Photographs and preserving indigenous wisdom at work
The power of images comes in the unsaid messages. When these photographs touch you intellectually and emotionally, then the eye and the hand that has captured it have held a moment in time forever. This means that the work has been done to preserve time.
Master photographer Rodolfo “Ompong” Tan has captured indigenous wisdom by holding the best compositions of the local leaders in their milieu in the exhibit themed “Indigenous Wisdom at Work, Building Resilient Communities in Baguio City” at Luisa’s Café in Session Road.
Centenarian Calixto Batiyeg, 102, and his wife exuded the wealth of experiences in the Ibaloy culture. Elders are still revered when practices of the past are important in dealing with contemporary conflicts or disputes. Lakay Calixto is evidence to health practices done through more than 10 decades of his life and the feat is essential in current times.
Manda Rufino Cados, a mambunong or ritualist, is called upon when there is a cañao or a celebration hereabouts. She makes an offering to the ancestors to bless and guide the present generation that has prepared the feast. The wisdom is inherited and earned by only a few who are endowed with this capability.
Benni Sokkong is a living treasure for keeping the indigenous music of Kalinga alive. He has mastered the craft of making bamboo instruments and the art of playing them. A contemporary bearer of ancient wisdom, he is challenged to pass this on to the next culture bearers. He is an awardee of the National Commission for Culture and Arts as living treasure for Kalinga music.
Lydia Culos, a traditional healer in Maligcong Village, is shown treating a child through massage. The ability is often passed on spiritually and the calling is said to come in dreams and other manifestations. It is said that they are among the busiest people in the communities.
Vicky Mackay, is a respected Ibaloy leader who prepares the rice wine in the traditional way. This art of making wine is not inherent in everybody and is also a special process. She is also respected as a ritualist in the Ibaloy community.
Roberto Pahitong, is a woodcarver who comes from Hungduan, Ifugao, shows how creativity and artistry are inherent in some communities. The expression and passion in the art is captured in the photograph. The art becomes second nature.
Catherine Ekid Domigyay from Can-eo, Bontoc,Mountain Province, is at work with the preparation of the loom for weaving fabrics. She is among the skilled weavers who preserve the art in these parts and the mountain areas. This is passed on from generations through watching and tutoring from the elders.
Ammin Acha-ur, a young mambabatok or traditional tattoo artist from Kalinga, is focused on the traditional way of tattooing. This is learned through the generations in the village of Buscalan in Tinglayan, Kalinga. Although the symbolisms of the tattoos are no longer personal stories of the village and people, the art is what is appreciated.
Small-scale mining is an indigenous way of life too. The areas blessed with gold have passed on the legacy of gold mining through stone grinders before the introduction of the modern ball mill. The man melts gold into gold buttons.
Hereabouts, the elders who have continued to bridge the eras from inherited learnings of the past to today were documented for Partners for Indigenous Knowledge Philippines by Ompong.
The ability to catch the perfect moment has made him a master in this craft. Ompong earned the Outstanding Citizens of Baguio Awardin 2022 for contributions as a community servant through photographs published in different media outlets.