Important Precolonial Concepts in Philippine Art

In this article I will present fifteen precolonial concepts in Philppine Art although there are more of them. I will start from the late neolithic era when boat technology was very important in the development of maritime culture and civilization in the precolonial Philippines and the entire Southeast Asia. From boat technology the culmination of my description of selected fifteen precolonial concepts in Philippine Art will have its open ending in gold tradition during the Metal Age in Southeast Asia.


Is a watercraft made out of adjoined wooden planks using edged pins and dowels. It is propelled by a sail of buri or nipa fibers according to This wooden boat was very important in different aspects of precolonial Filipino life such as: fishing, trade, warfare, communication and dwelling, etc. The authority that make this kind of watercraft is the highly skilled person panday sa baloto.


Tooth filing and leveling done by an expert using a slender stone file. According to W.H. Scott, “Variations included opening the space between teeth, or grinding them to saw-toothed points.” Once filed, the teeth were colored in different ways.


Is a general term for tattoos in the Visayas. It is also meant the marking of snakes or lizards. These marks symbolizes male valor and courage. In other places tattooing is called Patik.


Is the name for making holes in the earlobes with copper needle. This art of ear piercing is made soon after birth, according to W.H. Scott. After the wound healed, the hole is gradually replaced with series of thicker bamboo and hardwood splint until the hole was large enough to insert various ear ring designs.


A basic tube skirt garment popular to Maranaos. It is a light blanket wrap around worn as an everyday clothing. Tube skirt has different names to different places in the archipelago. The Tagalogs they call it Tapis; the Visayans just call it Habul.


Is a method in the art of fishing in shallow waters, it uses dragnets fastened to the fisherman’s back by a leather brace (Paholan) like the belt the weaver uses with a backstrap loom.


Is an etiquette in the art of drinking liqour. This etiquette is about exhorting some person or diwata to take the first drink. There is also called Gasa: to propose a toast for an opposite sex’s good health; Salabat: was a toast in which the cup itself was offered, and; Naga Itib: to drink together with the same jar.


It is the simplest form of verse, popular among children and adults of both sexes. This art of verses is consisted of unrhymed seven-syllable couplet which had to contain a complete thought.


Is one among many ear ornaments popular to precolonial Visayan. This kind of gold jewelry came in bewildering variety of forms and styles, says W.H. Scott. Panika is also the general term for rings and plugs worn in the lower hole (panikaan).


Is a heavy gold chain of tightly interlocked links. This is the most spectacular item in precolonial Visayan inventory, says W.H. Scott. It is a solid and sinuous as a golden serpent.


Among the golden ornaments worn by precolonial Filipinos during the Metal Age were bracelets made of gold granules or burit. Together with these gold bracelets, precolonial women also wear shell bracelets, “so snug in fit that the hand was greased to slip them on or off.” says W.H. Scott.


Is an activity or an art of sifting gold in streams or river beds. The person who do Pamiling uses a special kind of placer for sifting it is called dulangan – this tool is made out of wood. Meanwhile, bilingan is a wooden trough or tub.


Is an art of excavating a mine. Once a kotkot expert found a rich vein or sabod they would excavate 5 to 6 meters deep. The other word for Kotkot is Kali, this word is a common ethnolinguistic term used by speakers of Masbate, Samar, Leyte, Surigao and Butuan – these are major Visayan/Mindanao islands that is rich in gold deposits.


When Chinese merchants traded frequently the Visayan islands who were rich in gold wares they introduced porcelain wares mostly large jars of Zheiiang. Precolonial Filipinos started to acquire these jars that they call Linoping, “because they were decorated all over like loping, men tattooed all over.” says W.H. Scott.


Precolonial Filipinos has many ways to measure the value of gold during the Metal Age, Bangati is just one among many. It is weighing gold with various kinds of seeds or beans, based on the little red one called Bangati.

Jong Pairez 20 October 2013 Tacloban, Leyte


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