Art, culture and all that jazz

Yesterday was a very cultured day for me.

I got to attend Pierre de Vallombreuse’s talk on his photo exhibition, The Valley, that features Palawan’s indigenous group, Tau’t Batu, in black and white prints. Pierre shared his personal story of how his feet led him to Palawan 18 times, totaling to almost four years.


Developing a close relationship with the Tau’t Batu, Pierre was able to capture special moments, some unexpected, that tell the story of this group of people that is able to maintain its unique cultural identity while integrating to modern society.

I asked Pierre for a tip for someone like me who is not a photographer but would want to create stories through pictures. His simple answer, to the amusement of everyone, take a photography class. Okay, let me add that to the growing list of things I want to learn.

One line that I really liked from his talk was when he said, “Each picture is not a statement, it’s a question mark.” Indeed, as I left the National Museum I asked myself, “How can cultural identity thrive in this modern world?” I also belong to an indigenous group but I can barely see any trace of Cordilleran in me.

Ichiro Kataoka, a benshi. (Photo from Japan Foundation)

From the photo exhibit, I traveled through Manila traffic (of course!) and headed to Shangri-La Plaza for the screening of the Japanese film, “Dragnet Girl” which is part of the 11th International Silent Film Festival. The film is a love story of a gangster couple but what made it even more interesting is the live musical score by the Celso Espejo Rondalla and the presence of Ichiro Kataoka, a benshi or a silent film narrator.

The black and white film with English subtitles, the string accompaniment, and the animated voice of the benshi were a treat to all senses making this a one of a kind experience.

It’s amazing how there are numerous opportunities where one can appreciate art in all forms here in Manila. And a lot of these events are for free!

Speaking of art forms, let me add dance to my “to-learn list” as I’m a frustrated dancer. Last Sunday, I watched “KoryoLab 2017,” a showcase of the works of six dance choreographers. Two of the pieces had the issue of EJK as its theme and I found the performances powerful and emotional. Like Pierre’s photos being not statements but questions, the dance performances were certainly more than statements but evoked questions on relationships, life, and social issues.

“Postcard” choreographed by Russ Ligtas. (Photo by Marveen Lozano)

From photos, to films, to dance, to this piece of writing. We all love telling stories. And we share them the best way we can.




I’m an Igorot and I don’t have a tail

That’s how I introduced myself one time to dispel people’s ignorance about Igorots, an indigenous group in the Philippines.

It may come as a surprise in this time of advanced technology where information is readily available at the tip of one’s fingertips that there are still a lot of misconceptions about us, the people from the mountains. No, we don’t have a tail. Not all of us are short and dark. And who are you calling uncivilized? Apparently, some school textbooks claim so.

Having said that, a photo of an Igorot hottie, aka “The Carrot Man,” going viral on the internet is, I think, a good thing. Yes, it’s also an indication of our being shallow but hey, an eye candy is an eye candy. Can’t argue with admiring physical beauty. But more than that, he’s attracting attention towards the region and its people. The fascination, so it seems, comes from the fact that an Igorot could actually look like that!

They tell me I don’t look like one because the image in their heads is again, someone short and dark, with curly hair, much like a fellow IP, the Aetas. And there’s totally nothing wrong about their appearance. It’s just this messed up idea of how we perceive beauty.

Where did this apparent discrimination come from anyway? I believe it’s when the Spanish colonizers weren’t successful in conquering the north and they had to resort to demeaning remarks hurled at Igorots which has crossed over to the present time.

So I wouldn’t really blame the unfortunate ignorance of some Pinoys but is ignorance an excuse?

Me, doing an Igorot dance. (c) Noel Orcullo