Pinoy Power Packs at the Yuchengco Museum

(Anting-Anting, Agimat, Amulets Galore)

anting2

I haven’t met a Filipino who doesn’t swear by the powers of an amulet – the “agimat” and “anting-anting”.

I have a small collection of them myself, either given by mentors, kin and well-meaning friends or found in my travels – all strewn on my altar. A “libon” (eyeless coconut) and an array of crystals guard my place. My personal rosary – a gift from a healing group – is a combination of various “magical” wood, from bagacay bamboo to libon and “lusot”.

Still, I’ve always believed that no amulet can be more powerful than the person who wields it. After all, they only serve as material “channels” of energy. That means they can only amplify the powers that you already have. They can never give you something you never had in the first place.

Anyway, more about that in later blogs …power objects happen to be the subject of a book I’m writing that I have set aside for the meantime… until I learned of this new exhibit at the Yuchengco Museum.

Even before the arrival of Spanish colonizers, our ancestors believed that wearing powerful, mystical amulets or talismans would protect them from harm or even give them special powers.

But there’s one tragic story about amulets I would never forget. My Pa told me about it as a child – the massacre of the Lapiang Malaya (Freedom Movement), a peasant group who fought to overthrow the Marcos government.

Led by a Bicolano, Valentin de los Santos, some half a thousand blue-uniformed Lapiang Malaya with yellow capes, wielding bolos and wearing amulets and vests to render them bullet-proof, set out for Malacañang Palace.

Soldiers and police armed with M-16s blocked them in Taft Avenue, Pasay City. The group charged and a hundred were either killed or wounded. Survivors were arrested for sedition. Their leader was ruled insane and thrown in the National Center for Mental Health, where he was mauled and killed.

Ex-president Marcos himself claimed he had an amulet which protected him from bullets. Bonifacio had one too and so did many national heroes. But no amulet protected them from Death.

No matter, power objects will always have a hold on the Filipino psyche.

Shrouded in myth, meaning, and symbolism and long kept secret from the rest of society, the stories about agimat and anting-anting are revealed in a special exhibit at Yuchengco Museum’s Pinoy Power Packs: Agimat, Anting-Anting and the Stories They Tell, on view starting August 15 up to November 17, 2015.

Pinoy Power Packs examine the motifs, meanings, materials, and mediums of talismanic amulets, from the brass medallions peddled near Quiapo Church, Manila to sacred woods such as dignum and alitagtag, ephemeral materials such as ink on linen or cotton, or oraciones – prayers on paper. Talismans made of rarer materials such as bone, silver, and ivory are also on display.

Pinoy Power Packs showcase anting-anting and agimat from as early as the mid-19th century to contemporary pieces used by today’s mag-aanting and healers.

How have these amulets—and the belief systems they signified—survived to this day? How do they continue to protect, transform and empower?

Though misunderstood—even feared or ridiculed—by many, these amulets continue to be the source of secret spirituality that continues to attract many followers.

Agimat and anting-anting illustrate our folk beliefs, spirituality and view of the world: they are a fusion of a belief in nature and in a concept of God who is both animist and Christian. They can be seen as our way of seeking to approach God and hold the power of God within a medallion, handkerchief, or vest, creating a powerful divine connection that gives the wearer god-like qualities.

Pinoy Power Packs explore the animist symbols and icons found in agimat, from the all-encompassing Infinito Dios to the many forms the Infinito manifests. The exhibit also looks at how these icons incorporate Christian imagery, such as the crucified Christ, the Virgin Mother, and the Santo Niño.

In addition, Pinoy Power Packs highlight our modern interest in our folk spirituality, as seen in nativist movements such as the Rizalistas and Lapiang Malaya (Freedom Society), and in films such as Nardong Putik.

Visitors can watch videos of an artist shopping for agimat in the streets of Quiapo in Manila, or of a young healer and practitioner explaining the various motifs seen in agimat.

Pinoy Power Packs juxtaposes examples of talismans from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries, along with colonial religious sculpture and contemporary art by National Artists for Visual Arts Ang Kiukok and Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera, the late Santiago Bose and Roberto Villanueva, and Leeroy New.

Lenders to the exhibit curated by Floy Quintos include Romeo Allanigue, the Bose family, Jaime Laya, Richard and Sandra Lopez, Ramon Lucas, Lisa Ongpin Periquet, and Dennis Villegas.

The Yuchengco Museum is located at RCBC Plaza, corner Ayala and Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenues, Makati. Museum hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (632) 889-1234 or visit www.yuchengcomuseum.org.

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