Rare artifacts find their way home to the Philippines thanks to a York professor

A museum in the northern Philippines has received a treasure trove of local artifacts, all thanks to a connection made during the Sustainable and Inclusive Internationalization Virtual Conference organized by York University and partners in January 2021.

Patrick Alcedo

Patrick Alcedo

Patrick Alcedo, associate professor of dance in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD), was one of the conference speakers. He gave a presentation about using dance as a pedagogical tool. Alcedo is a dancer, dance ethnographer and documentary filmmaker who specializes in the folk dances of the Philippines.

In the audience for Alcedo's talk was Faye Snodgress, an American education consultant and granddaughter of a man who taught English in the northern Philippines in the late 1800s.

Following the conference, Snodgress wrote to Alcedo to explain her family connection to the Philippines. She sent along photos of some cultural artifacts that her grandfather had brought home as mementos of his stay in the rural Philippines. Snodgress expressed a desire to donate them to a museum or an appreciative audience. She asked Alcedo if he had any ideas about a good home or any connections to someone who could assist her with the donation.

A rare bag from the Philippines

This embroidered bag is among the artifacts sent to the Museo Kordilyera. Photograph courtesy of Patrick Alcedo

Alcedo, who hails from the central Philippines, immediately thought of a colleague at OCAD University, Lynne B. Milgram, who conducts research in the northern part of the Philippines. He got in touch with Milgram and she told him that a new museum, the Museo Kordilyera, had opened in 2019 at the University of the Philippines. Milgram contacted the director of Museo Kordilyera and received an enthusiastic response: the museum would be delighted to add the artifacts to its collection.

“The artifacts are amazing,” said Alcedo. “There are wooden spoons with carvings of humans on the handle, for example, and a very rare bag that is used in a particular Philippine dance. Material objects are inextricably linked with Philippine dance; they are used as props. I used a similar bag when I was a dancer. These traditions still exist. The dance movements are specific, but they alone can’t signify the culture; the dances are so object-driven.”

Carved spoons

Included in the artifacts are two rare carved spoons and a vessel. Photograph courtesy of Patrick Alcedo

The artifacts are now in Baguio, the city that houses the Museo Kordilyera.

Alcedo, who often travels to the area to conduct research on regional dances, is planning a visit to the collection once it is safe to travel again.

“Imagine, these artifacts came to North America 120 years ago,” he said. “It is such a generous thing to do to return them to a place where they will be treasured.

“In addition, it is fitting that these artifacts are being returned home during the Philippines’ quincentennial year so that the entire country can enjoy them,” added Alcedo, who was named by the Philippine Consulate as a recipient of a 2021 Quincentennial Award.

By Elaine Smith, special contributor

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