Thursday, 15 October 2015

Seeing Jars

Seeing Jars

In an age where "Move On" is the usual term, it seems that there are those who does not turn away from the past such as these burial jars displayed in the former Department of Finance in Manila.

Unearthed by archaeologists decades ago from Palawan to Saranggani Province, these Burial Jars and coverings showed a culture that was widespread from Transcaucasus to the South East part of Asia, and it was characterised by burial of the dead in strongly flexed position on heir sides in medium to large clay jars and sometimes it also includes jewelry, weapons, even coins or animals killed as part of their journey to afterlife.

It may deemed new in the eyes of others, especially those who know that native funeral practises were those of in graves if not hanging in cliffs in case of the north. Corpses such as those of Apo Anno from the Cordilleras bear how native folks preserved their dead in form of drying and in a fetal position as encased in caskets and left in its cave graveyards, but recent Archaeologists had unearthed a different way of tending their dead such as placing it in jars and left in graves with some mementoes in it, yet as time goes by, being forgotten as part of their culture.

And since it is spanned through parts of Eurasia, Jar Burial culture was part of an era wherein people engaged in hunting, fishing, rootcrop growing, and handicraft making such as those of making pots from clay, if not mud abundant in their settled terrain. In case of the Philippines, caves like those in Tabon in Palawan may suggest that early Filipinos whom settled at those mountainous, or even ravenous terrain had created a culture prior to the wave of migration as earlier insisted by those of Otley Beyer. 

And in case of this Burial Jar found in Palawan (which became known as part of 1000 peso bill), which was made from clay and river sand, it also showed the richness of ancient Filipino culture that is, far from what commonly depicted on history books such as focused on sea trade and waves of migration according to Beyer, et al. Its art also showcases the talent that makes the Filipino also well known in the ancient world with its neighbours engaging trade with the natives.
As according to Wikipedia, faces of the figures and on the prow of the boat have eyes and mouth rendered in the same style as other artifacts of Southeast Asia of that period. Note the depiction of sea-waves on the lid. This style of decoration places this jar in the Sa Huỳnh culture pottery tradition that happened during the Iron Age. These are a people that had migrated through an East to West migration coming from the Borneo-Palawan area to Southern Vietnam. Hence, prior to Sa Huỳnh as what this person observed, these people soon to be Vietnamese were also part of an Austronesian community with a culture enough to consider as "advanced" in that period. And likely to be situated in a part that eventually be one of the isles of the Philippines and a part of Borneo.

It may seemed strange, knowing that these information has not been studied in mainstream Filipino history about jar burials, of a somewhat advanced culture, as well as people that also migrated from the Philippines to other parts of Southeast Asia and even the Pacific islands. Jar burials was made by a  people whose belief includes those of undergoing transformation of the deceased's spirit from the earthly to the spiritual world, as well as the belief in treating the dead as if it were alive and be given food, drink, and company; and also come to think of this: how come the culture stretched from Azeribaijan to Palawan? 

Anyways, people should not forget its well rooted heritage as they enter the museum and see the richness of one's own culture as a citizen. In this age where "Move On" has been a mantra for most, of disregarding the richness of it's country's past and its continuous struggle for the future, this writer would say that forgetting its well-respected heritage as a nation altogether as it favours its illusions may find themselves rootless.