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EXEMPLAR OF AMERICANISM: THE PHILIPPINE CAREER OF DEAN C. WORCESTER, by Rodney J. Sullivan, Michigan Papers on South and Southeast Asia Number 36, 1991

D. C. Worcester is portrayed as a talented entrepreneur, but less so as an efficient government official in this immensely interesting and highly recommended “politically correct” biography of the controversial US imperial promoter. The book covers an important piece of Philippine history that relates closely to the subject at hand. We find that Worcester has little general regard for the Spanish colonial administrators and Christian Filipino, but a kind disposition toward the Non-Christians (including the Muslims). Ironically, DCW's first contact with the Philippines in 1887-88 led him to ponder about if it had not been better for the country to come under Japanese custody. Later, when the question of "colony" came up in connection with the Spanish American War, he became an important instrument in US foreign policy, proposing that the Philippines needed a protector, and that this should be the United States. In retrospect we have to ask: Was the United States the lesser of inevitable evils?

Among his duties on the American Philippines commission, Worcester largely had responsibility for the non-Christian people during his tenure. He felt it was necessary to protect the non-Christian “tribes” against the assimilated lowlanders, and he worked toward setting up tribal land as a distinct region outside the sphere of the government in Manila. An interesting approach to this book is to view the story from the perspective of the very minorities that Worcester wanted to "protect". On the one hand his condescending attitude led him to describe the people in derogatory terms, yet his close contact with them led him to develop a positive relationship. The question arises: Was Worcester a curse or a blessing from the perspective of the minorities? Mr. Worcester was unpopular for good reason with the mainstream Philippine media, but he appeared not be so among the minorities of Northern Luzon. It is pointed out that there may have been some strong arm tactics behind this “mountain popularity”.

A legacy of Worcester is the existence of thousands of “Bureau of Science” photographs from Northern Luzon that he was responsible for, which are housed today at the University of Michigan. But, a piece of trivia not so many persons are aware of is that it is largely due to Worcester that the minorities of Northern Luzon became referred to as “tribes”! At long last we get an explanation for the emotionally charged argument over the use of the word “community” instead of “tribe”, and why this is a political “hot potato” that understandably simmers in the minds of the Philippine academe.

Worcester is accused of producing shallow narratives about the ethnic groups, but on the other hand he was responsible for the gathering of important statistics, studies and surveys that are still highly valued. Although Worcester clearly had serious conflicts of interest with respect to the Philippines and its “tribal” territories, it appears that at the bottom of his hart he genuinely liked the upland and highland peoples of Northern Luzon, and enjoyed working among them. Perhaps he viewed the minorities issue a bit like a child custody case, where it is the child’s interest that matters. Or, perhaps not – because in conclusion Sullivan points out that DCW's involvement with the tribes ended in 1913 when he resigned from his post as Secretary of the Interior.

 


FORM AND SPLENDOR; by Roberto Maramba, Bookmark, Manila 1998. 

It is fitting that the first book ever to exclusively cover Northern Luzon tribal adornment accessories is a Philippine venture. Nobody could have treated this subject with greater dedication than Roberto Maramba. Until the success of Form and Splendor, no commercial publisher would finance monographs about northern Philippine tribal art.

Roberto Maramba is a commercial artist who has been a committed collector of Cordillera tribal art even since his very young days. His book itself is a work of art, and it has been awarded "book of the year" status in the Philippines.

Every artifact in this book is treated like a sacred icon, and the goal of elevating objects - that once may have been treated with neglect - to their deserving level, has been accomplished. Form and Splendor has not only been welcomed by esoteric collectors of Northern Luzon tribal art, but has also found its way among the general public, helping raise awareness about indigenous culture in and outside the Philippines.

BASKETRY OF THE LUZON CORDILLERA, PHILIPPINES; by F. Capistrano-Baker, A. Bacdayan, B. Milgram and R. Hamilton, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles, 1998.

The catalogue is the second comprehensive work about Cordillera basketry, the first one being the Robert Lane (Silahis) book.

This subject is long overdue, and the book is an invaluable source of information. We applaud the dominant role UCLA's Fowler Museum of Cultural History has taken in enlightening about Philippine and Cordillera art, and hope that their efforts will continue.

Cordillera basketry traditions are covered in the first chapter. An area near Sagada is then sampled, while basket making in Banaue is explored. The last chapter is a catalogue of the "Centennial" basketry exhibition at the museum. Most of the common types of basketry objects are described in this book, however, as any collector will immediately notice, it could have been more extensive. The most obvious example missing is the top quality weave found in little containers and head ornaments among the Gaddang and Kalinga. Since the manufacture of these is a lost art, it would have served as a nice basis for comparison. Naturally, commercial considerations set limits.

The book combines historical photographs with modern, something that is very appropriate regarding this subject, since basketry making - although in a strong decline - perhaps yet is one of the last artisan skills that is somewhat intact in the Cordillera, and a factor in maintaining cultural identity.

SINAUNANG HABI, PHILIPPINE ANCESTRAL WEAVE, by Marian Pastor Roces, privately published by Nikki Coseteng, Manila 1991.

Some of the finest Northern Luzon tribal textiles - from the collections of Roland Go, Ricky Baylosis, Narda Capuyan, Nikki Coseteng, Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino, Nayong Pilipino, and Ramon Villegas - are included in this high quality book. The plates of the textiles are large and clear, and all are in colour. In stead of historical photographs demonstrating actual use of textiles, a section with ethnic models posing in local costumes is included. Although this is an interesting approach, the content is not quite up to the same high standard as the plates. The text is informative and well researched, but academic in style.

It would be safe to say that no serious collector of Luzon tribal textiles can do without this book.

SINAUNANG HABI, PHILIPPINE ANCESTRAL WEAVE, Download of review

HANDWOVEN TEXTILES OF SOUTH-EAST ASIA, by Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Oxford University Press, 1988.

About 10 pages are dedicated to cover all of Luzon. Moreover, on these 10 pages everything from the finest textiles at the Smithsonian - such as the infamous Isinai funerary blanket - to tourist shop bargains are covered. But; it is admirable that such important pieces as Roland Go's ancient Itneg blanket, and an Ifugao ikat funerary blanket have found their way into the book. 

The accompanying text varies in quality as much as the textiles. For example, Gaddang textiles are praised as having the highest thread count in northern Luzon. This is very nice for the Gaddang, but it may make the Itneg and Kalinga upset if they read it, because their old textiles are equally fine.

Fraser-Lu also falls into the same old trap of only looking at textiles when she classifies ethnic groups. A Kalinga girl - probably from Tinglayan or Butbut - wearing a Kankanay tapis, is described as Bontoc, the well known Kankanay sub-tribe. Bead enthusiasts may now wrongly be persuaded that the girl's beads are Bontoc also. People from this area interchange textiles freely, and it requires a true native or expert to classify photographs from there (in those cases where it is possible at all).

Nevertheless, the book does contain nice examples of textiles, as well as basic information - for example about the Itneg inalson birth ritual blanket.

THE ELOQUENT DEAD, ANCESTRAL SCULPTURE of INDONESIA and SOUTHEAST ASIA, UCLA Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles 1985.

Traces of Philippine ancestral figures (taotao, or anitos) were wiped out during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines, and  according to modern informants, northern Luzon tribes did not produce ancestor figures, although Kankanay "house gods" have been described as anitos in the past. Nevertheless, various Ifugao and Kankanay items are included for comparative analysis in this exhibition catalogue. For example, an Ifugao dancing Bulul is shown opposite a Dayak Hampatong. Toward the end of the book several Bulul, fireplace figures, a gong handle, armlet and hagabi (ceremonial bench) are displayed. Headhunting is also mentioned, and an Ifugao head trophy is among the first items in the book.

Considering the theme of the book, we must thank the editor - Jerome Feldman - for including northern Luzon tribal art at all.

THE PEOPLE AND ART OF THE PHILIPPINES, by George R. Ellis, Museum of Cultural History, UCLA 1981.

This exhibition catalogue has served as the Northern Luzon tribal art collector's "introductory course" since its publication. Until today it remains the single most comprehensive book about the subject, and is cram packed with information on its 80 of 253 pages dedicated to northern tribes. Although monographs have since been published on some of the subjects, many types of objects are still not found in other mainstream literature.

The book is organised in figurative sculpture, utilitarian objects, textiles (including accessories), and miscellaneous. A vast array of fine artifacts and historical photographs are included. If you are not inspired to read more about Philippine traditional art by this book, you never will be.

THE DISCOVERY OF  THE IGOROTS, by William Henry Scott, New Day Publishers, Quezon City, 1974.

"The Discovery of the Igorots" is one of two books about Luzon Hispanic history focusing on the ethnic minorities (the other one being Keesing's "Ethnohistory of Northern Luzon"). This book is an important contribution to its field, and hopefully Scott will be long remembered for his effort and dedication.

For the tribal art connoisseur this book puts the field in a totally different perspective. Understanding the history of the minorities adds another dimension to their art and culture, and it is - therefore- highly recommended reading for any and all.

Based mostly on Spanish source material, Scott assembles the puzzle of Cordillera history. The book bases its analysis on the assumption that the Spanish wanted to profit from its possession in the East. Gold fever, religious zeal, and tobacco tariffs, are some of the things that put the Spanish in conflict with the Northern Luzon ethnic groups, and when these audaciously refused to be subjugated, brutal force was leveraged against them.

Important historical texts are translated from Spanish into English and included in the account. These illustrate the arrogance and lack of empathy from the conquerors, and the frustration felt by the ecclesiastics. The logical responses of the tribal minorities to the presumptive demands of the colonial lords are described in such a straight-forward manner that the story almost becomes a parody.

It is no secret that the inland tribal groups constituted a nuisance to the Spanish colonial administration, and perhaps this book explains in an indirect manner why the Igorots and their art and culture are being shoved aside rather than allowed to claim their place as representatives of a previously widely practiced Luzon culture.

ETHNIC GROUPS OF INSULAR SOUTHEAST ASIA, by Frank M. Lebaer, HRAF Press, New Haven 1972.

Volume 2 includes Luzon. This is the ultimate reference book for ethno-linguistic classification.

THE SECRET MUSEUM OF MANKIND, Manhattan House, New York, 1935.

A few photographs from the northern Philippines are included under "The Secret Album of Oceania" (Volume 5).

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