Pierre-Emmanuel MICHEL, directeur artistique, print, web, photographe

Galerie Existences à Pau, Bordeaux, Oloron Sainte Marie

Ifugao Ancester's bones

IMG_5672At Ifugao's, tribe from the mountains in Northern Philippines, perpetrates many ancestral rituals and customaries, spanish and american colonizers badly penetrated this hardly reachable region. Among those rituals, the conservation of the bones of the ancestors is one of most troublesome for our western minds.

Aside Banaue City, in the little Ifugao village of Tam-An, young girls call out to us to enter their little gift shop. Curious, we accept the invitation. It looks more like a second-hand shop, different from usual displays. Then one of them asks us if we want to see their ancester's bones...

IMG_5677Surprised, and before accepting, I ask for specifics, not so aware of local customs... The Magyano family, our hosts, keep in their home, the remainings of the girls great-grand-father, Tan, killed during the japanese invasion of the Philippines (1941-1942). The ones of their great-grand mother are in another family house. I try to imagine negotiations between members of the family, for who will keep the bones and host the soul of the dead...
So while Jovi, 15, tells us the story, Mina, 17, go out and come back with a big pack made of a traditional curtain. Quite well reassured by the way it goes, not so morbid, we accept  for 100 pesos (2$), to meet the great-grand-father...

So Mina unwrap the pack, and then we face the crane and this compact pile of bones. The young girls just can't tell what age the man died, except that he was "old". Nothing but to accept this answer, not so motivated to make a calculation about the age of the captain (or the soldier...). So, once we met, nothing more to say, also we won't play jack with gran-pa so the discussion took a new informal way, girls telling us their dailies, their studies, their performance in local dances, their hopes to find a better job later... Then came time to rewrap...

IMG_5681

IMG_5691With such dexterity, Mina with fast gestures, close the coffin made of cloth. The bones were very clean, no disturbing smell either, so we were quite adjusted to the discreet presence of the ancestor.

Once the process over, I ask to see where she will put the pack. A bit embarassed, or surprised, she show me the place, right behind the attendant door, among other daily stuff. Once again, nothing solemn, only the simplicity of their very natural tradition..

See the Photo galerie.

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