The National Museum of the Philippines announced the successful culmination of its extensive
repatriation efforts that began several years ago. This paved the way for the safe return to the Philippines of the Sally A. von dem Hagen Collection of Limestone Burial Jars from the Kulaman
Plateau. This significant donation was initiated by Peter, Stephanie, and Antoinette von dem
Hagen in recognition of their late mother’s lifelong custodianship of these objects of Philippine
antiquity, spanning over four decades.

The 52-piece collection was presented to the media through a turnover activity at the National
Museum of Anthropology on 7 May 2024. Now integral to the National Archaeological
Collection, their provenance traces back to when they were originally purchased in the early
1970s by Mrs. Sally A. von dem Hagen, an American businesswoman living in Manila. Known for
her appreciation for antiquities, she was sought out by a group of Dulangan Manobo individuals
who had come across these limestone ossuaries during a hunting expedition in Cotabato’s
Kulaman Plateau. Mrs. von dem Hagen, recognizing the profound cultural significance of these
objects, agreed to acquire as many as possible and, over time, established relationships among
members of the Manobo community in the area of what is today part of the province of Sultan
Kudarat. When she departed the Philippines for the United States in 1979, she brought her
beloved collection with her.

Earlier this year, the NMP Office of the Director-General organized the shipment of the
limestone objects from Los Angeles, California where they were under the temporary care of a
non-profit organization, the Filipino-American Service Group, Inc. (FASGI) and Dr. Stephen B.
Acabado and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles. An
exhibition held at the FASGI Bayanihan Center facilitated conversations among the
Filipino-American community, highlighting the ethics of collecting material culture, issues of
repatriation and empowerment, culture and history, and heritage engagement. Upon arriving in
Manila on 25 March 2024, NMP’s Archaeology Division supervised the collection’s unboxing,
inspection, and curation. A team from the University of the Philippines-Manila led by
anthropology professor Dr. Ma. Teresa G. de Guzman also conducted a brief blessing ritual to
welcome these artifacts.

These burial jars were carved out from limestone abundant in the region. They were shaped in
either a round or quadrangular fashion and decorated with vertical fluting or geometric designs.
The lids, however, have diverse designs, ranging from simple gabled roofs to elaborate
anthropomorphic features. These jars stored human bones as a secondary burial vessel.
Kulaman limestone jars remain the only movable limestone ossuary among mostly
clay-fashioned burial jars. Despite differences in raw materials, the vessels nevertheless
represent the widespread jar burial tradition in the Philippines and Southeast Asia during the
Metal Age, approximately 2,800 to 1,000 years ago. Very little is presently known about the
people who created the Kulaman Plateau limestone jars and who utilized them for their burial
rites, as well as whether the Dulangan Manobo communities of the area are descended from or
related to them, and this awaits further scientific research, which the NMP intends to facilitate
in collaboration with the communities and key partners.

The NMP expresses its sincerest gratitude to the von dem Hagen family for their enthusiasm
and dedication throughout the process of return, as well as to FASGI and Dr. Acabado for their
unwavering support in making this collection more accessible to the Filipino people for
generations to come.