Fort Pilar National Museum

Interesting exhibit at the National Museum Zamboanga

The Griffin gallery showcases the finds and information of the 18th century British trading vessel that sunk off Sulu which carried tea and porcelain from China

The Griffin gallery showcases the finds and information of the 18th century British trading vessel that sunk off Sulu which carried tea and porcelain from China

There’s an interesting exhibit that opened last May at the National Museum branch at Fort Pilar in Zamboanga City. In the newly refurbished Structure D, with its newly whitewashed (?) facade, is a two section exhibition entitled: Trade and Exchange in Southern Philipines: Borderless Intersections of Geography, Culture and History.

This is an important exhibition, focusing on historical and contemporary trade as it put the spotlight on the very crucial role of Mindanao and the so called Sulu Zone in the historical development of southern Philippines, Southeast Asia and her relationships within the region and Europe and the modern setup in the context of borders and regulations.

And this is also quite important for me as I have an interest in the role of Sulu, when it rose as the regional emporium at the height of the muslim slave raiding in the middle of the 18th and 19 centuries that greatly shaped the Philippines but is not being discussed in textbooks.

READ MORE: Tea, trade and tears: the Muslim slave raids of the 18th-19th centuries, Part 1 of 3

The exhibit is located at the beautifully renovated second floor of Structure D with a grand staircase leading to it. With the backdrop of Spanish era brick walls, and wide, hard wood flooring, ‘Trade and Exchange’ engages the visitor in a setting that has an actual role in the historical trade. The first section focuses on the archaeological excavation of a British trading vessel, the Griffin that sunk off Sulu in 1761, just less than a year before the British invaded the Philippines.

It was carrying cargo with tea as the bulk of the merchandise (with porcelain utensils) from its trading post in China and en route to India and England. With it sinking off Sulu, shows the attempt of the British East India Company to establish a trading port in the Sultanate. At this section, images of the excavation are being shown, including a 3D model of the excavating vessel and several samples of porcelain cups and plates.

The second section shows contemporary trading and barter in Mindanao, showcasing the different tribes of this island and how they exchanged goods with other tribes, their way of living, products that have been traded as seen in the barter trade centers of Zamboanga City like Canelar.

READ MORE: Canelar, Zamboanga City’s shopping mecca

This is an interesting exhibit. By next year, the middle structure of Fort Pilar that used to be in ruins, now rebuilt and will house another interesting exhibition gallery. I just hope that, eventually, the National Museum will finally mount an exhibition devoted to the Muslim slave raiding (link to my article above) that will focus on the role of the Sulu Sultanate, its trade with the British in their addiction to tea and how it shaped the Philippines: from attempts to fend off these raiders, the building of historical forts, fortress-churches and watchtowers, to the opening up of interior areas and development of present towns. I’m sure, this will be really interesting!

Porcelain plates displayed neatly in rows as recovered from the Griffin

Porcelain plates displayed neatly in rows as recovered from the Griffin

Images of the archaeological study and recovery of the Griffin vessel

Images of the archaeological study and recovery of the Griffin vessel

A coffeepot with mixed decorations and features a zoomorphic spout standing on a tripod

A coffeepot with mixed decorations and features a zoomorphic spout standing on a tripod

Porcelain tea cups as recovered from the Griffin

Porcelain tea cups as recovered from the Griffin

The Trade and Exchange in Southern Philippines gallery

The ‘Trade and Exchange in Southern Philippines’ exhibition

Another view of the Trade and Exchange in the Southern Philippines gallery

Another view of the ‘Trade and Exchange in Southern Philippines’ gallery

Right, a Maranao 'renti' (bangle) made of brass and gold; left, Maranao 'gokum' or lipstick container made of silver

Right, a Maranao ‘renti’ (bangle) made of brass and gold; left, Maranao ‘gokum’ or lipstick container made of silver

Different textiles of different tribes in Mindanao

Different textiles of different tribes in Mindanao

The newly renovated buildings. The right structure used to be ruins but is now being readied as a new exhibition gallery. The left, Structure D is where the new, 2 section exhibit on the Southern Philippines is showcased

The newly renovated buildings. The right structure used to be ruins but is now being readied as a new exhibition gallery. The left, Structure D is where the new, 2 section exhibit on the Southern Philippines is showcased

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

2 Comments

  1. Estan Cabigas (@EstanCabigas)
    October 13, 2014 @ 22:17

    Interesting exhibit at the National Museum Zamboanga: The Griffin gallery showcases the finds and information … http://t.co/QThDG5ZhKs

  2. Four must visit museums in Zamboanga City - langyaw
    October 25, 2014 @ 8:43

    […] READ MORE: Interesting exhibit at the National Museum Zamboanga […]

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