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Jose Bolante and the Negritos of Panay

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Jose Bolante became acquainted with the Negrito communities of Panay and a strong bond based on understanding and friendship developed between him and the Negritos.  He compiled a monograph on their material culture which is of greater value than those produced by present-day ‘institutionalized’ professionals.

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Jose Bolante and the Negritos of Panay

  1. 1. VIRTUAL MUSEUM or NEGRITOS THE VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF THE NEGRITOS IS DEDICATED TO THE FIRST NATION OF THE PHILIPPINES: THE NEGRITOS OUR MISSION: * COLLECT | NFORMA11ON ABOUTTHE HISTORY OF THE NEGRITOS AND THEIR D| S'|1NCT CULTURES " UPDATE FORENSIC EVIDENCE ABOUT THEIR ARRIVAL IN INSULAR SOUTHEAST ASIA PROMOTE THE INTEGRATION OF THEIR HISTORY IN THE OFFICIAL HISTORY OF THE PHILIPPINES " CONDUCT THE VIRTUAL REPATRIA1'ION OF THEIR CULTURAL HERITAGE AND MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE * PRESERVE KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE WORK OF THE TRAVELLERS AND RESEARCHERS WHO GOT ACQUAINTED WITH THE NEGRITOS, EXPRESSED THEIR ESTEEM FOR THEM AND VALUED THEIR MATERIAL CULTURE AND INTANGIBLE HERITAGE
  2. 2. JOSE BOLANTE: Astute observer of the Negritos I met Jose Bolante only once in Iloilo and this was in 1986. An Iloilo-based collector, Dra. Alice Saldana, had given me an exceptional specimen of a Sanduko hilt. And when I visited Bolante in the Office of Muslim Affairs and Cultural Communities, he explained its different versions to me. At the end of the visit he gave me a copy of his booklet “1'he; A£s__9LPanay. " This booklet introduced me to the world of the Negritos, who were at that time a permanent presence in Iloilo City especially during the January Dinagyang festivities that celebrate both the Atis and the Santa Nino. (g: I was eventually able to visit them at their community in Nagpana, Barotac Viejo, Iloilo). Only much later after my encounter with Bolante did my interest in the Negritos increase. In 2013, I discovered that the Iloilo Museum had in its possession a collection of bamboo items from Nagpana that had been collected by Jose Bolante in the 1980s. But all my inquiries about the whereabouts of Bolante were answered with tightened lips; there was a kind of omerta about him. .. This year I made it a priority to look for him. I was able to find a few of his friends who told me that he had died several years ago, and that they all had fond memories of him. IN 1980 Herewith is an excerpt from the introduction to his book THE ATIS OF WESTERN VISAYAS: “Sincere friendship, altruism, and the feeling of earnest (sic) to call the attention of the major society towards the plight of these people without the heavy trappings of the anthropological tools had led to the fruition (sic) of layman's book titled: "The Atis of Panay" (1986). It had also given me the opportunity of presenting a project proposal "Discovering, Collecting and Preserving Cultural Materials of the Atis of Panay, Philippines" (1986) to the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, which awards prizes to winning project proposals in the field of science, invention and discovery. The work was nominated as one of the meritorious entries and was included in the book "A Selection of Projects submitted to the Rolex Awards for Enterprise".
  3. 3. DRINKING VESSEL / ’ HEIGHT: I65 mm / ‘ DIAMETER: 55mm / VOLUME: 0,2|iler WATER BUCKET / HEIGHT: 380 mm : DIAMETER: 75mm ) , ' VOLUME: Ililer I THE TE(HNl(AL SOLUTION IN MAKING THE HANDLE IS APPROPRIATE TO THE MATERIAL USED, «Mnlerialgerethlx
  4. 4. In the years 1987 to date, when I joined the Office for Southern Cultural Communities, Region 6, I had again the opportunity of meeting the Atis in Anilao, San Rafael, Janiuay, Maasin, San Miguel, Barotac Viejo and Tigbauan, all towns of Iloilo Province. I also met several groups In the hills of Dumarao in the province of Capiz, in the low-lying shorelines of Malay in the province of Aklan and in the towns of Tobias Fornier (formerly Dao) and Hamtik in the province of Antique. I had surveyed some groups of these people In the newly created province of Guimaras. I have also gone to lsabela in Negros Occidental to visit the same people. The information I got about these groups sporadically scattered all over the islands of Panay and Negros had resulted in the ethnography here. " AND IN 2014 . ... ... .. These days Negrito communities are contained and managed by outsiders; they are harassed and even killed because they are black. Their existence is eliminated from the official history of the Philippines as evidenced in several major exhibitions about the country that were held in museums in Munich, Singapore and Paris. It is of utmost importance that the work of Jose Bolante be preserved and widely diffused. One of his notable discoveries about the Negritos Is their astute observation of the auto-medication of animals and how they applied this to themselves. Another is their use of a contraption to punish an offender that kept him immobilised for several days and nights. These are just two examples of BoIante’s many observations that are important elements in the complexity of the singular culture of the Negritos of Panay, who are themselves an Integral part of the history of the Philippine Nation.
  5. 5. 2 £2 E; '2 ‘:2 : ' 9 L11 -< 1.11 —I l'l"| §: L/1 BAMBOO LENGTH: 220 mm CARAUAO HORN STICK LENGTH: 250mm , LENGTH: 245 mm UL Gemelli Careri notes that the Negritos, upon seeing the danger BOLANTE in I980 tollected a signal-horn from the Negrito of approaching Spaniards, sounded the alarm to other groups Community of Nagpana in Panay. by beating wooden Sll(l(S or pietes of bamboo. (I63I) A similar item (on be found in the collettion of the Did they have a (ode language? At least this signifies Museum fur Volkerkunde in Dresden. As with the item on the left solidarity amongst groups. it was found in Mariveles by Arthur Baessler. This item can be found in the Museum fiir Volkerliunde A. E. Meyer doubts that the pie(e originated from the Negritos. in Dresden; it was collected in Mariveles on or about I900. However the name of the item is «tambuiukv», and as Prof. Kern points (76l9 A. Baessler) out, is similar to the word «tambulok» whith means ‘bellows’ in Bisayan.
  6. 6. “ESSENTIAL DESIGN” OR “FUNCTIONAL ART”? Dieter Rams, chief designer of BRAUN AG, enumerates 10 criteria for good design, the last one is: "good design should be concentrated on the essential". Should this not be really the first? Under ideal conditions a solitary designer navigates between innovation, aesthetics, social imperatives, the consumer market etc. Based on his technical knowledge, his imagination and experience, he approaches and creates the ideal object of his endeavours. Much adrenalin is involved. These days though, CAD (computer-assisted design) and teamwork devalues the design process to “routine creative WORK". Gustaaf Verswijver, the Exhibition Commissioner of the ground-breaking exhibition on the Omo people at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Brussels, writes in the foreword of the exhibition catalogue: “The material culture of Omo societies was chosen as the primary focus, as it has garnered too little attention or none at all, probably because these cultures do not produce high art objects such as masks and figurative images. But this does not mean that their tools and ornamentations are not artistically made. On the contrary, for people who live in a very harsh environment and who are constantly concerned with how they will survive the coming month, it is remarkable how much attention they pay to aesthetics and, indeed, the design of their objects. In this context, speaking of “functional art" is justified. " The “essential design" as practiced in the Negrito societies reveals another aspect. It is complex but determined by different criteria, as their creative considerations are preconditioned by the material available.
  7. 7. HOLLOW CYLINDER TECHNOLOGY quiver length: 645 mm diameter: 48 mm OTTOWSI base material for Negrito technology length; mm BAMBOO PHRAGMITES used for the quiver TAMBO , ‘ reed used for the arrow shaft contains pith LIVISTONA ROTUNDIFOLIA ANAHAW the outer pan of the trunk of this palm is hard and has a fine structure, outer diameter about 220 mm, wall thickness about 30 mm.
  8. 8. NEGRITO DESIGN (J I a modern (AN RIVAL min I is I application OFJAPAN “ r the design of the handle is ingenious: ' , , V X J P'°'I"fI 9l! I°"°"| I(5.l5 U19 ergonamicol, ecological, esthetical, "vi '1 , ‘°'_‘f°l’"°l‘ °l”59"ll'9“lUY ye(| -lnimjw I -‘ ‘ utility objects, the cutout is “ca ’V. V"l; ‘,', V'T¢‘ ~, ~- , .___) an ergonamical — '“: "l‘ improvementofasimple -fig, ‘ : _ 1' 7 piece of bamboo
  9. 9. BIRCH TECHNOLOGY One cannot compare the cultures of different societies that are located in different regions. In prehistoric Europe birch bark was a much-appreciated basic material. The main chemical component - betulinic acid - gave it unique qualities; one researcher, W. Jensen (1949), even called it a water-resistant plastic laminate. The structure of the surface suggests a blue print of Euclidian geometry and the basic premise in the making of boxes dating from 10.000 years ago is still valid today. The betulinic acid in the bark was extracted by condensation and used like hot-melt in the hafting of tools and in the sealing of containers. Recent hot discoveries in glacier ice and wet-lands opened new and rich dimensions of pre-history that has been for far too Ion dominated by cold statistical Iithic studies. HOLLOW CYLINDER TECHNOLOGY We have already written about the bamboo technology of Negritos in a pre-historical context and that was validated by the research of Prof. Bar-Yosef of Harvard. The Bolante collection - complemented with other items collected in the 19th century -demonstrates how aesthetic and functional design as applied in the material culture of the Negritos was determined by “HOLLOW CYLINDER" plants. These are: BAMBOO: the culm in different length and diameters, with its nodes and hollow internodes, and with a silica rich outer surface, is resistant against wear and shock and Is razor sharp; REEDS: the phragmites, like many other reeds, have stems that are either hollow or filled with pith; PALMS: the “anahaw” palms (Livistona rotundifolia) , are preferred by the Negritos in the making bows and arrow points, and can grow to a height of 25 meters. The trunk has a diameter that can measure up to 25 cm. Only the outer part of the trunk is hard; it has the same attractive colour and structure of timed wood. The common characteristic of these plants, i. e. a hollow tube, makes them ideal for easy processing, especially that they can be split with basic Iithic tools into manageable workpieces. One can retro-project these working methods as well the use of these plants into the past, and see that they were applied by the Negritos tens of thousand years ago. June 2014

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