Main Menu



Contact us


From 1973 to 1975 my wife Elly and I stayed in the Philippines as ONV volunteers. Just before we arrived the then acting president Marcos had declared Martial Law to make it possible to establish his New Society. A year later Mr Marcos announced a large scale celebration, coinciding with the Miss World elections in Manila. For the public, including all the Miss World candidates, an enormous pageant was organized, representing all major events in the history of the Philippines, from early times to the day the New Society was proclaimed. Most of these representations were in the form of a kind of tableaux vivants on large floats. The early history and Southeast Asian origins of the country were symbolized by a group of people at the very start of the pageant. They were representatives of all ethnic minorities in the country. This, to us, was the most impressive part of the pageant. Until that day we had only seen pictures and artefacts of these people in the museums. They were dressed in beautiful, colourful costumes and they played gongs and bamboo instruments. I made as many pictures as I could. They enjoyed being photographed, we exchanged many smiles and the photographs came out very well.

We thought it a pity that we could not show these people the results. But if they could come to Manila, then surely we could go to their villages. We decided that we would find out how to get there. At about the same time we had met with John Nance, author of the book The Gentle Tasaday. He had good contacts with Panamin (the Presidential Assistance to National Minorities) founded by multi millionair Emanuel Elizalde. Mr Nance introduced us to the Panamin staff. The result was that in the summer of 1974 we started out on our first trip to South East Mindanao. It involved uncomfortable rides on all kinds of vehicles (mostly former weapon carriers from the Vietnam war) and long and steep hikes, sometimes for several days. But the results were highly rewarding. We met with the people, and stayed in their villages. The visit of two foreigners was obviously an occasion to celebrate with dance and music. I made as many photographs as I could afford (being an ONV volunteer, our budget was limited).

Later, back in Manila, I showed my pictures, many of which were of music instruments and musicians, to dr. José Maceda, ethnomusicologist of the University of the Philippines. This resulted in the financing of two new trips, one to the south, and, several years later, another trip to the north. The goal of these trips was to document with photographs the making and playing of indigenous music instruments. During these trips I also made lots of pictures of the people in their festive and daily wear and of their activities. We bought several music instruments and examples of weaving and adornments; some were given to us. All this resulted in a small but representative collection of textiles, personal adornments and music instruments.

In the mean time we had noticed in the National museum in Manila and in curio shops a bronze bell with a peculiar design. Later we came across this bell over and over again, in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in Thailand, in Nepal, etc. The search for this bell and its history became sort of a sideline with long lasting effects.

Little did we know that even now, after more than 30 years, the music instruments, the textiles, the beadwork and the tiger bells (which have presently their own site) from the Philippines would still hold our attention...

Elly Hemmes and Fekke de Jager

Venray (The Netherlands), 2005


Go back, to the top of the page
or continue to the next page

All text and photographs are copyrighted,
for information please contact F. de Jager