Burton Holt has been visiting the Philippines for over 50 years, first in the U.S. Navy and then for many years as a merchant seaman. He began collecting Philippine ethnographic materials in 1973, first baskets and textiles and then all manner of artifacts. He sailed in Asia for 33 years, the last 15 as Captain, before retiring in 1995.
Shortly after, that started a company importing contemporary Philippine decorative materials. At the same time, he collected antique furniture and traveled to Cebu, Mindanao, Leyte, Bohol, Negros, and Panay and sourced antiques.
He has lent Philippine artifacts for exhibits in several museums – to the Wing Luke Museum, the Washington State History Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, the Yuchengco Museum in Makati, and the U.P Baguio Museum in the Cordillera. In 2013, three pieces he had collected were included in the landmark show at the Musee du quai Branly in Paris. Titled "Philippines an Archipelago of Exchange,” this exhibit was the first in a major European museum to focus on the arts of the Philippines,
After collecting for 40-plus years, Captain Holt has recently had a large number of pieces purchased by a new museum built in Manila. Very gratifying for him to see these materials returning home where they will be appreciated by the people who created these wonderful objects. A large part of his collection has returned home to the Museo ng Kaalamang Katutubo in Manila. He and his wife, Emily, feel honored to be a part of this celebration of Philippine culture.
I was born in the island of Cebu. I recall having an interest in swords at a very young age. The edged weapons that showed most intriguing to me were the ones used by the Mohammedans of Mindanao and Sulu. In Los Angeles as an adult, I would occasionally find Kris’, Barung’s and Kampilan’s at gun shows. I slowly started collecting them, 30 years later, I still find them intriguing. The beauty of the hilts, pommels, blades and scabbards are a work of art worth studying. It’s a never ending pleasure of discovery.”