Now I am a great H.P. Lovecraft fan.  (Like I am a great Dr. Who fan.  Science fiction and fantasy, I am your girl!)

Dark Roasted Blend
, one of my favorite “odd photo conglomeration” sites, gives us this entertaining view of how love of knitting and cult monstrosity mix. [You’ll love the different photo sets in their other blog posts too, I promise.]

Just the other night I was watching downloaded beloved reruns of the 80’s seasons of The [New] Twilight Zone (Harlan Ellison era, 1985-89) and there was one episode about a little boy whose nigh-on-dying grandma turns out to be a creepy Cthulhu thrall!  Now this!
Amber’s crocheted Cthulhu is absolutely, uh, adorable. I wish I could post the photo here, but do visit the link to see Amber’s celebration of creativity. The amigurumi (knitted toy Japanese style) pattern is free. Unfortunately I’m not that much of a crocheter. Joy is, and amigurumi gives her a bit of carpal tunnel.

One of the knitters on the monsters page, Kimberly Chapman, did her Dalek from EntropyHouse’s “ExtermiKNIT” Kit! Previously I wrote in Knittipina about the Knitted Dalek photographed in a UK convention by Yarn Harlot Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I did not know there were more in that army *amusement*

Yes, the Dalek pattern is FREE. I might make it one day. I’ll probably have better luck finishing it than meeting David Tennant in person. But hey, I met Neil Gaiman in person, so you never know. And then shall come… a Knitted Sandman?


We were all quite excited to see the Gold of Ancestors exhibit at the Ayala Museum, but there were other interesting exhibits on the other floors I hadn’t even gotten around to blogging about yet.

Southeast Asian Ceramics

On the fourth floor, along with the gold, was a fantastic collection of Southeast Asian trade ceramics from the Roberto T. Villanueva collection. Popular historian Ambeth Ocampo writes about it here. They were arranged according to style/country of origin. All celadons together, all iron glazed together, all Thai together, all Vietnamese together, all blue and white together. Every glass shelf tells the visitor about the pieces displayed, identifying the style, the estimated age, and the location where the item was found. In the middle of the collection there is a fascinating section telling the story of the Grau sisters whose lives were dedicated to this collection. Consuelo Grau was married to Roberto T. Villanueva, while her sister Remedios curated the collection. Both sisters were students of renowned anthropologist H. Otley Beyer in UP. Because they were known collectors, people would actually bring them their finds on a near daily basis! When I looked all around, it was likely that there were more pieces that weren’t on display.

The first time I visited, we were in such a hurry to get into the 30-minute interval when the bank-vault doors opened into the gold exhibit that I totally missed the inner room. This room had a sofa with a big video screen, and the video told the story of the development of ceramics in China, to the development of the trade route from southern China to the Philippines, to India, all the way to the Middle East. There is a map of Asia on one side of the screen which shows little lights all along the trade route, timed to match the video dialogue! (Ok, I love that sort of thing.) And every time a notable piece is used as an example, the actual piece is spotlighted. Timed as well. My favorite piece is a delicate white flower-shaped footed bowl (“Yung gulaman container!” we joked), one of the oldest in the collection. My next favorite was a painted elephant with a rider, a piece from Vietnam. My third favorite piece was of a little brown carabao. Almond and Roland both loved the blue and white ceramics.

Embroidered Multiples

Ricky later led us to his personal favorite exhibit, embroidered national costumes from the period of Damian Domingo. These consisted of baro’t saya, kerchiefs/fichus and men’s costumes, all beautifully embroidered. Fabrics were in abaca, pina, jusi, silk and cotton. I believe Ricky was involved in making sure the items were displayed to best effect, yet adequately protected in a temperature controlled environment. The items were beautiful, the embroidery exceedingly fine. These items are the best and only examples of their kind, and the irony is that we are only enjoying them because of a five-year loan to the Ayala Museum by the Leiden National Museum of Ethnology (Netherlands), which acquired them from a French diplomat in the late 1800s. Some items on loan include heirloom garments from the Pardo de Tavera collection now owned by collector Rina Ortiz.

Looking at the items, I realized that Filipinos were very small and dainty then. The blouses were so sheer that some included modesty panels. If you look at the Damian Domingo paintings you’d realize women probably wore fichus in those days to cover up their chests. The fichus eventually developed into panuelos. I wanted to buy the book for my mom at the Museum Shop (3rd floor), but it was PhP 1,500 and I didn’t have the cash on me.

The Juan Luna BPI Collection

My mom attended Ambeth Ocampo’s lecture telling the story of this collection when it first opened. Most items in the collection are small works, mostly studies in preparation for bigger paintings. The first time we went to see it I was wondering why the frames were so thick. It was only on my second visit that Ricky explained that some items were reversible. The photo facsimile displayed next to the work showed its other side. On my own I wouldn’t have guessed that, since I didn’t have a brochure of the collection on hand.

Juan Luna is best remembered for two things: his award-winning painting “The Spoliarium” (famously) and for the murder of his wife Paz Pardo de Tavera and his mother-in-law in Paris (infamously). Ricky filled me in with the juicy details: when Juan Luna’s son Andres Jr. died, he left the paintings to his American wife, Grace, who later tried to sell this collection to the Philippine government so she could return to the US. However, the cash-strapped government didn’t bite, and for some decades no more was heard of these paintings. Eventually Grace Luna died in an American old-age home. When the paintings resurfaced for sale, buyers were confused about the provenance of the collection because Grace Luna had left them to her caregiver in her will. They ended up in the collection of Far East Bank and Trust Company, an acquisition hounded by controversy as the FEBTC was the agency that originally determined the collection’s value in the first place. This collection was later acquired by the Bank of the Philippine Islands with its buyout of the FEBTC.

The major Lunas on display were from the collections of Don Jaime and Beatriz Zobel de Ayala, and from Don Jaime’s aunt Dona Mercedes Zobel de McMicking. You would recognize some of them from books, particularly “La Marquesa de Monte Olivar“. The accompanying plaques note that Juan Luna signed his paintings in old Filipino script BU+LA (for “bulan” or moon, ie., “Luna”). I didn’t notice that the first time I went, but Ricky pointed it out. He also noted that the Zobel-owned paintings had been gifted to the Ayala Museum since he last worked there.

Fernando Zobel, Artist

My generation knows Fernando Zobel de Ayala as the brother of Jaime Augusto, and the husband of Catherine “KitKat” Silverio. The original Fernando Zobel was their uncle the artist. His work, modern and abstract, in different media, occupies the space next to the Amorsolos. His sketchbooks were also on display, as well as letters. There was also an interactive website visitors could access. I didn’t know much of him since his works are not part of general study, but as I google I find that he is alternately considered a Spanish artist and a Filipino one. Here are some works in an online auction. His charming dachshund and horse doodles (from travel sketchbooks) are on notebooks and mugs for sale in the Museum Shop.

The Dioramas

It is rare for a child to grow up in Metro Manila and not experience the Ayala Museum dioramas. They illustrate Filipino history in detailed 3d miniature. Ricky however, made our trip as adults more entertaining with the ff. trivia:

1) Each figure, made by hand in Paete, costs at least P2,000!
2) There are realistic details, such as: urinating men, a rat under Rizal’s tocador, tiny torn-up buntal hats, a gay Katipunero, a lesbian one, a dwarf, a giant, faces of the artists/museum staff in cameo appearances, folded merchandise in an Escolta store window, others.
3) Imelda complained that there was no Marcos figure in the Death March diorama! A figure was hurriedly made! Later on (post-Edsa Revolution), because it could not be concretely proved that Marcos was actually there, it was decided that the figure be removed! Now no one knows where it went!

The latest addition to that display was a Corridor of Infamy into the Marcos Years, with an interactive presentation narrated by Cheche Lazaro. Oddly enough, the door at the end led to… the stairs leading down to the toilet. No, I joke, it leads down to the ground floor, where there is an artist’s space occupied during our visit by painter Nestor Vinluan, who is now less obsessed by the diaphanous now as he is with color on color. With its high ceiling, that space (next to the counter) shows big canvases to great effect.

By this time, we got hungry again…

Next: Como Max Brenner Para Chocolate


Photo: “Kinnari” (mystical half-bird, half-woman) gold vessel, Gold of Ancestors exhibit, Ayala Museum.

This is the reason why Spaniards went out to expand the limits of the known world in the 16th century. We all know the story from school, but it’s a totally different experience when the gold is literally in your face. This is breathtaking.

The 4th floor of the The Ayala Museum permanently houses a mind-boggling exhibit of just over 1,000 pre-colonial gold artifacts that show our historical and cultural links to neighboring Southeast Asian cultures. Items on display range from jewelry, decorative detailing for clothing and weapons to badges of rank, ceremonial vessels, as well as funerary and religious accessories. Quietly collected for 25 years by the family of National Artist Leandro Locsin, the items are considered part of national patrimony and had been kept under wraps until the creation of a secure and appropriate exhibit location. The collection was finally exhibited publicly upon the construction of the new Ayala Museum in 2004. The exhibit is curated by premier art historian Dr. Florina H. Capistrano-Baker.

Jessica Zafra tells us more in Newsweek here. My favorite blogger Marketman, who was invited to the opening, has some lovely pictures and more food for thought (pun intended) here.

We went to see the exhibit last July 23 with my mother’s friends UP Balik-Scientist Raul Suarez and his wife Pining. I was pleased to see a lot of students around; on their own, like most people, I don’t think it would occur to them to drop by the Ayala Museum just for fun. This isn’t something you hear about all the time on tv or the radio (I do however think it’s a great date place for myself and TDM. I want him to see it with me.)

The entrance to the exhibit is designed to look like a temple door but it’s outfitted like a bank vault security gate that opens every 30 minutes. When you see the gate slide down you get the feeling you’ve entered a time-travelling space ship. Some tourists tried to get out the way they came, but apparently the security is such that you can’t get out the way you came in. You have to go where the end of the exhibit leads you, and there are sensors that slide another gate upwards to let you out from there. You can’t get in from the outside that way, either. Which is great, because a collection this stunning and awe-inspiring can teach us a lot of things about who we are as a people. To lose that would be a tragedy.

We sat ourselves in front of a curved cinema screen where a well-produced video told the story of Philippine gold from the geological formation of the archipelago up to just before Spanish colonization. The photos from the Boxer Codex of Filipinos in native garb sporting gold earrings and other displays of wealth and rank were familiar from school readings. You could tell who the rich individuals were from their distended earlobes — only those who could afford it wore earrings, and gold was naturally heavy. Walking around I could actually see a number of items I would love to wear, if only I didn’t need a motorized wheelchair to transport myself around with while wearing them! (In the first place I don’t know a lot of people who could even afford the motorized wheelchair.)

The crowning glory of this exhibit was a magnificent chain link halter for some chieftain that I think once held a ceremonial scabbard (the missing bit that connected to some torn-off gold wire where the halter ends at the hip). FOUR kilos of gold chain link. Four KILOS of fine, fine, FINE work.

The amount of detail in such artifacts reflects superb, painstaking craftsmanship of incredible sophistication. You’d appreciate this in the varied styles and techniques used — gold foil, filigree, chain-linking, others. The jeweller-historian Ramon Villegas’s Ginto: History Wrought in Gold could enlighten us further (we own a copy of his 1983 book Kayamanan: Philippine Jewelry Tradition). Wish I could afford one. New York-based Filipiniana blogger Pu-pu Platter shares beautiful photos on Flickr. I would dearly love for regular folks to enjoy the photographs of the collection on top of the intriguing story of the discovery, how the Locsins funded the archaeological dig and how they decided for it to be accessible to the ordinary Filipino in this way. It deserves its own National Geographic cover story.

Luckily for us folks with internet access, The Probe Team covered “The Surigao Treasure” and aired it just last June 8, 2008. There’s a good (but short) article accompanying the documentary. They showed it a day later as ABS-CBN’s Independence Day Special “Gintong Pamana” which I’m pleased to find it on YouTube. I missed both showings, but thanks to online links, I got intrigued again and want to return to the Ayala Museum. Or read the bibliography suggested by Pu-pu Platter in his May 4th comment to Marketman’s post. (Funny how, when you’re not required to read something, finally reading it becomes so delicious because you’re just plain CURIOUS.)

Then there’s that gold foil document inscribed with ancient Tagalog/Sanskrit whose significance (at least to us) would approach that of the Rosetta Stone or the Dead Sea Scrolls. It tells of a wealthy man who owed a debt of 900gms worth of gold and thus became a slave because he couldn’t repay his debt. What a great story — that could be made into either a novel or a movie.

But my favorite piece of all is that golden vessel shaped into a Kinnari, a mystical bird-woman that Hindu-Southeast Asian culture refers to as the epitome of grace and beauty. Graceful and beautiful the artifact was, indeed. You can see the very delicate facial expression in the photo above, and the exquisite feather detailing around the vessel, which I imagine held perfumed oil. It is displayed as found, slightly squashed (gold being very soft it couldn’t have kept its shape under soil), but that doesn’t diminish its very fabulousness.

I’m going back. (You can come along, and see it for only Php 225 for the entrance ticket. Bring an id, because they ask for one. I know, it’s the price of a restaurant entree. But it’s a special, special exhibit. It’s worth it. Make it a date. Impress your significant someone. Or teach yourself something new. Today’s a great day to consider it.)