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National Museum of the Philippines Opens Gallery on Negrito Communities



The National Museum of the Philippines, in Manila, an ASEMUS member, has recently opened a new gallery entitled “Biyay: Tradition, Ecology and Knowledge among Philippine Negrito Communities”.

The Negritos of the Philippines comprise approximately 25 widely scattered ethnolinguistic groups, totalling an estimated 15,000 people. They are located on several major islands in the country: Luzon, Palawan, Panay, Negros, Cebu, and Mindanao. They are assumed to be the aboriginal inhabitants of the archipelago.

Presenting the Negrito communities’ material cultural, ecological knowledge and practices, this is the first time an exhibition of this scale and depth on the least understood Philippine ethnolinguistic groups have been done. The exhibition can now be visited within the premises of the National Museum of Anthropology.

For over two years, the National Museum of the Philippines has worked with their communities to develop this project, enabling it to to display artifacts from the St Louis Exposition of [2]1904, photographs from the Smithsonian Institution, and human remains from the Tabon cave complex in Palawan.

Objects on exhibit comprise of items that have long been part of national collections, as well as others more recently collected by museum researchers. These include those gathered by Governor General William Cameron Forbes, as well as eminent anthropologists Dr Harold Conklin, Dr Robert Fox, Charles O. Frake and Bion Griffin. Famous collector and amateur anthropologist John Garvan; and former NM Director Dr. E. Quisumbing are also represented here.

The opening of the gallery was held in the context of the Philippines’ National Indigenous People’s Month, celebrated throughout October. A public event involving, among others, Ms. Conchita Calzado, President of Sentrong Pagpapalakas ng Negritong Kultura at Kalikasan (SPNKK), an umbrella organisation of Negrito groups, was held on the occasion. A wide range of educational activities, film screenings and other events have also been held in this context.

An interesting article [3] on the exhibition has been recently published by Gemma Cruz Araneta, former Director of the National Museum, in the Manila Bulletin.

For additional information, please visit this gallery of photographs [4] as well as regular updates on the National Museum of the Philippines’ Facebook profile [5].