In Tandubas, Tawi-Tawi, photographer Jacob Maentz shoots the geometrical patterns and colors of a Tepo, a mat made from pandan leaves, as well as the Sama-Bajau who diligently weaves it. Photography is a powerful medium. People are drawn to visual things. A good image can tell meaningful and in-depth stories and evoke a response.
I arrived into Iloilo City on a sunny afternoon with my camera bag and a rough plan as to where I would be going. My research gave me some promising leads, but going on a trip like this is always full of unknowns and surprises. Throughout the past four years I have spent a good amount of time traveling around the Philippine archipelago visiting and learning about different indigenous communities. Project Katutubong Filipino is a long term personal project I have been dedicated to and feel very strongly about. Over the next couple of weeks I would be devoting my time to both learning and photographing the Ati and Tumandok (also known as the Panay Bukidnon) people on Panay island. READ FULL STORY AND SEE PHOTOS
One week prior to my departure to Tawi-Tawi I received an email from the US Embassy in Manila. “U.S. citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there.” This region of the Philippines never gets good press and honestly has a very negative reputation among most people here in the country. From my own experience, if you mention to a Filipino that you are going to Mindanao many will look at you with genuine concern. Mention Sulu and most won’t really even comprehend it, like the place doesn’t exist in real. READ FULL STORY AND SEE PHOTOS
Last month I teamed up with The EXTRA MILE Productions who documented my trip to Tawi-Tawi, the southern most province in the Philippines. This is a place I had always wanted to visit, but because of certain security issues it took some planning to make a trip happen. More than three years on since we started this project on Kickstarter we are still going strong with plans to continue this important work. Thank you to everyone for your continued support and to the amazing team who put this production together. This is just a reel, so stay tuned for the actual episodes to come.
Every year in the Cordillera mountains of Luzon a ritual is held to celebrate the end of the rice harvest season. Over a two day period, three barangays gather to give thanks and blessings of post harvest with the celebration culminating in a “punnuk” (tug-of-war) which is held in a river flowing through the heritage rice terraces. Throughout the two day period all processes are performed by a “ritual specialist,” a person ordained specifically to administer the various blessings required. READ MORE AND SEE PHOTOS
Earlier this month I spent a week getting to know and learn more about the Mansaka people who live in and around Compostela Valley, Mindanao. The Mansaka are just one of a number of indigenous groups living in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte, but they are the most numerous in the area. I had the kind privileged to spend time with a number of Mansaka families, witnessing life as it is today, both in their more traditional rural communities and in the modern city of Tagum. I learned about their many traditions, beliefs and the changes that are happening within the tribe, but more importantly, I witnessed an incredible sense of pride, even among the younger generation, and what it means for them to be called Mansaka. READ FULL STORY AND SEE PHOTOS
Three weeks in the Cordilleras of Luzon and I feel like I have only scratched the surface of experiencing the rich cultures that make up the Igorot people. This is a common trend I have experienced while working on the Katutubong Filipino Project and one reason I hope to extended the project longer term, perhaps for another three years. More time is needed. This is especially true when trying to tell the story of the Igorot people who live in six different provinces with over 20 tribes all speaking different languages, practicing different rituals, and have different beliefs and cultures. Visiting the Cordilleras was like stepping into another country for me, a drastic change in geography and people’s general positive outlook and attitude toward their own way of life. Although I wasn’t able to visit all six provinces that make up the Cordilleras, this trip did provide as an excellent introduction to the area and whetted my appetite to learn and experience more on a return trip. READ FULL STORY AND SEE PHOTOS
Last month I made a long awaited trip to the island of Mindoro to visit some of the different Mangyan groups there. This trip took a few months to arrange and I was very excited our journey happened as I have been wanting to visit Mindoro for a long time. Although, we knew it would not be easy to get access to the different communities we wanted to visit, our contacts and non-stop effort explaining and promoting the Katutubong Filipino Project helped us significantly on this trip. There are 8 different Mangyan groups (Iraya, Alangan, Tadyawan, Tau-buid, Bangon, Buhid, Hanunoo and Ratagnon) on the island of Mindoro and all are distinctively different including their languages. Mangyan is just the collective term used for the indigenous peoples found on Mindoro.
Something unique to the indigenous Mangyan of Mindoro is how well organized their groups are. All eight groups have active tribal councils and they are very strict about what visitors can enter their communities. Each group also has formal bylaws with penalties for different crimes that are committed. To enter the different communities we had to get clearance from the tribal leaders, the tribal councils and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples with formal letters and documentation about our project. It was all a little daunting and we never knew if we would be approved or not until we arrived. In the end we made some wonderful friends with the different mayors (tribal leaders) and they all seemed very excited about the work we are doing. We are very thankful for being approved by all the communities we visited and we are already excited about our return trip. READ FULL STORY AND SEE PHOTOS
Over the past month I have made two separate trips to Mindanao in the hopes to document the ethnic sport of horse fighting that is still occasionally practiced by the areas Lumads (indigenous peoples). My first trip was during Davao’s Kadayawan Festival, which is an annual week long celebration featuring the different tribes from Davao. This festival is like most other festivals in the Philippines, complete with street dancing, beauty pageants and plenty of people walking around the streets. In years past horse fighting was one of the side events at the Kadayawan Festival and was the sole reason I made the trip to Davao. Sadly, the tribal Chieftain, Datu Causing Ogao, who was in charge of this years horse fighting was murdered only three weeks before the festival. This murder was one of three tribal murders in the same time frame throughout this part of Mindanao. The New People’s Army (NPA) took responsibility for these acts, but as of now there still has been no investigation by the government into the matter. Needless to say, the horse fighting activities did not happen. Many of the tribes decided to either boycott the festival or were afraid to leave their homes due to the murders. Because I was already in Davao, I ended up spending my time with the different tribes that did gather for the festivities. Most of them were staying at local elementary schools and I tried to make the best use of my time by taking portraits of the people I met. READ FULL STORY AND SEE PHOTOS
Things often do not turn out the way you might expect them to. Such was the case during my recent trip back to the Sierra Madres. I returned to a part of Isabela and Cagayan provinces to visit some old Agta friends from last year. Upon returning this time I had a plan to go on a hunt with some of the men, a hunt for wild pig, deer or monkey. These are game items that the Agta still hunt for occasionally in the forest to eat or sell to locals. I was excited about this trip and thought with the contacts I had made everything would fall into place fairly easily. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Uncontrollable circumstances such as bad weather, broken transportation, and previous obligations of my contacts lead to a serious amount of time waiting. Watching the pouring down rain, sitting on the side of a dusty road in the middle of nowhere and waiting for conditions to become just right for a hunt. Conditions that never happened during my two week visit. READ FULL STORY AND SEE PHOTOS