With photographer Jake Verzosa recently winning the Steidl Book Award Asia for his remarkable book, Last Tattooed
Women of Kalinga, there’s no better time to take a closer look at the culture of northern indigenous tribes, as presented by two universities.
At the newly opened Museo Kordilyera at the University of the PhilippinesBaguio, the spotlight is on the Igorot, a collective name for the various ethnolinguistic tribes living in the Cordilleras in Northern Luzon. Known for their distinct traditions that survived centuries of colonization and foreign occupation, the Igorot people constructed with their own hands and tools the gem that is the Banaue Rice Terraces (locally known as payao), continue to practice the dying art of hand-tap tattoos (batok), and take pride in their hunting skills.
Designed by Architect Aris Go and 90 Design Studio, the Museo Kordilyera is part of the university’s efforts to not only preserve the culture of Northern Luzon but also to foster academic research on the region. It houses tangible heritage items, such as a 20-ton Ifugao bench called the hagabi, traditional jewelry and clothing of the different indigenous groups, and bul-ol sculptures depicting their significant role as guardians of rice granaries.
Several ongoing exhibits further stress the importance of this ethnographic museum: “Batok (Tattoos): Body as Archive,” presents a comprehensive history of Cordillera’s tattooing traditions; “Jules de Raedt: Life Works, Lived Worlds,” documents anthropological research on the Buaya people of Kalinga; and “The Indigenous, In Flux: Reconfiguring the Ethnographic Photograph,” showcases the works of Professor Rolanda Rabang. These are welcome additions to the exhibits presented at the BenCab Museum, another arts and culture destination that Baguio City is famous for. Museo Kordilyera, University of the Philippines-Baguio, UP Drive, Baguio City; museokordilyera.com; @musokordilyera on facebook. cHriSta DEla cruZ
triBal SHowcaSE the newly opened Museo Kordilyera’s exhibits on indigenous igorot culture.