by Nahoma Maentz
Fifty-five days. That’s the number of days left before our fund-raising on Kickstarter ends. Many of you have already seen or heard about this project that my husband and I are hoping to accomplish. We’ve got a long, long way to go still; nonetheless, we are working hard each day on spreading this out to everyone simply because we want this project realized. For the value that we believe it holds.
It’s my husband who has always shown interest in covering Indigenous people, him being the photographer and always in search for unique subjects and stories. Frankly speaking, I had thought such groups didn’t exist anymore or had all been encroached on in some way. I remember in the 80s, during summers spent in Gigaquit, Surigao, it was a common sight to see the indigenous Mamanwas roaming around barely clothed. Nowadays, you can hardly see them going about town dressed the way they used to and sadly too, they have been heavily influenced by all these large mining companies surrounding them in all corners. They have learned to ask for money. They have learned to love money. Even when you approach them and politely ask if you can take their portraits, they will ask for money. Everything now has a price tag for them. That’s when I started to think they are forever gone.
So when Jake took me along with him to Isabela last July 2011, I was a little bit hesitant due to the reason mentioned above. Also, it’s never easy to leave the kids even for just a few days. Good thing he was relentless in telling me how much he needed me to be there (to perform various roles:). Boy, am I glad I went else I would have missed so much relearning who I truly am. A Filipino. The Filipino. And I saw an abundance of that in these Dumagats and Agtas that we encountered and later befriended. Everything is still so fresh in my memory up until now – the loveliness of the people, the simplicity of life, nature and man supporting each other, depending on each other. Money has little or no value at all. It took me back to a world hundreds of years ago and at the same time, took me back inwards. I only have to think of them and I get my jolt of inspiration when I need it.
I have always been a proud citizen of this country despite the negative images oftentimes portrayed by fellow citizens. That one particular trip however, made me even prouder. Because I have found my roots. As authentic as it can ever get. And it is a beautiful culture, a beautiful world.
Unfortunately, a constant threat is hovering over these people and their land, and time may come when everything about them and their way of life will change. Big businesses, always on the look-out for more resources can barge in at any time. If and when that happens, what I’ve seen and come to love will surely vanish. No doubt, I will also lose a huge chunk of myself.
So with these thoughts, Jake and I came up with an idea to bring about awareness to these cultures. We know that not everyone is familiar of them and their existence. It is a very modern world we live, but we believe that this project can greatly benefit us, our children and our children’s children. That through photographs, we may always have something to look back with regards to our heritages. With pride.
May it never be lost.