There Are Over 1,000 New Reasons to Visit the National Museum of the Philippines 

Some of these ceramics were used in rituals and rites of passage.
IMAGE JEROME ASCAÑO

If we could use a time machine, learning history and heritage (and education in general) would completely change. But until that happens, the closest thing we have to time travel is going to any museum that holds invaluable artifacts from the past that give us a peek into the lives of our ancestors.

Education and appreciation of culture is the shared goal of the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) and the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF) with the newly launched Elizabeth Yu Gokongwei (EYG) Ethnographic Stoneware Resource Center, which showcases over a thousand stoneware and earthenware ceramics dating from the 15th to 20th centuries.

Photo by Jerome Ascano.

At the launch on Saturday (June 11) attended by GBF and NMP heads, NMP Director-General for Museums Jeremy Barns said, “We will make sure that the resources here in the EYG Resource Center will serve the purpose of generating knowledge, awareness, and appreciation (of culture and heritage) among Filipinos.”

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As part of the National Museum of Anthropology, the ceramics in the EYG Resource Center can now be seen from outside of the room at the fifth floor East Wing through glass panels and are accessible to students, researchers, and the general public. However, access to the catalog of the collections and select objects for inspection, research, and educational purposes will need the division’s approval and can be granted with the supervision of the collections’ manager and the assistance of the Museum’s own researchers.

JG Summit Holdings Inc. President and CEO Lance Gokongwei

Photo by Jerome Ascano.

The launch of the facility is timely as GBF celebrates 30 years of building the future through education. “We are very grateful to the National Museum of the Philippines for bringing this opportunity to the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation and making it possible for us to contribute to the valuable field of cultural preservation,” said GBF General Manager Lisa Y. Gokongwei-Cheng.

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Due to their production dates, these ceramics are considered or presumed to be cultural properties or Important Cultural Properties based on Republic Act No. 10066 or National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. 

Over 1,000 historical and cultural artifacts

These artifacts belonged to different Filipino ethnolinguistic groups including Bontok, Ifugao, Ibaloy, Ilokano, Gaddang, and Pangasinense communities in northern Luzon, Tagalog, Pala’wan; and Tagbanua communities in central and southern Luzon; and Maguindanao, Maranao, and Tausug communities in southern Mindanao. 

Gokongwei Brothers Foundation General Manager Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng

Photo by Jerome Ascano.

The facility also houses earthenware and porcelain pieces and a collection from the Magsingal Museum, Padre Burgos House, and Old Carcel Museum at the NM Ilocos Regional Museum Complex leased by the Ilocos Sur Historical and Cultural Foundation.

The main differences among ceramics (earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain) are the types of clay used and firing temperatures during production. Earthenware is fired between 800 and 1,200 degrees celsius, stoneware at 1,200 and 1,400 degrees celsius, and porcelain at above 1,400 degrees celsius. Earthenware is porous, soft, and more prone to chipping, which needs to be glazed to be waterproof, while stoneware is non-porous, hard (stone-like), stronger, and more durable. Porcelain is extremely durable, translucent, thinner, and more delicately constructed.

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Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc. President and CEO Robina Gokongwei-Pe

Photo by Jerome Ascano.

Stories contained by each artifact

Each historical piece tells the stories of the past based on its usage, role, and symbol in a specific culture. The ceramics served as commodities, utilitarian items, household decorations, heirloom pieces, and containers for ritual ceremonies. 

Together with porcelain, stoneware served as a powerful symbol of social rank and political authority in the context of social rivalry. At present, they continue to be wealth indicators as seen today by urban collectors where wealth is measured by the number of antiques in a household.

The EYG Ethnographic Stoneware Resource Center houses over 1,000 jars, plates and bowls dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries

Photo by Jerome Ascano.
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Education as a tool

“Apart from teaching practical skills, we see education as a tool for sustaining culture–our core values, norms, conditions, and shared experiences that altogether define our heritage,” said Gokongwei-Cheng.

With the students, teachers, scholars, researchers, and agents of education in mind, the EYG Resource Center will provide special tours, digital reference materials for teachers, and other experiential ways of learning about the collection such as the 360-degree Virtual Reality exhibit.

The NMP hopes to encourage researchers to engage in documenting ceramic traditions in the country

Photo by Jerome Ascano.

The partnership between NMP and GBF is also set to launch an accompanying book titled From Kiln to Kin: The Philippine Ceramic Heritage, which will highlight the ceramic history of the Philippines and its significance in the country’s ethnolinguistic traditions and culture. It will also feature the full catalog of collections inside the resource center.

The facility can accommodate visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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