The country’s treasures for worldwide appreciation
LIVEFEED - Bibsy M. Carballo (The Philippine Star) - March 4, 2013 - 12:00am

How important is it to our country’s pride that we keep the treasures of antiquity discovered from the bowels of the earth? Of what advantage would it be for us to leave them in rusty vaults awaiting the time when we shall have the means to display them to the world? These are the thoughts that ran through our mind after watching the DVD Philippine Treasures sent to us by GMA 7 which produced it.

The docu put together magnificent historical artifacts from our pre-colonial past, among them a gold earring found in Boljoon, southern tip of Cebu, said to belong to Lapu-Lapu; a stone in Masbate supposedly engraved with Baybayin script, an ancient form of Filipino writing; and the Maitum Burial Jars in Saranggani, discovered by rebels hiding out in caves. The human-shaped jars worth more than gold served as a second burial place and dated back two 2,000 years ago. The finding demonstrates that during the time of Christ, there already existed a developed culture in this region.

Finally, we glimpse a treasure trove of ancient golden jewelry, discovered by farmer Mang Berto in Surigao del Sur in the 1980s, now on display at the Ayala Museum. Of the treasures explored in the documentary by GMA, we have only seen this Gold of Ancestors exhibit at the Ayala Museum.

We remember being amazed by the quantity of artifacts amassed. Equally fascinating is how people came across these treasures: Gold unearthed by Mang Berto in Surigao del Sur, ranging from a large golden belt dubbed The Golden Regalia, jewelry, to household items patterned after coconut shells, snail shells, a banig pattern in gold, proof-positive they came from the Philippines.

When Mang Berto was walking along the shore, he noticed something shiny in the ground calling his attention. It was a gold piece. His findings sparked a surge of treasure hunting among the people. Mang Berto sold his discoveries and like many who lived the life of one-day-millionaires lost everything just as quickly.  

However, considered the most celebrated find in Philippine Archeology has been The Golden Tara — a four-inch tall gold figurine from the 15th century found by a Monlodo tribeswoman in the waters of Agusan province. It was purchased by former Governor General Leonard Wood’s wife, sold to an American for $93K or adjusted inflation P1.5M and eventually arrived at the Field Museum in 1922.

Today, the province markets the image as its own in thousands of copies for tourists, even as the provincial officials have no plans of retrieving the treasure. And why should they, when we neither have the funds nor the know-how to keep these treasures in the best condition possible.

Program manager Lee Joseph Castel said that he got the idea for the documentary after a spontaneous trip to the National Museum. “Na-fascinate ako masyado sa mga artifacts doon, so naisip ko parang wala pang gumagawa ng special tungkol sa historical artifacts dito sa Pilipinas,” Castel said. That even inspired the trip of Mel Tiangco to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago to visit The Golden Tara. 

“She was very small!” Tiangco described the statue, showing its height with her thumb and index finger. “I thought, ‘What’s spectacular about this thing?’” But the Golden Tara grew on her after a few moments with it. She said she couldn’t help but be entranced by the object’s “serenity.” The documentary is hosted by Tiangco, with reporting by Mariz Umali, Cesar Apolinario, Tina Panganiban-Perez, and John Consulta.

For Tiangco, these treasures say so much about how rich our country was. “It tells you how creative our people were. Not only creative but intelligent!”

With the success of the primetime epic-serye Amaya, which has sparked viewer interest in pre-colonial Philippine history, Castel added that a history-related special documentary is nothing but “timely.” “Sana hindi lang yung mga televiewers, kundi rin ‘yung mga namumuno sa atin, sana ma-realize ang kahalagahan ng mga bagay na ito,” said Tiangco.

“Parang wala tayong pakialam sa history natin,” said Castel. “Kung lilingon lang tayo sa nakaraan natin, makikilala natin talaga kung sino tayo as a race.”

(E-mail us at bibsymcar@yahoo.com.)

0PX AYALA MUSEUM BORDER BUT THE GOLDEN TARA CASTEL GOLDEN TARA MANG BERTO TIANGCO
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