By Jenny Ortuoste
The National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) has added to its collection an ancient artifact once in the possession of H. Otley Beyer, an American anthropologist often referred to as the “Dean of Philippine Archaeology.”
NMP Director-General Jeremy Barns recently received a “likha,” a stone carving depicting an ancient Filipino deity that was found in a gravesite in Calatagan, Batangas.
The artifact was donated by lawyer Saul Hofileña Jr., acting in behalf of Daniel Soriano Hofileña. The gift is part of the HOCUS donation that includes Philippine history-themed paintings envisioned by Hofileña Jr.
According to NMP Deputy Director-General Ana Maria Theresa Labrador, the first likha was found in February 1959 in an archaeological site excavated in Punta Buaya, Calatagan, Batangas. It was a piece of coral carved to look like a human figure.
“Calatagan, Batangas was the site of an ancient necropolis where pre-Hispanic Filipinos buried their dead together with what they believed should accompany them to the afterlife, such as porcelain plates, earthenware, and beads,” Dr. Labrador said.
The donor Hofileña Jr. said, “The likha has finally found its rightful home in the National Museum.”
When asked why he chose the NMP to receive the gift, he said: “Our National Museum could now compete with the best museums in the world. It is fully air-conditioned, the staff are disciplined and hardworking, the exhibits are world-class and the entrance is free.
“The museum was even given a national award for having one of the cleanest restrooms in the country. As a result, thousands of people from all walks of life now fall in line every day to visit the museum to learn about our country’s history and culture.”
Hofileña Jr. added, “Why a likha was buried together with the dead is not certain because the ancient cemetery in Calatagan was disturbed, mostly by profit-seeking treasure hunters without regards to the necessity of obtaining information that would benefit future scholars.
“The likha is a deity who could help the deceased reach a blissful afterlife. The practice (of funerary items) continues up to the present, when we include unstrung rosaries to accompany our dead.”