Agimat: A vintage culture in a modern society


Amulets have been part of civilizations as well as religions and belief systems. The are cultural artifacts. Reading anthropology and sociology, amulets bring us a clearer view of cultural differences as well as their firm yet diverse universality. Amulets and other entities with the same nature serve as a barometer in defining one’s cultural orientation and richness. However, in trends of societal discourse of intellect in the post-capitalist era, amulets are constantly fading, or in other perspective, becoming technologically diversified.

In Philippine cultural history, anting-anting is associated with the Filipino system of magic and sorcery utilizing talismans, amulets and charms. Amulets are characterized as objects protecting its owner from danger or harm, while a talisman’s objects are made to attract good fortune and other favorable options. Such objects were popularized by films like Nardong Putik, Pedro Penduko, Panday, Darna and others which protected the hero or heroine from evil entities by having one.

Historically, it had been used much earlier by Katipuneros and guerillas who fought during wars, believing that they warded off bullets and other weapons. In the Philippine occult tradition, an agimat is usually accompanied by a small book of magic incantations which must be recited during Good Friday or a certain special date to attain the amulet’s full power and benefit. It can also be reactivated by giving offerings to a certain figure during the Holy Week.

In Dolores, Quezon, a municipality located at the foot of Mount Banahaw and home tom pilgrimage and worship, the anting-anting remains part of the living culture that is engraved in the everyday life of people living there. Abode of the mystical Mount Banahaw and anting-anting, culture and industrialization is slowly inavading the place as the municipality derives most of its income from tourist guiding as well as selling crafts and handmade souvenirs.

However, the anting-anting industry of Dolores is not handmade anymore because makers of anting-anting there are now using advanced tools. Cultural progression or diversity is now being felt in most areas of Dolores. From there, cultural diversity or progression embraces new technology. In this regard, technology is not a barrier towards preserving one’s belief and culture but a stepping stone towards its development. At this juncture, the most relevant perspective with regard to such cultural heritage is that the belief system in anting-anting holds a big part of the Philippine society.

In an interview, Christopher Joseph Takeda said that anting-anting “symbolizes us.” Bringing anting-anting out of the context of Filipino culture will create a ripple effect on other social institutions. Philippine society, particularly the church, cannot deny the fact that, at a very sensitive standpoint, such cultures and belief system shaped us. Thus, anting-anting belongs to a wider scope of the society. In a functionalist perspective, anting-anting cannot be and must not be forgotten in our social context and system. Edjieson Hachaso added that anting-anting “can influence some things,” meaning that there is really a deeper connection between anting-anting and the society and by that, it “can make the religious aspects even more pronounced.”

It is a cultural symbol that manifests in people’s lives. Eddson Guerra explains that belief in the anting-anting is passed on through generations. But as the anting- anting may differ in form, usage, or origin, they will always be tied to each other by one simple word – faith. Whether these items are what they claim to be or hoaxes perpetuated for profitable causes by those who made them, faith, alongside these devices have shaped and will continue to reinvent Filipino culture, beliefs and perspectives.