March 4, 2024

Photographs of Cordillera women taken during the early 1990s are set to be returned to them and their families through a project initiated by the University of the Philippines Baguio’s Museo Kordilyera.

The photographs to be repatriated are among those that will be exhibited at the Museo Kordilyera in November, as part of Baguio City’s Ibagiw Festival.

Museo Kordilyera Director, Dr. Jennifer Josef, said the repatriation of the photographs is fitting for the exhibit dubbed, “Itauli – Early 1990s Cordillera Women in Photographs”. Itauli is Kankana-ey for return.

Josef said the images, from the lens of foreign female photographers, depict the daily lives of the early ‘90s women, a deviation from the usual male subjects who are photographed during the conduct of rituals and images of heavily tattooed women.

She said tracing is ongoing to locate the women in the photos or their families in preparation for the return of the images.

Josef said a lot of the subjects are older women and the team no longer expects to see these women but still, she said they hope to find their families. 

“We have met with women non-government organizations who accompanied the photographers to the ili (villages) for the tracing and we hope we can still see some of the women subjects,” she said.

The photographs are produced in two copies, one of which will be used for the exhibit and one will be given to the women subjects or their families.

Josef said the repatriation will continue even beyond the exhibit as they anticipate there might be processes to be followed in the return of the photographs.

“We are not giving back the photographs. We anticipate the processes to be followed such as rituals or the conduct of dialogues or meetings. This is not a one-shot activity,” she said.

The photographs were taken in Bontoc, Mountain Province; Itogon, Benguet; Kalinga; and some in Abra where the female photographers have worked with. The photographers’ identities were not immediately known.

Josef said photographs for the “Itauli” showcase at Museo Kordilyera have never been shown to the public, except for a few that were exhibited at the British Museum in London.

The “Itauli” exhibit is set to open on Nov. 16 at UP Baguio’s Museo Kordilyera.

Josef said the photographs will be loaned to Kasarian, UP Baguio’s gender studies program and other organizations that want to borrow the images for exhibition. – Jane B. Cadalig