For the Love of God | ATIN: Stories from the Collection

For the Love of God | ATIN: Stories from the Collection


Religious objects and living traditions are very much part of the human experience and expression of piety and devotion. Our worldly activities have made their opulent production possible. Hinduism and Buddhism spread widely and significantly in both Mainland and Island Southeast Asia becoming the bedrock of ancient kingdoms like the Khmer and the Majapahit. While these beliefs gave rise to grand temple complexes such as Angkor Wat and Borobudur there are only a few material evidences of Hindu-Buddhist culture in pre-Hispanic Philippines. Gold objects found in Northern Mindanao and Eastern Visayas show Hindu-Buddhist iconography like those found in other parts of Southeast Asia These earrings from Eastern Visayas depict the garuda a sacred bird believed to be a mount or vehicle of the Hindu god Vishnu. Its crown is decorated with leaf-like relief patterns and also has dangling leaf-shaped spangles. Other Hindu-Buddhist images besides Garuda have been found in the Philippines including the demigoddesses Vajralasya and the Kinnari and the sea serpent Naga, notably in gold objects and ornaments. The sophistication of these objects disproves earlier scholarly texts saying Hindu and Buddhist religions did not spread to the Philippines. The abundance of gold deposits in the islands and evidence of local goldsmithing tools and molds also suggest that early Filipinos produced these
objects locally and may have very well traded them with their Asian neighbors. So much more can be discovered about our religious practices and beliefs before the spread of Christianity and Islam, illustrating our links to pre-colonial Southeast Asia. Most of Mindanao, like Indonesia and Malaysia, would become Muslim territory through cultural and economic ties with Arabian traders Local Islamic practices would endure as the religion kept . a stronghold of most of Mindanao even during the Spanish period Indigenous crafts inspired by the Islamic faith vibrantly survive to this day. The pis syabit is a woven head scarf traditionally worn by the Tausug of Sulu. It is square and features sections of complex geometric patterns characteristic of Islamic arts. It is a versatile textile, which can be worn on the head and over the shoulder, tied on hilts of swords, used for ceremonial purposes, and even hung on walls as decoration. Eventually, most of the archipelago would fall under Spanish colonial rule, and the Christian faith would be deeply embedded in Filipinos. Animistic and Hindu-Buddhist icons would be replaced by images of Christ, Mary, and the saints. Philippine ivory santos that were ubiquitous during the 16th to 18th century remain iconic and some of the most opulent examples. This is a Santo Cristo by Leoncio Asuncion a famed 19th century sculptor from Manila who is regarded as the Father of Philippine Religious Sculpture This image of the crucified Christ is made of an ivory Jesus figure nailed to a kamagong cross bursting with rays of holy light made from silver and bronze. Philippine ivory santos were famous and adored not only in the country but also in Spain and Mexico. It is perhaps the most international of Philippine arts with ivory sourced from Africa and Asia decorated with precious local metals such as gold and silver from Mexico produced by Filipino and Chinese artisans displaying Western beliefs and aesthetics. Religion is an important aspect of people’s lives. Expressions of faith are beautifully diverse, and show us not only our relationship to the divine but also our ties to different cultures and the ways we use and share our natural resources and individual talents. As we keep the faith, so we do our heritage.

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1 Comment

  1. Interesting topic. Most of the time, when old religious Filipino art is discussed, ppl only talk about Catholic influences

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