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Textile Tribes of the Philippines: The Vanishing Ifugao of Banaue

Interviewing a Ifugao sharman on the Banue rice terraces, North Luzon, Philippines

High up on the contours of the colossal Cordillera mountains, North Luzon, Philippines, live the impecunious indigenous Ifugao people. Famed for their 2000 year old rice terraces, their resistance to Spanish colonisation and their outlandish inland outfits, Ifugao culture, visual identity and livelihood appears to be on the precipice of extinction.

In February 2016 I was accompanied to Banaue on a whirlwind tour with the Philippines Department of Tourism. There I was able to discuss life’s hardships with a few local ladies busking for photos on a viewpoint, and learn of the fading Animist practices rapidly being replaced by Christianity from a self taught Shaman. 

Bent over double, the frail blind women shuffled over to the bench outside the gift shop before waving her hands underneath in search of something. “I’m sorry”, the Ifugao lady next to me apologized, “Why?” I asked. Right then the crippled blind member of their company pulled up her skirt and pee’d into the 2 liter 7up bottle she had been seeking moments before. “She is blind and deaf”  She proclaimed to me and the other tourists whilst holding her steady. “She has no family. We all look after each other.”

Ifugao women on the Banue rice terraces, North Luzon, Philippines

From left to right: Menni, Menumy, Lantong, Me and Artagun. The Ifugao women took me by surprise when moments before this photo, all the women raised 2 fingers in the peace symbol and sang “Peace and Happiness” to the camera.

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