Iron Anchor from Donsol Astillero


In continuing celebration of the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month or #MANAMo this September 2022, this week’s #TrowelTuesday features the iron anchor from Donsol Astillero retrieved in Barangay Dancalan, Donsol, Sorsogon.

The anchor, measuring 3 m in length, was exposed after a flood in the area in the 1950s. It was documented by Dr. Mary Jane Louise Bolunia, now the Division Chief of the Archaeology Division of the #NationalMuseumPH, during an archaeological survey in 1994.

The Astillero Site was archaeologically excavated for 4 field seasons from 1995 to 1997 by the #NationalMuseumPH. Situated on a farm known as Astillero, locals claim that the area was named after an actual astillero or shipyard located in the area.

Most of the recovered artifacts were made of iron, such as nails, spikes, and dowels. There were also copper and lead objects, fuel materials (charcoal, coal, and coke), shells, bone fragments, and ceramics that included earthenware, stoneware, Chinese and European porcelain sherds, bricks, and tiles.

Based on the initial geoarchaeological assessment, it suggests that the location was originally a mangrove area and infilled with soil to make it useful for the purpose of the astillero. Aside from the recovered artifacts, the team also discovered remnants of a furnace and man-made pools called lepak, probably used as a source of water for cooling metals during smelting, iron slag deposit, and earthenware crucibles. This indicates that the site once had a fabrica, a metal workshop for shipbuilding materials, and a shipyard approximately used during the Spanish period.

Astilleros are evidence of the Spanish colonization lost over time. Archaeological activities in the Donsol Astillero led to the discovery of a shipyard participating in the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade. The location of Donsol Astillero in Sorsogon was favorable to the galleon trade not only because it was part of the trade route but because of its rich natural and human resources to build and repair ships. The province also boasts of other astilleros, like the Binanuahan and Panlatuan in Pilar and Bagatao in Magallanes.  

More research has to be done on the Astillero Sites to fully understand its role in the country’s maritime history. The iron anchor from Astillero is currently on loan to the Museo Sorsogon, where you can also view other archaeological materials recovered from the province.




Text by Sherina Aggarao and Mary Jane Louise Bolunia, and poster by Timothy James Vitales | NMP Archaeology Division

© 2022 National Museum of the Philippines


Bolunia, M. J. L. (1996a). Brief Accomplishment Report on Astillero, Brgy. Dancalan, Donsol, Sorsogon and vicinities [Fieldwork Report]. National Museum of the Philippines.

Bolunia, M. J. L. (1996b). Preliminary report on the archaeological exploration and test excavations of the Astillero Site, Dancalan, Donsol, Sorsogon (December 8-15, 1995) [Fieldwork Report]. National Museum of the Philippines.

Bolunia, M. J. L. (1997). The Astillero: A metal smelting site in Barangay Dancalan, Donsol, Sorsogon [Fieldwork Report]. National Museum of the Philippines.

Bolunia, M. J. L. (1998). Astillero: An archaeological analysis of a 19th century metal smelting site [Master’s Thesis]. University of the Philippines.

Bolunia, M. J. L. (2014). Astilleros: The Spanish shipyards of Sorsogon. In Proceedings of the 2nd Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Ronquillo, W., & Bolunia, M. J. L. (2012). Binanuahan and Panlatuan Astillero: Spanish period shipyard in Pilar, Sorsogon (A preliminary report) [Fieldwork Report]. National Museum of the Philippines.

The 9th to 10th century archaeological evidence of maritime relations between the Philippines and the islands of Southeast Asia

In celebration of the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month or #MANAMo this month, today’s #TrowelTuesday features the 9th to 10th century archaeological evidence of maritime relations between the Philippines and the Islands of Southeast Asia.

The 2nd millennium Common Era (CE) was characterized by intensified maritime exchange, development of political alliances, and cultural diffusion in Island Southeast Asia, as distinctly shown in archaeological discoveries in the region, including the Philippines. The maritime movement of people left footprints through material evidence, suggesting trade and contact with neighboring countries. 

The Srivijayan Hindu-Buddhist traders from Sumatra may have actively traded with the Philippines in the 8th–11th century CE. 

Changsha wares are grayish green-tinged underglaze stoneware vessels/dishes produced at the Changsha kilns of Hunan Province in southern China during the Tang Dynasty (618–906 CE). These were among the trade items provided for the overseas market around this period. Underwater archaeological excavations of the 9th-century Arab dhow wreck in Belitung Island near Sumatra, known as the Belitung shipwreck, revealed cargoes of Changsha bowls and other ceramic forms. 

Changsha ware is a type of ceramic rarely found in Philippine sites. These were reportedly excavated in Laurel, Batangas, and much recently in Mulanay, Quezon. The Mt. Kamhantik Site in Mulanay yielded stoneware glazed bowls associated with sarcophagus burials that were used as a grave offering for the dead. The site is a good source of information on the maritime exchange, movement, and relations during the 9th century CE, as reports revealed that Changsha bowls were extensively used as religious and ceremonial icons among the Hindus and Buddhists, particularly in the Indo-Malaysian region.

The lashed-lug plank-built boats, found in Butuan, Agusan del Norte, are additional proof of the maritime trade network in the 9th century. Butuan boats are the oldest watercraft in the Philippines, constructed between the late 8th and early 10th centuries. These may have shared standard technological techniques with other Southeast Asian regions in terms of constructing lashed-lug vessels. 

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (LCI) is another piece of evidence of the Hindu-Buddhist material found in the country. The LCI is a thin copper strip with etchings similar to the Early Kawi script’s form. Anthropologist Antoon Postma’s translation of the LCI’s text shows the Saka date of 822, or 900 CE, the start of King Belitung of Central Java’s reign. The LCI suggests a contract that existed between the Philippines and its neighbors in the Southeast Asian region, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Changsha ceramics in Mt. Kamhantik Site, the Butuan boats, and the Laguna copperplate inscription are material evidence that signifies the maritime contact and healthy relationships between regions in Southeast Asia.




Article by Nida Cuevas. Images by Timothy James Vitales | NMP Archaeology Division

© 2022 National Museum of the Philippines

Birth Anniversaries of Nena Saguil and Impy Pilapil

Birth Anniversaries of Nena Saguil and Impy Pilapil

The National Museum of the Philippines celebrates the birthdays of two women artists: modernist painter Nena Saguil and sculptor Impy Pilapil #OnThisDay.

Nena Saguil (1914-1994) was one of the country’s early modernists and abstraction pioneers. Her works reflect her penchant for mysticism and geometric shapes symbolizing the universe at the macro and micro levels. Born Simplicia Laconico Saguil in Santa Cruz, Manila, her art training started when she enrolled at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts where she graduated with an Award of Excellence in 1949.

In 1954, she was granted the Walter Damrosch Scholarship, which enabled her to study abstract and modern art at the Institute of Spanish Culture in Spain. She also studied at the School of American Arts in Paris where she had her solo exhibition at the Galerie Raymond Creuze. This was followed by many more shows across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In 2006, Saguil was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit.

Imelda “Impy” Pilapil (b. 1949) is a painter, printmaker, and sculptor who features abstract works reflecting her exploration of personal and spiritual growth. Hailing from Cavite, she first enrolled at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts in the 1960s and then continued her studies at Accademia Italiana in Rome, Italy after receiving a grant from the Italian Government.

She proceeded to study lithography at Pratt Graphics Center in New York in 1977. She later joined the Arts Association of the Philippines and was also an active member of the World Print Council, U.S.A., International Sculpture Center, and EARTHWATCH Save the Trees Movement and conducts art workshops for underprivileged children. Pilapil’s ongoing exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Gallery XVII, entitled CIRCA features her sculptural works from 1994 to 2017.

Nena Saguil and Impy Pilapil are represented in the National Fine Arts Collection of the National Museum of the Philippines through seven paintings by Saguil and four works by Pilapil. The works of Saguil show her transition from figurative painting after the war to high abstraction in the 1960s. One of her abstract works, “Untitled (Abstract),” is an oil on canvas painting created in 1972 and part of the exhibitions at the National Museum of Fine Arts on the third floor of Southwest Wing Hallway Gallery.

On the other hand, the works of Impy Pilapil in the collection includes two serigraph prints and two mixed media sculpture representing her journey from printmaking to sculpture. Her two chandelier sculptures, “Fiesta I” and “Fiesta II,” were created in 2008, and can be viewed at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Sandiganbayan Reception Hall Gallery on the ground floor.

The National Museum of Fine Arts is now open for walk-in visitors! For visitor guidelines, please visit You may also view the 360 degrees virtual tour of selected NMFA galleries on the link See you at the National Museum!

#Nena Saguil

Text by NMP-FAD. Images by Bengy Toda and NMP-FAD
© National Museum of the Philippines (2022)

Continue reading

Ghost Nets: Silently wreaking havoc in our oceans

The #NationalMuseumPH joins today’s observance of the International Coastal Clean-up Day (ICC). Ghost nets are not supernatural events happening in the ocean, but legitimately scary. A ghost net is a fishing net that was lost or abandoned in the ocean. It can travel vast distances from their point of origin. 

Every year, an estimated 640,000 to 800,000 tons of fishing gear is lost at sea and exerts an uncertain impact on marine species contributing to 20% of ocean plastic globally. Discarded fishing nets are made up of plastic, which breaks up into microplastics over time and ends up in the digestive tracts of marine life, which is hazardous for animals and humans alike. It not only entraps fish, they also entangle sea turtles, dolphins and porpoises, birds, sharks, seals, and more.

Discarded fishing nets left to drift continue to trap everything in its path unattended for years or even decades, killing huge numbers of commercially valuable and threatened species, presenting a major problem for the health of our oceans and marine life.  These marine animals are often unable to detect them by sight or sonar, and swim into the nets. Our coral reefs are also not spared from ghost nets, which render them exposed to disease, breakage, and blockage of much-needed sunlight.

Ghost nets represent an ongoing connection between humanity’s management of its marine resources and ocean health. One solution to address this problem is to encourage fishing communities to recycle worn-out nets and traps. There are NGO’s that profit from recycling ghost nets into carpet tiles, sustainable skateboards, famous games like Jenga and frisbee, sunglasses, clothings, nylon yarn and others. 

As stewards of the sea, we need to follow the 3 R’s – Reuse, Redo, and Recycle our everyday trash and not throw them in the streets and drainage canals because it always ends up in the sea.

Text by the NMP Zoology Division / Images by Roger Dolorosa and Christopher Paleracio

© National Museum of the Philippines (2022)

Manlilika ng Bayan Magdalena Gamayo donates new inabel masterpiece as ‘Gift to the Nation’

The National Museum of the Philippines is honored to receive a recently created inabel masterpiece from Manlilikha ng Bayan Magdalena “Nana Daleng” Gamayo on the occasion of her 98th birthday on 13 August 2022. The framed inabel was turned over by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA) Executive Council, through its representative Dr. Edwin V. Antonio, to NMP Deputy Director-General for Museums Jorell M. Legaspi last 30 August 2022. Adorned with sinankurus (cross) design, the textile piece is now part of the GAMABA Special Collection.

MB Magdalena Gamayo was conferred with the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan award in 2012 for her excellent contribution to the cultural heritage of the country as a master textile weaver. Republic Act No. 7355 or Manlilikha ng Bayan Act of 1992 was enacted to preserve and promote Philippine traditional arts, whether visual, performing, or literary, for their cultural value. It also honors and supports traditional artists for their contribution to the national heritage. The work of a Manlilikha ng Bayan is presumed to be an Important Cultural Property, second to National Cultural Treasure, the highest category of cultural property through Republic Act No. 10066, also known as the National Heritage Act of 2009. 

We are excited to welcome you back to the National Museum of Anthropology soon! Stay tuned to our social media pages for the latest updates on our collections and exhibitions.





Text and poster by the NMP Ethnology Division

© 2022 National Museum of the Philippines

Arayu, the Ivatan gold

It’s Fish Conservation Week! Meet Arayu, the Ivatan gold.

Did you know that for 2 months each year, mataw fisherfolks go out to sea in search of Common dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus)?

Locally known to Ivantans as arayu, it is a migratory fish that passes by the inner shores of Batanes during dry seasons.  It is widely known in the country as dorado (Spanish for gold), or internationally as mahi-mahi and is a favorite game fish. Arayu inhabits tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans and is highly migratory. They can be found in shallow waters to 85 meters deep and are a prized game and commercial fish worldwide. 

Mataw fishers seize the seasonal opportunity of angling arayu, a tradition that is passed on to many generations of Ivatans. Around April and May, an abundance of arayu and several species of flying fish enter the calmer nearshore waters, which makes angling easier. Families move closer to their vanua or port for the duration of this season, leaving behind their farms momentarily. Their daily catch is processed for filleting and drying to extend the shelf life of the fish meant as a reserve during leaner months. These dried goods are distributed among the community after the closure of mataw fishing season, where priority is given to locals, and only the excess is sold to non-Ivatans. 

This short time span of traditional fishing has an unintended positive impact on the management of fishing for these migratory species, where the prohibition of commercial fishing and implementation of a closed season allows for the recovery of remaining wild populations in the sea.

What we can learn from this traditional way of fishing is that harvesting from our seas can be sustainable. Science-based management of our natural resources will benefit both the environment and the people who rely on these resources for sustenance. As individuals, we can contribute to protecting our marine resources simply by limiting our waste generation, joining coastal cleanups, and not polluting the environment.



Text and poster by Jasmin Meren of NMP Zoology Division.