The Photography of Masferre
One last discovery we made in Sagada has nothing to do with hiking through mountains or crawling through caves but rather with amazing art: the black-and-white photography of Eduardo Masferre.
The local artist, who passed away in 1995 at the age of 86, has left quite an anthropological legacy. In 1934, Masferre started documenting life in the Cordilleras, the mountainous areas of Northern Luzon, beautifully capturing the spirit of the region in his photos. He covered everything from village life to landscapes to architectural styles, but his ultimate collection was that of the native Igorot people many of whom were proud headhunters. Today, 60 years later, almost all of the tribal groups have modernized and are increasingly integrated into mainstream Filipino society.
After working as a photographer for 22 years, Eduardo Masferre returned to farming in 1956 to support his growing family while his son took over the photo studio in Bontoc. Part of Masferre’s photo collection can be seen at the fantastic Bontoc Museum, an ethnological treasure trove, as well as in several of Sagada’s restaurants and hotels. His wife Nena Masferre still lives in Sagada and it is said that whenever the door to her house is open, she is open to receiving visitors. Unfortunately, while we were there, her front door remained closed.
Read more about Eduardo Masferre’s life and his vision at the National Gallery of Australia. His amazing book titled People of the Philippine Cordillera: Photographs, 1934-1956 is available on Amazon (just click on the title).
Another great book with more fantastic photos is Masferre’s A Tribute to the Philippine Cordillera. You can click on the title and browse through it online. It’s also available on Amazon (just follow the link). Both books on Amazon are out of print and are therefore quite expensive. They may still be worth the investment, though.