chain, of what appears to be loop-in-
loop chain construction with a squared prole similar to the Philippine
chains known as pinarogmok, and with granulated triangular designs
for the Laguna de Bay lake area east of Manila. In his Zhufanshi or
Description of Barbarian Peoples (1225), Zhao Rugua, the superintendent
of Overseas Trade at the cosmopolitan port city of Quanzhou in Fujian,
refers to “P’u-li-lu” as an island near Luzon.35
The copper plate was discovered in 1990 at Laguna de Bay, having
been dredged from the Lumbang River bed in Laguna province. Its
importance lies in part in its contribution to an understanding of the
linguistic complexities of Old Tagalog—which point to a merging of
shared elements of Old Malay and Old Javanese, with a sprinkling
of borrowings from Sanskrit transmitted via Old Javanese.36 In the
context of the present discussion, this remarkable document provides
two important insights. First, it links the northern Philippines at the
close of the rst millennium with the Malay realm powers of the
day, most notably Srivijaya, and the Sailendra dynasty of western
Indonesia, and implies substantial commercial contacts with them. The
second signicance lies in the inscription’s stated purpose: to exempt
a named individual from a commercial debt, expressed in weight of
gold (su or suvana in Sanskrit). This is the earliest reference in the
Philippines to the role of gold as a form of currency, an agreed measure
of value. It contradicts statements made by Spanish commentators of
the late sixteenth century, such as de Sande, who wrote that the local
population source and process gold only to the extent that they need it
to satisfy requirements of personal adornment. The Laguna inscription
suggests that a major debt warranted the production of a complex
legal document (constructed following an Indian model, a jayapatra, no
doubt imported via Java) to record its cancellation, expressed in units
of gold. The signicance of this document for the status and ascribed
value of gold is beyond question: Gold in tenth century Luzon served as
a measure of value, the beginnings of monetized transactions.37
This coincides with the rst Chinese records to mention the islands
of the Philippines. In 972 an ofce supervising maritime trade was
established at Guangzhou to regulate merchants from the Nanhai, or
Southern Seas. Ma-i, or Mindoro, was listed as a trading partner. These
foreign merchants brought the forest and sea products of Southeast
Asia to exchange for Chinese silk, ceramics, and base and precious
metals, including gold and silver.38 Whether these Filipino traders
solicited gold is unclear. If they did, it was not because of a lack of local
sources; rather, they sought it because it was a commodity they could
acquire inexpensively and sell protably. Some 30 years later, Butuan
began sending a series of tribute missions to China in the years 1003-
1011. Judging from the concentrations of Guangdong ceramics of the
on the terminals.43 Whil e other aspects of the chain’s construction are
undocumented to date, there is a high probability that this chain is
of Philippine origin (Fig. 3.11). A second item of gold jewelry from
the same shipwreck recovery is a hollow bangle bracelet with twisted
wire ligree, both construction techniques practiced in the Philippines
(g. 3.12). The decor is repousséd with raised ve-petaled owers
alternating with claw settings, one of which still contains a pearl.
The Sulu region was famous for its supply of pearls to China in this
period. The strong technical and aesthetic associations with Philippine
goldworking strengthen the case for both the bracelet and chain being
of Philippine origin. If future analysis conrms this, then we would have
the rst evidence of Philippine gold jewelry being traded with southern
China.44 The presence of these items on a vessel embarking from China
raises other questions: Were these unsold stock of a merchant trading
with the Philippines? Or were these personal possessions of such a
Fig. 3.12 Gold bracelet
Probably of Philippine origin. Excavated from
the Nanhai I shipwreck, Guangdong
Probably second quarter of the 12th century
Courtesy Guangdong Maritime Silkroad
Fig. 3.11 Gold chain
Probably of Philippine origin. Excavated from
the Nanhai I shipwreck, Guangdong
Probably second quarter of the 12th century
Photograph courtesy of Dr. Wei Jun
174 Philippine Ancestral Gold
175Chapter 3 | Gold in the Philippines: Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
The most complete account of the display of Philippine gold
jewelry comes from the illustrations that accompany the Boxer Codex,
a late sixteenth century compendium of contemporary sources.45 This
manuscript was probably commissioned in Manila by a wealthy and
learned Spaniard highly placed in the colonial government and with
access to condential reports. British historian C. R. Boxer suggests
that the patron may have been either the governor-general of the
Philippines at the time, Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas, or his son, Luis. The
artist appears to have been Chinese (as is the paper used) and was
probably one of those known to have been working in the European
manner on ecclesiastical commissions in Manila.
The Boxer Codex’s illustrations of local dress and jewelry are highly
descriptive and may be taken to be based on direct observation. As such,
they may be assigned a high degree of reliability as historical sources.
Indeed, they provide a unique insight into traditional dress of this era.
They predominantly depict local chiefs, or datu, and their wives, who
dene their status and wealth principally through the display of gold
ornaments and weapons. To describe their accoutrements and compare
them with the spectacular gold nds from the Visayan islands and the
Butuan area of Mindanao is to present the case for both a strong Filipino
design repertoire in traditional gold jewelry and a powerful sense of
continuity in the centuries leading up to the Spanish intervention. The
question of dating adds a layer of complexity to this thesis as so little
of these nds have a recorded archaeological context. But the problem
of dating can be addressed, in part, by looking at historical context and
stylistic indicators.
Traditional adornment in Filipino society in the pre-Spanish
intervention era may be described as follows, using as our guide the
Boxer Codex paintings and extant examples:
From head to foot, the datu of sixteenth century Philippines chose
to signal his rank by wearing jewelry. That the Filipino word for jewelry,
hiyas, shares the same etymology as the Malay hias, meaning “well
dressed” or “beautied,” underscores both the meaning and purpose
of this lavish level of personal adornment. The concept is not so far
removed from the Indian concept of alamkara, best translated as
beautication through adornment. Lavish and sophisticated personal
adornment elsewhere in Southeast Asia tends to be associated with
what we might characterize as mature societies, that is, those that have
a high level of urbanization marked by major monumental architectural
legacies. This is a particularly European perspective that identied
Fig. 3.13 Diadem with crenellations
Northeastern Mindanao
Cat. no. 76.4815
Fig. 3.15 Openwork diadem
Northeastern Mindanao
Cat. no. 77.5007
Fig. 3.14 Diadem with buds
Northeastern Mindanao
Cat. no. 77.5071
town and temple builders as representing a higher level of development
than those who used bamboo and timber houses and boats as the tools
most appropriate to their needs. Nonetheless, what distinguishes the
Philippine goldworking tradition is that it displays a level of renement
matched only by the kingdoms of Java. Although gold jewelry played an
important role in mainland Southeast Asian kingdoms, such as those
of Champa, Angkor, and Dvaravati (central Thailand), these depended
mostly on simple sheet and repoussé methods of construction, rarely
displaying the technical complexity and level of skill evident in Philippine
workmanship.46 Only the Javanese goldsmiths rivaled their Philippine
counterparts in the use of complex construction and the combining of
multiple techniques in both fabrication and ornamentation.
Headbands of cloth are a recurring feature of the chiefs depicted
in the Boxer Codex, and diadems and coronets of sheet gold—cut and
sometimes repousséd—were favored, we assume, by both men and
women of rank (Cat. no. 76.4479). Most of the surviving diadems come
from presumed burial sites. They are thinly hammered sheet gold with
cutwork designs, often giving the appearance of being hastily produced.
Off-cuts and snippings of gold have been found in association with
some burials, suggesting that these were made in situ at the time of
burial expressly for funerary purposes.47 It is clear, however, from the
Boxer Codex depictions that diadems were also employed in daily use.
The hammered gold headbands display recurring patterns of
crenellations or ower bud upper borders with meander patterns of the
naga snake type in the central register (g. 3.13-3.15). These bear close
comparison with wood and bone carving traditions of the southern
Philippines and Borneo (Fig. 3.16). The foliate borders also occur on
funerary masks, implying that the diadem illustrated here is integral
to the mask concept (Cat. no. 76.4795). As the funerary masks are
understood to be among the oldest gold artifacts from the Philippines,
it follows that diadems share a similarly early origin since funerary
attire may be taken to reect the dress conventions of the day. In one
remarkable image in the Boxer Codex, a warrior chief from “Cagayanes”
(Cagayan, a province of Luzon), wielding a spear and shield, wears a
gold diadem of twisted construction afxed with pairs of human gures
and birds. Torque and leg bands complete his adornment (Fig. 3.17).
Ear ornaments were various and imaginative: gold earplugs for
the extended earlobe display a continuity with ancient bone, shell,
and ivory ear ornaments of the region.48 These are of both open and
closed discal form, constructed of thin sheet gold and decorated with
a combination of repoussé and masterfully manipulated granulations
176 Philippine Ancestral Gold
177Chapter 3 | Gold in the Philippines: Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
(cat. nos. 76.4322ab & 76.4192). The wearing of gold earplugs also has
a long tradition in western Indonesia, especially Java, where the subang
earplug has clear continuities with the Indian version, the kundala.49 A
damaged discal earplug in the Ayala Museum’s Gold Collection has a
pattern of owers known in Java as kawung (g. 3.18). This is sufciently
distinctive to suggest an awareness of Javanese gold designs of the
twelfth to fourteenth century. That gold jewelry circulated from the
territories of the east Javanese kingdom of Majapahit to the Philippines
is entirely likely. Not only were several kingdoms in Borneo probably
under Majapahit suzerainty—as proclaimed in the fourteenth century
text, the Nagarakertagama (1365)—providing one possible conduit, but
also Butuan and Sulu traders frequented these waters in the service of
the Maluku spice trade. The openwork discal ear ornament is not alone;
the Agusan image is another instance of a presumed locally produced
gold object signaling the presence of a Javanese import that would have
provided the necessary model—in this instance, an icon embodying
Vajrayana Buddhist iconography.
A remarkable repertoire of earrings survives, displaying various
combinations of casting, sheet work with repoussé, chasing, wire, and
granulation. Among the most prevalent is the simple elliptical form with a
return at the openings, a universal form in early jewelry types throughout
Southeast Asia. It can be traced to the Sa Huyhn culture of early central
Vietnam and has connections with the Taiwanese jade cutters who traded
worked stone ornaments in the region from around the early centuries
BC. This form, with its apparent allusion to female genitalia, was a design
generated in a variety of materials in the early Asian world. The ornament
was intended to be worn in the earlobe opening.
A distinctive gurative type is the garuda earring, in the form of a
crowned hybrid bird-human. Such earrings were modeled in the round
from sheet gold. The most famous is one recovered from Palawan,
which relates closely to examples in the collection.50 The treatment of
the garuda is precise—globular, rounded form, with an expressive face
and raised hands and talons— and surprisingly is less Javanese in feel
than might be expected (Cat. no. 76.4001ab). Rather, it has similarities
Fig. 3.16 Shield (
Kenya, East Kalimantan
Polychromed wood, 133 cm height
Presented to Alfred Erskine by the Sultan of Kutei prior to 1918
Cat. no. E301837, Department of Anthropology,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.
Photograph by D.E. Hurlbert
Fig. 3.17 “Cagayanes”
A warrior chief from Cagayan, a province of Luzon,
wearing a gold diadem of twisted gold afxed with pairs of
human gures and birds, a neck ornament and leg bands
Boxer Codex (ca. 1590)
Courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana Universtity,
Bloomington, Indiana
Fig. 3.18 Ear ornament
Eastern Visayas
Cat. no. 76.4319a
Fig. 3.19 Panel for a diadem depicting a garuda battling nagas
Cham, central Vietnam, ca.- 10th-12th century
Repoussé sheet gold set with rubies and an emerald
Private collection, London
178 Philippine Ancestral Gold
179Chapter 3 | Gold in the Philippines: Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
known for the unique Philippine kinnari. It must be accepted that it is
the product of an inspired goldmaster working in northern Mindanao at
the beginning of the second millennium who had some exposure to the
Indic-imagery of western Indonesia. Equally obscure is its function: Did
it serve as an oil lamp? The nearest analogous vessel is the Javanese oil
lamp shown, but this is not a conclusive model, so such an identication
remains speculative.
Although rare, kinnari are known from elsewhere in Southeast
Asia, notably from the Dvaravati culture of central Thailand. A unique
gold kinnari in the form of an ear ornament, recently excavated at U
Thong, Suphanburi province, survives from this culture (g. 3.22). The
creature’s head is tilted to one side in a bird-like mannerism, as seen
in the Butuan kinnari, and the body is likewise winged and feathered.
Datable to the eighth or ninth century, this is the oldest kinnari known
from mainland Southeast Asia. Elliptical Gupta-esque earrings identify
this style as coming from an earlier and different tradition than our
Butuan example, whose links are with tenth century Java.
Earrings of the saddle type, the interstices with pearl-string or
rope pattern (Cat. no. 75. 4231ab), are a form known in Java in the
Majapahit period.53 Others are of hinged construction, with spiked
projections reminiscent of Cham jewelry of the tenth to twelfth century
(g. 3.23; Cat. no.75.4229ab).54 As discussed, tenth century Butuan
had conrmed relations with the Cham territories, so this need not
be surprising. Given the international networks to which the coastal
polities of the Cham peoples had access, it may reasonably be assumed
that these design ideas owed from Champa to Butuan. Variant types
exist, such as a clip-on earring with a truncated pyramid as its pendant
(Cat. no. 76.4331ab).
Another type is an elliptical plate earring with suspended gold-sheet
owers and circular discs evoking pearl ornaments. These earrings have
close parallels in the late Hellenistic world, and we must be open to the
possibility that these articulated constructions, designed to shimmer
in the daylight when worn by a woman of rank, represent the legacy
of a long history of cultural interaction. The tenth century Cirebon
shipwreck cargo found in 2003 in the Java Sea, midway between West
Java and the southern coast of Kalimantan (Borneo), revealed a small
number of gold artifacts, including a remarkable ear ornament of an
uncut garnet set in gold with pearls suspended on gold wire (g. 3.24).
This is an unknown design for Java, and the closest parallels are with
jewelry produced in Sri Lanka, as comparisons with the famous Sigirya
earring suggest.55 This and a number of other gold and gemstone
items recovered from the Cirebon cargo were probably destined for
the rich urban elite of eastern Java.56 Many Buddhism bronze icons
were imported from Sri Lanka in this period, so the possibility of high-
quality jewelry being traded to Java is also plausible.
Goldsmiths employed a variety of complex techniques, using the
interlocking and jointed assembly of repeated elements to construct
neck chains. The Codex folios show a rich variety of chains, similar
to those represented in the Ayala collection, from open, interlocking
rings to complex interlocking “gear” bead necklaces called kamagi (gs.
3.25 & 3.26).The Codex features neck ornaments prominently, used as
adornment by both the Tagalog datu and the wives, dressed in ne
colorful textiles, and by the Cagayan warrior chief with shield and
spear (g. 3.17). “Chains of ofce” were favored among local rulers.
When a datu boarded a Spanish ship at Samar in 1543, the crew was
astonished to see him wearing heavy necklaces and ear ornaments that
the recorder of the event, Bernando de la Torre, estimated as being
worth more than 1,000 pesos. De la Torre added that even the datu’s
oarsmen wore “collars of gold.”57 Neck ornaments were indeed de
rigueur in traditional Philippine society. The 1883 photograph of the
Crown Prince of Kutei dressed in full regalia reveals him displaying
heavy gold chains similar to those from the Surigao Treasure (g. 3.7),
reinforcing the interpretation of this southern region, extending to
eastern Borneo, as a culturally interconnected and to some degree,
integrated zone, for many centuries.
Belts of gold wire worked in a complex loop-in-loop technique58
are a singular achievement of the goldsmiths of Butuan. The loop-in-
loop construction combined with segmented beads created belts of
stunning beauty. The patterns achieved in gold wirework recall textile
patterns found today in the Muslim silk ikats of Mindanao and Sulu,
most notably the tapestry weave sashes of the Tausug people (Cat. no.
81.5163).59 The belts are xed with paired buckles, presumably secured
with a split-pin fastener. These buckles provide a surface receptive to
embellishment with repoussé or granulation. On occasion, the design
has the symmetry associated with Hindu-Buddhist Java, a circle in a
square with tripartite corner ornaments. The total absence, however,
of Indic-style motifs on these buckles, such as the kirtimukha faces
favored in the Malay-Javanese world, is the clearest indication yet that
the goldwork of Mindanao represents a freestanding tradition. It draws
its inspiration from indigenous sources, including textile design and
technology. Indeed, nowhere else do we witness gold wire being used
literally like ber. The most spectacular nd to date has been from the
with the representation of garudas in Cham sculpture, and indeed
such parallels can be found in Cham gold jewelry (g. 3.19).51 The full
frontal orientation and the raised hands clutching nagas that dissolve
into vegetal ornamentation provide persuasive points of comparison,
which along with other instances of shared visual vocabulary point to
some sort of cultural dialogue with Champa. Similarly, parallels with
Javanese goldwork underscores that this region too made a signicant
contribution to the evolving style of southern Philippine goldworking
at the beginning of the second millennium. Ear ornaments modelled in
the form of Vishnu riding on the eagle Garuda (g. 3.21) was a popular
Hindu subject in Javanese gold work. Vishnu was well received in early
Southeast Asia, his popularity undoubtedly closely linked to virtuous
kingship. Hence the depiction of this noble deity became a popular
subject for regalia of various forms.
Not an earring, but a gurative item in the collection that
represents another bird-human conguration is a small vessel of
indeterminate function that is modeled with remarkable sensitivity
(Cat. no. 81.5189). It can best be described using the Sanskrit term
kinnari, a celestial bird-woman creature that occupies Himavanta, the
legendary forest at the base of Mount Meru, an intermediate heaven
in Indian cosmology. Kinnari and her male companions, the kinnara, are
thus highly auspicious motifs in a Hindu-Buddhist cultural context. The
kinnari’s presence in the Philippines is enigmatic: The quality is superb,
the object was undoubtedly “royal.” The bird-woman has a full body
with swelling breasts and beautifully engraved feathering. The gold-
sheet edges taper away into space, adding to the airborne feeling of
this creature of the heavens. She wears a ve-pointed diadem “tied” at
the back beneath a hair bun with a ower ornament. The combination
of ne modeling of form and the remarkable naturalism of the head
raise a challenging issue of provenance. A few gold objects of gurative
form have been reported, such as a male torso from Agusan del Norte
(Cat. no. 76.4481) and the famous Agusan image (g. 4.75). None,
however, can compare to the kinnari in either sophistication of concept
or realization of sculptural form. Parallels can be drawn with the kinnari
associated with temple imagery in Central Java and East Java, seen in
temple reliefs and in the form of metal oil lamps. A bronze hanging
lamp with its reservoir in the form of a winged kinnari demonstrates
the type of temple utensil that could have provided a prototype for this
gold kinnari (g. 3.20). Both are of the highest quality and share many
points of comparison: the full bodies with swelling breasts, the feminine
countenance, and the ve-pointed diadem.52 But no gold prototype is
Fig. 3.20 Hanging oil lamp in the form of a Kinnari
Indonesia (Java), Central Javanese period, ca. second half of the 9th-early
10th century, bronze, 6 in (15.2 cm) height
1987.142.24 Samuel Eilenberg Collection, Gift of Samuel Eilenberg, 1987
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, N.Y.
Photograph by Bruce White
180 Philippine Ancestral Gold
181Chapter 3 | Gold in the Philippines: Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
Surigao Treasure in northeastern Mindanao, discussed in Chapter 1.
The Surigao belts demonstrate vividly both the technical and aesthetic
relationship of Philippine goldwork to weaving.
Bracelet, armbands, leg bands, and cord weights for waist-sashes feature
in both the archaeological nds and in the Boxer Codex depictions. The
cord weights attached to each end of a cord tied around the waist
represent a category of object that attracted the goldsmith’s desire to
create ornamentation. They are miniature tours de force of granulation,
plaited wire, and articulated form (cat nos. 62.1118ab & 75.4238ab).
Codex folios show clearly the use of such waist-sash cord weights, pairs
of gold cylinders secured with an end knot to the sash (g. 3.26). Other
extant examples are open longitudinally, allowing a cord or sash to be
inserted and secured before knotting at the end. Javanese cord ends
designed on the same principle are also known (g. 3.27).
Among armbands, styles vary from Luzon to Mindanao, with the
north favoring uted bangles and armbands of varying diameter (g.
3.28), and the south, sheet gold armbands with repeat spiral patterns in
repoussé (g. 3.29). These latter motifs are pervasive within a cultural
sphere extending from Taiwan to Borneo.
This category can also include an unusual genre: leaf-shaped
pendants recognizable from a Javanese context as a badong or caping
to cover the genitals of young children as so-called modesty covers.
The rarity of these suggests that they are a borrowing of a Javanese
idea. An example in the collection (Cat. no. 77.4954) has an elliptical
prole with a horizontal cylinder on the upper side for threading a
waist cord, the surface lled with a leaf tendril design framing a central
emblem suggestive of female genitalia—an appropriate motif given the
pendant’s function but one not seen in Javanese versions (g. 3.30).
Rings have been found in considerable quantities, typically of
solid gold and inset with uncut precious or semi-precious stones.
Occasionally they display an intaglio seal. These engraved stones are
known to have circulated widely along the early international trade
routes. Mediterranean and West Asian examples are known in early India
and were traded east. Signicant numbers have been found in western
Indonesia and most famously at the Oc Eo sites in the Mekong delta.
Local imitations were manufactured at centers in peninsular Thailand
and elsewhere. They circulated alongside the precious stone trade and
were mounted in gold rings. Some bear purely Indic motifs, such as the
Vase-of-Plenty (purnakalasha). More common are solid gold seal rings
with incised motifs that resemble the Javanese Sanskrit sacred syllable,
the so-called Sri rings, but appear to be purely talismanic in function.
Fig. 3.22 Kinnari in the form of a small ear ornament
Dvaravati kingdom, 8th-9th century
Recently excavated at U Thong, Suphanburi province, Thailand
Courtesy U Thong National Museum
Fig. 3.23 Pair of ear ornaments
Cham, central Vietnam, ca. 10th-12th century
Gold set with ruby and rock crystal
Private collection, London
Fig. 3.24 Earring of gold inset with garnet
and pearls
Unknown origin, possibly Sri Lanka
Excavated from the Cirebon shipwreck, Java
Sea, Indonesia, mid-10th century
Photograph by the author, 2004
Fig. 3.21 Ear ornament in the form of Vishnu
Riding Garuda
Indonesia (Java), Late Central Javanese period,
late 9th-early 10th century
Gold, 3/4 in (2 cm) height
1998.544.74 The Samuel Eilenberg-Jonathan P.
Rosen Collection of Indonesian Gold
Bequest of Samuel Eilenberg and Gift of
Jonathan Rosen, 1998
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art
Resource, N.Y.
Fig. 3.25 “Tagalos”
A nobleman of Luzon, adorned in torque and heavy gold chain, and a gold hilted sword at
his side; noblewoman wears heavy gold earrings and gold braided robe and shawl
Boxer Codex (ca. 1590) Courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana University
Bloomington, Indiana
Fig. 3.26 Tagalog couple adorned in gold jewelry
Cord weights are attached to the ends of the nobleman’s waist sash
Boxer Codex (ca. 1590) Courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana University
Bloomington, Indiana
182 Philippine Ancestral Gold
183Chapter 3 | Gold in the Philippines: Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
Javanese rings of the Central and early East Javanese periods (ninth to
fteenth century) must have been in circulation to provide the models
for these ring types.
Weapons are an important object category in a warrior-class society,
and gold hilted and scabbarded swords represent some of the most
amboyantly decorated discoveries of Philippine gold. Prowess as a
warrior was central to male identity in Philippine society, and some of the
nest workmanship was lavished on warriors’ costumes and weapons.
The Philippines shared with its southern neighbors a preoccupation
with the sword as a conspicuous display of wealth, on which the nest
artistry was deployed. The sword also served as an important indicator
of social rank, denoting either the bearer’s position as a datu or his
status earned through the display of exceptional bravery in battle.
Philippine swords attracted the attention of Spanish commentators,
and both short and longer swords of the broad blade type (Cat. no.
76.4471) feature prominently in the Boxer Codex. These swords have
classical hilts with symmetrical splayed pommels. Those found in the
Butuan region, on the other hand, may be assumed to be earlier styles.
These feature organic shaped pommels resembling the beak of the
hornbill bird that most famously occupies the forests of Borneo (Cat.
no. 76.4825). These bird-like hilts belong to a long tradition traceable
via Taiwanese aboriginal art to early China. A central motif is the
dragon (aso among the Kenyah people of Borneo), a protective presence
Fig. 3.27 Pair of cord weights
Indonesia (Java), Central Javanese period, 8th-early 10th century
Gold overall (each): 1 9/6 in (4 cm) height; 1 5/8 in (4.1 cm) diameter
1998.544.57a,b The Samuel Eilenberg-Jonathan P. Rosen Collection of Indonesian Gold
Bequest of Samuel Eilenberg and Gift of Jonathan Rosen, 1998
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, N.Y.
Fig. 3.28 Arm ornaments
Probably Kalinga Apayao
Cat. Nos. 75.4253-4254
Fig. 3.29 Wrist wrap
Probably Eastern Visayas
Fig. 3.30 Genitalia cover or “modesty
cover” worn by young children
Java, Majapahit period, ca. 14th century
Repoussé gold
Private collection, London
184 Philippine Ancestral Gold
185Chapter 3 | Gold in the Philippines: Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
associated with the underworld that in East Kalimantan and Sulu
designs routinely metamorphoses into other living and plant forms. As
given expression in the art of southern Philippines and Borneo, they are
characterized by openwork spirals with feathered edges and bird-beak
proles. The legacy of these gold hilts is to be seen in later Mindanao
and Sulu examples of sword hilt and blade-guard designs in silver and
brass (Fig. 3.31). The Sulu-Borneo connections are attested in evidence
of later cross-settlements patterns with the southern Philippines.60
A rare Butuan nd is a nial for a sword hilt or a ladle in the
form of a tapering plant, resembling a fern leaf (g. 3.32). Recently
two sword handles of closely related design were excavated from
the mid-tenth century Cirebon shipwreck. The Cirebon examples are
larger in scale and still preserve traces of the iron blades that had
been embedded inside. They have a splayed base of octagon form that
extends up a “column” from which the fern-like projection emerges
(g. 3.33). In the Ayala collection xture, the intersecting column
is absent, suggesting that it served as a nial projection of a larger
object. Another smaller example is in the Eilenberg Collection of
Javanese gold in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; that
one more closely resembles the Philippine sourced example, though it
is more extravagant in its fern-like projections (g. 3.34). All appear
to be constructed of sheet gold over a core material, probably wood,
and have clay or resin inll. These gold hilts belong rmly in the East
Javanese tradition of this period, and their memory was preserved in
later eastern Javanese and Madurese kris hilts in a variety of media,
where the design retains its vegetal inspiration but undergoes partial
gurative transformations.61
Style and Dating
With much of the jewelry and weapons discussed, we see presence
of a strong Philippine style being pursued, which has compelling
continuities with local artistic activity in other media, notably textile
design, wooden sculpture, and brasswork. Local and intraregional links
undoubtedly also reinvigorated and promoted this process, introducing
ideas, imagery, and technologies. Demonstrable links with Java,
Champa, and China have been suggested.
The heyday for goldsmithing in the Philippines, as represented in
this collection by so many masterworks, was in all probability the period
from the tenth to the thirteenth century. The new levels of prosperity
and enhanced international connections, which began in the tenth
century as part of an Asian economic boom, stimulated a period of
Fig. 3.31 Dagger hilt with a silver pommel
Mindanao or Sulu
Royal Tropical Institute
Tropen Museum, Amsterdam
Fig. 3.32 Ladle handle
Butuan, Agusan del Norte
Cat. no. 77.4864
Fig. 3.33 Sword hilt, of sheet gold over a
wood and resin core
Excavated from the Cirebon shipwreck,
Java Sea, Indonesia
mid-10th century
Photograph by the author, 2008
Fig. 3.34 Dagger hilt nial of drawn and
soldered gold over a resin core
Java, 10th-11th century
5.5 cm height
1998.544.56 The Samuel Eilenberg Collection
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art
Resource, N.Y.
unprecedented creativity and extravagance. As this golden age faded,
so did the compelling stimulus provided by astute and demanding
patrons. The rulers of Butuan lost power to the kingdom of Brunei, and
by the fourteenth century much of the trade wealth in the northern
Philippines was in the hands of the Chinese, a situation that was not
challenged until the coming of the Spaniards. No doubt ne goldwork
production continued into the fourteenth and fteenth centuries, but
with the Spanish intrusion and the economic insecurities that came
with it, the motivation to invest such wealth and creative energy was
lost. Indeed, the very desire to extract gold from the earth seemed less
compelling as the fruits of the Filipinos’ labors were so often taken by
Gold is the most robust and durable of metals, impervious to
corrosion. Yet it is also the most vulnerable, readily melted down by
those desiring its metal value or wishing to make adornments of their
time. Much has been and continues to be lost to local “hunter-gatherers”
who systematically work every identiable pre-Hispanic burial site.
The historic collections of gold in the late sixteenth century
Philippines were also wasted, gathered by the Spanish and turned into
bullion or objects more tting to the taste of metropolitan Seville.
Governor-General de Sande wrote to the King of Spain in June 1577
that “since the death of the governor, Miguel Lopez, I have had made
from the gold that has been brought and given by the natives as tribute
and service, some jewels which I send to your royal Majesty.”62 So was
lost a vast treasury of Philippine gold artwork. The achievements of
these early peoples have come again to light through chance nds
resulting from development activity, through illicit diggings of historic
settlements and grave sites, and through the activities of archaeologists
who contribute an understanding of context that allows layers of
meaning to be added to this beautiful art form.
186 Philippine Ancestral Gold
187Chapter 3 | Gold in the Philippines: Form, Meaning, and Metamorphosis
1 F. de Sande, “Relation and
Description of the Phelipinas
Islands” (1577), in Blair &
Robinson, 1903, Vol. 4, pp. 99-101.
2 Caballero, 1996, Chapters V and VI.
3 Scott (1992, p. 81) cites the
translation of panday or blacksmith
in the earliest extant Tagalog
dictionary, and the Visayan term
panday sa bulawan or goldsmith in
other sixteenth century sources
(Scott 1994, pp. 67-68); Villegas
(2004, p. 39) introduces the term
panday-ginto for goldsmith without
citing any early sources.
4 Sande, in Blair & Robinson, 1903,
Vol. 4, 100.
5 Chen, 1966. This history spans the
Hongwu to Zhengde reigns, 1368 to
6 Flecker, 2005; Villegas,1983, p. 56.
7 Fox, 1970; Peralta 1983, p. 51.
8 Solheim, 2002.
9 Higham, 2002; O’Connor and
Harrison, 1971.
10 Conventionally identied as 1001, a
rereading of the original sources by
Peter Lam corrected this date year
to 1003; personal communication.
11 Clark, P., J. Green, T. Vosmer, R.
Santiago, 1983.
12 Watt, 1989, and Brown, 1989; see
also Bautista, 1990.
13 Lam, 1989: 47-49; Fung Ping Shan
Museum, 1985.
14 Manguin, P.-Y., 1980. The
Southeast Asian ship: an historical
approach. Journal of Southeast Asian
Studies 11, 253–69.
15 At least eight examples of balangay
have been identied in the
southern Philippines, and three
excavated. They average fteen
meters in length and three meters
across the beam. Radiocarbon
analysis has placed them in the
tenth century. See Ronquillo, 1989:
16 Twitchett and Stargardt, 2002.
17 Guy, 2010a.
18 Burton, 1977; Report, 1986.
19 The Magroyong nds are discussed
in F. Capistrano-Baker, Chapter 4,
this volume.
20 Dube, R. K. “Suvarnabhumi and
Suvarnadvipa: Origin, Identity and
its Richness in Gold in Ancient and
Medieval Times,” in Bulletin of the
Metals Museum, vol. 36, 2003, 3-22.
21 Wolters, 1967, pp. 82-83.
22 Bosch, 1927, p. 115.
23 Harrison, 1949, p. 1955.
24 Shanmugan, 1996, p. 101.
25 Guy, 2009.
26 Guy, 2001.
27 Francisco, 1971, p. 39.
28 Rob Linrothe rst proposed the
identication of the Agusan image
with the Vajradhatu mandala in
a personal communication with
F. Capistrano-Baker, discussed in
Chapter 4, this volume.
29 Fontein, et al, 1981, cat. nos. 45-
30 Edwards McKinnon, 2000, p. 226.
31 Courtesy of Geff Wade, cited in
Edwards McKinnon, 2000, p. 218.
32 Aoyagi and Hasebe, 2002; for
Philippine sourced ceramics, see
Diem, 1996.
33 Wade, 1993.
34 Postma, 1991, Francisco, 1995.
35 Hirth and Rockhill, 1911, p. 160;
see also Scott and Ju I-hsiung, 1967.
For Quanzhou and its international
relations, see Guy, 2010. Postma
(1991: 8-9), who deciphered the
Laguna copper plate inscription
with Johannes de Casparis, suggests
that the place name “Puliran”
refers to either Pulilan, the old
name for the Laguna de Bay area,
or to presentday Pulilan in Bulacan
province, north of Laguna.
36 Francisco, 1971.
37 For a discussion of the beginnings
of monetization in Southeast Asia,
see Wicks, 1992.
38 Along with merchants from Borneo,
Java, Srivijaya, and Aceh; see Wang,
39 Guy, 2003, 2004, 2006.
40 Scott, 1989, p. 3.
41 Scott, 1992, p. 42.
42 Excavated in 1987 and again in
2007 when the ship’s hull was
recovered. Large quantities of
Chinese coins were recorded, the
latest being Shaoxing yuanbao
(r. 1131-1162), together with
Longquan and associated ceramics;
I am most grateful to Dr. Li
Bapoing and Dr. Wei Jun for access
to this cargo.
43 I am grateful to F. Capistrano-
Baker for this technical description
and for advice elsewhere in this
44 Conversely, if it is established to be
of Chinese manufacture, then this
has signicant implications for the
origins of some of the construction
techniques seen in Philippine
45 Boxer, 1950, pp. 447-48.
46 Re. Champa, see Guy, 2000;
re. Cambodia, see Bunker and
Latchford, 2008.
47 See Peterson, this volume.
48 Compare Richter, 2000.
49 Guy, 2008.
50 Francisco, 1979.
51 Pham Huy Thong, 1988.
52 F. Capistrano-Baker calls attention
to the similarities between these
two vessels in Chapter 1, this
53 For this and other Javanese
comparisons, see Miksic, 1988,
54 Compare White, 2002.
55 The so-called Sigiriya gold earring
is in the National Museum of Sri
Lanka, Colombo, and has been
most comprehensively published by
Bandaranayaka , 2001.
56 The Cirebon excavation also
yielded a number of gemstones,
predominantly garnets, which could
be of Sri Lankan origin; examined
by this author in Jakarta, 2007.
57 B. de la Torre, cited in Scott, 1994:
58 Villegas, 2004: 61.
59 Hamilton, 1998: 72-73.
60 Bewsher, 1956.
61 Duuren, 1998.
62 F. de Sande, “Relation and
Description of the Phelipinas
Islands,” in Blair and Robinson, Vol.
3, 1903-9: 187.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Hodgson's Sale Catalogue for the 10th July, 1947, of books from Lord Ilchester's Library at Holland House, contained a curious manuscript which was listed as follows under item No. 60. “Oriental MS.—75 Coloured Drawings of Native Eaces in the Far East, including the Ladrones, Moluccas, Philippines, Java, Siam, China, and elsewhere, those of China depicting Royalty, Warriors, Mandarins, etc., in gorgeous Robes, richly heightened with gold , also 88 smaller Coloured Drawings of Birds and fantastic animals (4 on a page ), all within decorative borders , and a double folding Drawing of a Ship, and Natives in small craft, with about 270 pages of MS. text, sm. 4to, calf , lettered, Isla del os Ladrones (eighteenth century).”
I. The Philippine Scripts In 1593, there was printed in Manila a most remarkable xylographic (wood-block) book, comprising Juan de Plascenia's Doctrina Christiana in Spanish, romanized Tagalog and Tagalog script (see Fig. 1). While there is still some debate as to whether this was the first book to be published in the Philippines, there appears little doubt that it constitutes the earliest extant printed example of any Philippine script.