MANILAS National Art Gallery and Palawans Tau’t Batu. PHILIPPINES.


I was lucky enough to go to these exhibits at the National Art Gallery. The first, The Valley” was more of a “Where’s Wally!” as these black and white photos always hide their enigmatic people among the jungle chaos and abundance. The second, the Czech “Art Protis” a textile technology developed in the 50’s vibrant and daring.

THE VALLEY a magnificent photo show by Pierre de Vallombreuse 1988/ 2017

Palawans “Cave People” the Tau’t Batu are an indigenous tribe still relatively well hidden and remote. Although they live on the land during the growing season they migrate to large caves in the rainy season, hence their name.

Warming themselves on a rock after fishing in the icy stream.

The Tau’t Bata of Singnapan Valley maintains their harmonious connection with nature because of significant contribution to their survival. Safeguarding their environment simply means keeping their traditional knowledge system alive as responsible cultivators, hunters, and gatherers. To them, the exploitation of the valley for profit is far from their minds, fearing they might lose their natural environment which they call home

Hidden, carrying her beautiful baby through the jungle.

“Although rice is the most important crop among the Tau’t Batu, cassava (Mahinot esculenta) is their major source of carbohydrates. Root crops like yam and taro, together with kodog (young wild taro leaves), takis (ferns), and patong (land snails) gathered from the forests also constitute their diet. To meet their protein needs, they turn to hunting and trapping animals.”

“Hunting among Tau’t Batu men forms part of their valley life when they are not working in the fields. Before hunting, they would seek blessings from the god or spirit caretaker of animals by offering animal-shaped wood carvings as a replacement to the real animal. For instance, they offer a blyok-biyok or carved wooden pig in exchange for a wild boar. Different types of traps include bawug for wild pigs or bigger games, ba ang for wild cats and monkeys, kagom for eels, pidlong for birds, and okot for bats.” Get your head around that then!

At present, they also engage in smali scale trading system to earn money for items which are not readily available in Singnapan Valley such as salt, DVDs, and mobile phone load among others. They maintain a community place called tabuan within the valley which is composed of one huge elevated hut, serving as multi-purpose hall, and five other small structures as makeshift stores.

The tabuan, which also refers to market day, happens every Sunday where people from the valley get together to sell cooked rice wrapped in banana leaves, meats, snacks, junk foods, and instant coffee. Men would play cards and bring their game fowls for a tampor (cockfighting match) without the gaffs attached to the legs of the gamecocks. (There’s a lot of cockfighting in the Philippines they love it and breed prize cockerels showing them with more love than the family)

Baby ‘helping’!

Their traditional beliefs and practices are gradually changing due to a number of external factors such as the arrival of religious missionaries visits of local and foreign tourists, intermarriages, and the construction of roads. These factors to a certain extent have introduced modern technologies to the community like solar powered electricity, generator, laptops, and mobile phones. For instance, loud modern music often reverberates from speakers connected to their mobile phones and family members habitually gather to watch movies from portable DVD player.

Clearly nothing really is sacred these days!!

The only boy at their new school at that time.


A UNIQUE CZECH ART TECHNIQUE: In the late 1950s, textile researchers at the State Wool Research Institute in Brno (then Czechoslovakia) developed Art Protis as a new textile technology. The researchers were F. Pohl, V. Skala and J. Haluz. They invented Art Protis along with another procedure called Arteg -a technology based on the principle of a seamless interconnection of colored wool fleeces, which were put together through the aid of a needle-punching machine. Art Protis on the other hand, employed the use of a warp knitting machine. Both technologies involve the attachment of

free-form fleece fabric compositions to a foundation layer Art Protis was technologically simple and its application rate was directly proportional to its product price. It could easily be utilized to adopt to fashion trends. As such, it was initially aimed to be used in design of ladies’ coats and top clothing

However, due to its elegance, quick production rate, and adaptability to free-form designs, it soon attracted textile artists who utilized these expressive qualities in making Art Protis wall art. Art Protis presented possibilities which could not be done with traditional woven tapestries and classical techniques.

No doubt this is vibrant stuff, and the photographic show blew me away.

Anyhoooo! I have more to mention on Manila and it’s art exhibitions but it’ll save for another day as the next day I would be going to Cebu and frankly could’t wait to escape Manila and it’s choking traffic and seedy atmosphere. I would find that once away from there, the Philippines are a splendid, fabulous and jaw droppingly gorgeous place.

Important notices:

ALERT: I loved all this don’t get me wrong and it cemented that I would definitely go to Palawan which I had been told about by the Embassy in London along with Cebu and the whale sharks. My hope for this would be dashed later as Palawn along with two other islands were closed later due to over crowding. This was a permanent problem there. Along with the whale sharks migrating so were all the children and their families for their school holidays! You can’t win ’em all Rebecca.

Top Tip: It might be worth noting that when islands get overcrowded and have to be closed across the many islands in that part of the world that it’s because their, quite often, primitive infrastructure is incapable to cope with so many people. This means that raw sewage will be running into the seas and rivers. Rubbish will be left on the streets and beaches etc. The air con won’t work for sections of the day because all the electric will be rationed due to an over burdened power grid. This is turn means that food will become unsafe in many places unless they have their own generators, as fridges and freezers will have turned off during outages. You get the picture? This and many more disgusting factors in places unable to cope with the sheer number visiting. So my top tip is research the high seasons fastidiously. If you’re aiming to go to the more popular islands or resorts think it through. The lesser known or more remote ones will have a much better adventure in store for you. Go wander and discover your own paradise not some kind of hell.

Next at last the whale sharks….