Let us take a glimpse at the centuries-old tradition and mortuary practice of pre-colonial inhabitants of Banton Island and its boat-shaped coffins.
The textile fragment, now more popularly known as the Banton Burial Cloth (BN-G1-11 /1961-F-11), was found associated with the skeletal remains. It measures 81 cm long and 21 cm wide and believed to have been used as a funerary shroud, similar to the practice in the Philippine Cordilleras of wrapping skeletons during re-internment for the secondary burial. Relative dating puts the Cloth from the late 13th to early 14th century, making it the oldest known textile that exists in the Philippines, although its origins are still under study as there has been no evidence of traditional ikat weaving in Banton or its current practice.
The archaeological study is very important in supporting the accurate interpretation of past events, which helps in reconstructing our history. When a site is disturbed or pilfered, we lose information forever without the significant context to assist us in piecing together our story. This is much more valuable than the selfish individual’s monetary gain or enriching their personal collections. Our heritage and recounting its narrative through material culture benefits future generations and our aspirations as a nation. If you see or have knowledge of sites being looted, report to your local government authorities immediately or contact the closest NMP office near you.
The Banton Burial Cloth was declared a National Cultural Treasure for its uniqueness and is exhibited at the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino Gallery in the National Museum of Anthropology.
Two of the Banton Boat Coffins are on permanent display at the Kaban ng Lahi Gallery while the modified skulls, the rest of the Banton boat coffins, and other material culture are stored at the National Archaeological Repository in the same museum.