In March 2019, I was delighted to find out that one museum in Paris featured the Philippines. The exhibit did not show paintings nor sculptures of talented Filipino artists, as what would normally be found in a museum. Instead, it presented anting-antings!
This exhibit was held from March 12 to May 26, 2019 in Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac. The 10-week exhibit titled “Anting-Anting, The Secret Soul of the Filipino” (curated by well-known Filipino director and playwright Floy Quintos and designed by visual artist Dino Dimar) showed the different anting-antings such as medallions, sculptures, necklaces, handkerchiefs, prayer books, stones, and booklets of chants.
Blown-up pictures of amulet-wearing, tattooed Filipinos with a proud stance, wearing mystical-looking medallions displayed on the walls captivated the eyes, and non-stop videos of the old quarter in Quiapo showing the church and stalls where anting-antings are sold, were projected on the wall of one side of the room.
What made the exhibit more intriguing was that it was situated on an isolated room at the upper floor, and one had to go up a short flight of stairs. Once there, the dull sound of the video and the reddish light cast an eerie glow in the entire area. During the time I visited, it was an hour before closing time and I had the entire area all to myself, which magnified my experience.
What is anting-anting, by the way? To those unfamiliar with this word, it may be roughly translated as an amulet. It supposedly protects the wearer or the bearer from evil spirits or from harm. In some stories told and retold, and possibly exaggerated, anting-antings gave their wearers supernatural powers, such as being immune from a gun shot or a bolo attack, having the ability to cast out evil spirits, and being able to heal instantly. Also, some amulets are considered to provide the bearer luck in love, life and wealth.
Anting-antings reflect the superstitious side of many Filipinos. Although, I think this belief that certain objects have mystical powers has become more unpopular as the years passed by, the concept is already ingrained in the Pinoy culture. In some aspects, it overlaps with the Pinoys’ religiosity and folkloric beliefs (such as in the expression “tabi-tabi po”, the habit of wiping handkerchiefs on religious images believing that they would possess healing powers afterwards and believing in gayuma – a chant/ prayer/ object to make a person you fancy like you in return).
The Philippine Embassy in Paris showed support for this exhibit as shown by the attendance of the Ambassador herself during the event’s inauguration on 11 March 2019. As for me, I visited the exhibit not on an official capacity but as a Pinoy glad to have a slice of the interesting Philippine culture given space and attention in Paris’ art world.
For more details about this exhibit, you may click the links below: