Miksic, John, Florina H. Capistrano- Baker and John Guy (eds.), Philippine Ancestral Gold, Singapore: NUS Press, 2012
Philippine Ancestral Gold is a spectacular publication in full-color that features more than 1,000 gold objects that were recovered in the Philippines from the 1960s to 1981 and now form part of the collection of the Ayala Museum in Manila. Many of these treasures were found in association with tenth-to-twelfth century Chinese export ceramics, and formal similarities with objects from other Southeast Asian cultures affirm regional affinities and inter-island trade networks that flourished in the region before there was regular contact with the Western world. Adornments of elite individuals and the deities they adored include a spectacular array of golden sashes, necklaces, pectorals, diadems, earrings, finger rings, and arm and leg ornaments.
The book situates these objects within the context of early Southeast Asian history. In the first chapter, Floriana H. Capistrano-Baker outlines the history of the collection and presents an overview of the objects according to over-lapping categories of form, function, technology, and geographic provenance. In the second chapter, John Miksic explains how the collection contributes to a reassessment of the prehistory of Southeast Asia. Miksic notes the persistence of indigenous forms and the localization of imported traditions, and discusses the correlation between burial practices and social organization and suggests that the removal of gold objects from circulation through ritual burial is an indicator of non-hereditary leadership. Chapter 3, John Guy examines the meaning and metamorphosis of forms in comparison with related material recovered in the region. Guy highlights stylistic similarities and differences between the Philippine objects and those from such cultures as Java, Champa, and Borneo. He discusses as well the important role of export ceramics in dating associated gold finds. Chapter 4 describes related finds from the Butuan-Surigao-Agusan region in light of the rise and fall of different polities in Southeast Asia.
This extraordinary collection exists because of the passion and dedication of Leandro and Cecilia Locsin, whose vision of preserving for future generations these marvelous objects provides valuable glimpses into the Philippine precolonial past, and is a remarkable homage to the Filipino people.