Permanent and Long-Term Exhibitions


ADVISORY: The ‘Classical Gold and Pottery Collection’ and ‘Aura: Religious Art’ Collection are currently closed for gallery renovations. Re-opening date will be announced.

Gold and Pottery

Basement Gallery
Gold adornments, ritual pieces, and barter rings –evidences of a flourishing Pre-Colonial Filipino society actively engaged in local and international trade

Basement Gallery
Pottery used by pre-colonial Filipinos as household implements, ritual articles, and burial vessels

Classical Gold and Pottery from the Pre-Colonial Period

Before the colonization of the Spain, the people living in the islands now known as the Philippines had a distinct and rich civilization. This can be seen in the treasures that were unearthed from that period. Excavations all over the Philippines have turned up fine pottery and gold pieces in sites such as Batangas and Mindoro in Luzon, Samar in Visayas, and Butuan and Surigao in Mindanao. The technology used in making these artifacts is an enduring evidence of the high level of technology during the pre-colonial period. They are now a national heritage, part of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ Gold and Pottery Collection.

Since the ancient times, gold has been one of the main products of the islands. Both ancient and modern day goldsmiths exude exquisiteness in their craftsmanship in making pieces for trade or for personal vanity and prestige.

The gold collection of the BSP started with beads and gold pieces that were used as means of exchange during early times. Its pre-Hispanic gold collection also includes “barter rings”, hollow gold tubes formed in a circle. These barter rings are bigger then doughnuts in size and are made of nearly pure gold. The BSP also has a sizable collection of excavated glass and semiprecious stone beads, strung into necklaces and other ornaments, patterned after old documents and heirloom jewelry of existing cultural community. The gold belts or waist embellishments, which are also part of the collection, have not been found anywhere else in the world and represent the height of ancient Filipino gold artistry.

Other pieces in the exhibit reveal that Filipinos from a millennium ago sent their dead in spirit boats to the afterworld. The deceased were adorned with “mask” (eyes, nose and mouth covers) usually made of gold sheets. Gold was considered a magical substance and might have been meant to keep in the soul or to keep out evil spirits. The gold partially hides the features of the departed, impressing on the mind of grieving relatives an eternal, incorruptible visage, not of the flesh that will soon become earth. They also made use of a variety of gold coronets, fillets and other hair ornaments in adoring their dead.

Jewelry has always been a symbol of wealth and stature. In this exhibit, it also becomes indicators of development as a culture, a product of Philippine native genius through the ages. Here, jewelry is seen as artifacts set within the elaborate history of man in the Philippines. Personal ornaments in the Philippines are more than just applied decoration and belong to the realm of expressive art, created within the discipline of style and in the context of traditions. Goldworks, are more than momentary creations, they are historical objects, from which we may derive an idea of the economic, social and cultural development of the Philippine people through time.

In Neolithic Philippines, pottery and other objects were made to suit individual household needs. Most palayok (pots) were produced and used for daily cooking activities, though small pots with incision might have been intended as grave furniture. Other forms include pouring vessels, jugs, dishes, vases and native dippers (tabo) Others were made as ornamental ware like goblets, footed dishes, and globular bottles.

The Philippine pottery tradition reached its heights during the Metal Age, from 200 BC to 900 AD, hence the period is also known as the Golden Age of Pottery.

It was that period that early Filipinos went into pottery specialization and experimental with form, design and techniques.

Round-bottomed cylinders were used for liquids or salted food. They were equipped with lashing around the neck for easier transport. Footed trays were used either for the household or to hold produce or for ritual offerings. Other pre-Colonial pottery pieces had rims with perforations to tie through and hold down the ware during firing Large burial jars were made to keep the bones of the deceased, along with other objects such as jewelry and other small earthenwares. They believed that a person does not die completely and that death was just a door that leads to another world. As such, that person would need earthly belongings in that world as well.

These forms were present from the Late Metal Age (200) until the Age of Contact or the Age Interactive Trade with the Great traditions of Asia.

Basement Hallway
Religious images crafted by Filipino artists to capture spiritual aura, represented by a halo of gold



Upper Galleries, Second Floor


A landmark long-term exhibition of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila,¬†The Philippine Contemporary: To Scale the Past and the Possible¬†launches the museum’s new strategic direction to integrate a heightened focus on modern and contemporary art by Philippine and foreign artists.

Curated by well-known art critic and scholar, Dr. Patrick Flores, the exhibit encompasses a wide range of forms, from painting, installations, visual culture and popular media such as comics, photography, film, and video.

The past is history, culture, and tradition. The possible is the future, expectation, and hope. The past and the possible both partake of circumstance and context, and therefore of chance.

Launched in February 2013, The Philippine Contemporary: to scale the past and the possible is a comprehensive exhibition that features the museum’s new strategic direction of integrating a heightened focus on modern and contemporary art by Philippine and foreign artists. This exhibition charts the development of modern art and the vitality of contemporary art in the Philippines.


The major sections of the exhibition – Horizon, Trajectory and Latitude – index the variety and chronology of styles, movements, institutions, and collectives that marked the significant shifting tides in Philippine art history from the early 20th century to the present. While with the two last sections – Sphere and Direction – this exhibition keeps the dynamic and diverse pulse of artistic expression alive.