Gilded Heritage
Tatler Philippines|November 2020
With very few existing original manuscripts, these intricate golden treasures offer a direct link to the Philippines’ pre-colonial flourishing past
Stephanie Zubiri

“Pieces of gold, the size of walnuts and eggs, are found by sifting the earth in the island of that king who came to our ships,” chronicled the explorer, Antonio Pigafetta, about Raja Siagu upon the Spaniards’ arrival in Butuan during the Magellan expedition. “All the dishes of that king are of gold and also some portions of his house as we were told by that king himself. He had a covering of silk on his head, and wore two large golden earrings fastened in his ears ... At his side hung a dagger, the haft of which was somewhat long and all of gold, and its scabbard of carved wood. He had three spots of gold on every tooth, and his teeth appeared as if bound with gold.”

One can only imagine the awe that overcame these European explorers when they discovered such a rich and elaborate society. Even today the Philippines possesses one of the world’s largest gold deposits, and there is evidence that mining began as early as 1000 BC. By the time the Spanish conquistadors reached Philippine shores, the islands had a flourishing culture that traded in the precious metal and citizens adorned themselves in gold to display status.

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