Abra in Colours: The Tingguians, Bamboos, and the Art of Dyeing

“In the forest, they don’t just see trees and plants. They see colours”


Abra is a province in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) that is notorious for its records of election-related violence more than any other thing. Development is slow in this province and not much is really happening inside. It is, therefore, not at all surprising that this place is not one of those that would be in your priority of places to see in the Philippines: to mention that you are going to Abra to other Filipinos will surely invite some stare of judgment and even dissent.

What led us to Abra in July 2013 is to feature its “natural dye makers” — the indigenous highland people called Tingguians — for What I See travel photography show.

IMG_20130721_092116_1 The view of Bangued, the capital town of Abra, from the top of the Cassamata Hill National Park.

Right after the storm: International photographer Francisco "Paco" Guerrero scouting the surroundings of the long Calaba Bridge for the best capture there is to find. Right after the storm: International photographer Francisco “Paco” Guerrero, the host of What I See

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The Philippines through the Hands of Ten Filipinos


IMG_1916 A Tingguian bamboo split weaver in the province of Abra in the Cordillera Administrative Region. The Tingguian are a lowland tribe that traces their ancestry to the much older Itneg tribe of the highlands.

IMG_1907 Hand of a Tagbanua bird’s nest (an expensive ingredient for an exotic soup) hunter holding a locally-prepared torch used to lighten up the deepest parts of the caves in Coron Island Natural Biotic Area of Palawan. Gathering bird’s nest is known to be one of the dangerous jobs in the world. The Tagbanua are sea-dwellers and are some of the first to occupy the archipelago.

IMG_1909 A traditional healer performing “bulo-bulo” — a form of cleansing done by blowing a glass filled with water containing an amulet — to a patient in Siquijor island. This small island is notorious for its history of sorcery, witchcraft and the dark arts.

IMG_1919 A Taubuid Mangyan showing a pipe he made…

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As a Mexican, I have grown up around alcohol all my life. I grew up listening to stories of when different family members would get drunk and do something stupid. I even heard a story about my dad getting so drunk he started dancing around a sombrero. I remember as a kid my uncles would come over and tell me to bring them a beer from the fridge, and if it was a birthday or a big celebration, out came the Tequila.

Little did I know there is actually a place, close to where my parents are from, called Tequila. Tequila is located in the state of Jalisco between the Tequila Volcano and the Rio Grande River. It is part of a large blue agave landscape. The plant has been used since the 16th century to produce tequila spirit and for the past 2,000 years it has been used to make fermented drinks. There are distilleries reflecting the growth of the international consumption of Tequila in the past few centuries.

Here we can see a blue agave plant.

Here we can see a blue agave plant or agave “pineapple.”

The Agave culture is part of the nation’s identity, and so is one of the most important cultural landscapes in Mexico. It is not only important for its natural beauty but also the cultural tradition it has kept alive for several centuries. The area isn’t just blue agave fields is also encloses urban settlement which offers proper living and working conditions. Together the landscape, haciendas, distilleries and the urban settlements reflect the way the landscape has been used and is still used to grow and process the agave plant and distil tequila. Only agave “pineapples” grown in the property are processed in the distilleries to be eligible for a Declaration of Origin.

There is a large landscape used for growing agave plants.

There is a large landscape used for growing agave plants.

In the 16th century when the area was conquered by the Spanish, they began experimenting with local beverages and distilled the agave fermented juice to make vino de mezcal. It wasn’t until the end of the 17th century that the first formal distilleries were formed and the agave plantations began. During the 18th century the liquor became better known and demand increased. Thanks to the creation of the Camino Real, transportation of the beverage became easier. And in 1795, Jose Maria Guadalupe Cuervo received the first license permitting the legal establishment of a mescal distillery.

Jose Maria Guadalupe Cuervo, better known on his bottles as "Jose Cuervo" has an extensive line of different Tequilas.

Jose Maria Guadalupe Cuervo, better known on his bottles as “Jose Cuervo” has an extensive line of different Tequilas.

Even though there have been concerned about the over use of Tequila there is still a high demand for this fermented beverage. Religious authorities have been against its overuse but have been unsuccessful in their attempts to ban the drink. The mid-19th had a growth in the growth of the Agave plant. Today there have been measure put into place to ensure there is a continued growth in production to meet the high demands of Tequila worldwide.

There are many different brands of Tequila now.

There are many different brands of Tequila.

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My grandparents

When I think about my heritage I’m sad to say that I don’t know very much about my distant relatives or their traditions. When I think about what traditions and ideals my family has passed on to me I immediately think of my grandparents.

My father’s parents made their living farming. They taught their kids how to work hard and stay dedicated. I used to love visiting the farm when I was kid. It was so fun to run around in the fields when they were irrigating or ride on the tractor with my dad. I had no idea how much work it took to keep the farm in good shape. I saw it as a place of adventure and fun but now that I’m older I can understand how much my grandparent put into that place and I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful that they kept that farm and didn’t give up on it because now I have such fond memories of being there with my family. All those lessons my grandparents gave to my dad about working hard, putting your all into something you want, and not giving up when it gets hard have now been passed down to me. My grandmother lived much longer than my grandfather and she was able to give me advice and guidance through some of my worst years. She live through the Great Depression and it had a huge effect on her. She also wanted us to save everything and never waste anything. Although a lot of what she wanted to save was ridiculous I still think of her when spending money and it has helped me plenty of time to not waste money.


My grandmother Wilma

My mother’s parents have had just as much influence on me. Although I never met my grandfather on my mother’s side I have heard many stories about him. He was a pilot and he owned his own personal plane which sadly I never got to go for a ride in. My grandmother though, has lived next door to me almost my whole life and now she lives with my family. She has also been there for me and although she hasn’t endowed me with financial wisdom she has always given me unconditional love. She grew up with an abusive father and still managed to turn out the most loving and caring person I have ever met. I can remember when I was little running next door crying. She would hug me and whatever she had to say comforted me.


My grandmother Dorothy

I am so grateful for grandparents and the wisdom they have passed on to me, especially my grandmothers. I wish I knew more about my family tree past my grandparents and their family but I am none the less appreciative of what traditions they have shown me. And by the way, we are supposedly related to Sir Francis Drake because my grandmother’s maiden name was Drake.  

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The Beauty in Greece

Traveling has always been something that I hope I can do when I am done with college or even study abroad. One of the places that has caught my attention is Santorini, Greece. Santorini attracts thousands of tourists every year because of its beautiful scenery. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Basically, Santorini was the result of an eruption that happened around 1450 BC. The middle of the volcano sunk in and left many high cliffs making the island very unique in its geography. Though this volcano is now dormant it was once very active in the historic times. Something that I found very fascinating in how the residents of Santorini live, is their transportation around the island. Their taxis involve riding a donkey lead by one person to the destination of the customer. This is something that is really unique to people especially since in America and pretty much anywhere else we use cars as a main source of transportation. This make them unique in their heritage. IMG_3179-1024x682 For tourists, there is so much for them to see. The island offers luxurious hotels for many to stay in with beautiful views of the ocean. In certain parts of the island the beach has this orange- like color which is said to be very good for your skin. Another interesting fact that I liked of the island is that Greek people are some of the healthiest people around the world. They pile up their meals with vegetables and fruits and they also eat lots of fish. Of course, Santorini is best known for its signature white Cycladic houses that are lined up on the cliff tops. When the sun sets, it can be quite a beauty to see. And one day, I hope that I will be able to see this. images

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Things you may not know…

In this class I`ve seen many cultural and natural sites known for their impeccable architecture, history, and legacies that have made them worthy of being called world heritage sites. I often found it hard to choose one site to write or present on because they were all so beautiful and had such significant properties.In this blog I have chosen to write about the things that interested and surprised me, as well as some things that others may not know,about some sites that I have learned about. Some had interesting stories of the people who once occupied the area. Others intrigued me when I saw how the met the criteria for the world heritage list. These sites interested me so much that I just decided to do my blog on some of the sites that I have researched and read about during this semester and the fascinating facts and history of their heritage.


One of the most entertaining heritage sites that I researched was the Tahj Mahal. This buildings architecture and environmentally conservative abilities. The thing that stood out the most to me was the beautiful story that surrounds the building and made it famous as a symbol of love and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The narrative behind this architectural masterpiece is about Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan whose wife Mumtaz Mahal fell ill and died leaving him heart broken. As a symbol of their eternal love he had the monument built as a mausoleum and buried her body in it. He named the building the Tahj Mahal which means chosen one of the palace, whih is what Mumtaz Mahal translates to. When he died he was buried next to her at his request.


The next site that I thought was pretty cool was the sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests in Kenya. These forests were home to 11 separate tribes who relocated from Singwaya ancestral homelands to avoid conflict. They lived in piece in separate areas of the forest while preforming spiritual rituals. These rituals helped these forests meet the criteria of the world heritage list because of its significance religious properties. The forests are also seen as a defining characteristic for the identity of the Mijikenda people. Clearing and pathways that were left by the ancestral people of the original tribes help to connect the Mijikenda people with their past and give them a sense of “being in the world.” This helps to bring together the community and conserve their historical ancestry and cultural heritage.


Yosemite is an example of natural heritage. It is an extremely beautiful national park that I found interesting because I learned a lot about it in my earth systems science class. I went on a field trip to Yosemite and visited many natural landmarks like lower Yosemite falls, Mirror Lake, and the extensive forests. This natural site`s history is fascinating to me because of the way that most of it was formed. In earth system science I learned that the valley was once a huge lake, made from a melting glacier and dammed by a moraine. The unique formation proves its significance as a natural heritage site and has become a testament to its beauty.


The beauty and facts behind the history of these sites influences people throughout the world. It is significant to people who leave in the area and all tourist who visit the sites. The narratives, symbolism and natural properties contained by these sites are definitely worth preserving in order to astound generations who gaze upon their beauty and learn about their heritage.



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Historic Center of Zacatecas

When I was 10 years old my grandmother and sister took a trip to go visit my great grandmother in Mexico. This was the first time that I had visited Zacatecas, which is the part of Mexico where my family is from. When we arrived, I was really taken back by the pretty buildings especially the cathedrals. The Center of Zacatecas is on the southern side of Zacatecas next to Grillo Hills; it is most known for the intricate architecture and where it’s placed on the land which is very steep providing captivating sceneries. The historic center of Zacatecas was inscribed onto the world heritage list in 1993 under criteria ii.) and iv.).


Brief History of Zacatecas

The Center of Zacatecas was established in 1546 when people had discovered silver in the area. The expansion of Zacatecas lead to the south where the first church was constructed and new houses lining the Arroyo del Plata which is now the main street of the Historic Center of Zacatecas. The mining town of Zacatecas was different from any other town because of the topography of it; the town was on a steep valley which made it hard to communicate within the mines and working locations. Because of the economic standing of this town in the early years of silver mining, it was easy for the spread of Christianity to also begin to prosper. The convent of San Francisco began to establish missions as far as California and Texas.


Mining History

Zacatecas is one of the towns in Mexico most recognized for being a mining town. It was a center of colonization and prosperous in silver mining as well. The center of Zacatecas reached its best years in the 16th to 17th centuries and began expanding in religious influences in the 18th century. One well known mine is the Eden Mine which is now open for tours which would take visitors back to the times of historic Zacatecas. Mining was a big part of Zacatecas because it helped the town grow and it lead to more expansion like growth in culture and religion.

edenmine      photoEscudo_ZAC_Mina_El_Eden_Ex_eledenprov


Authenticity of the town

Due to the lack of economic prosperity that had been previously present in Zacatecas in the earlier centuries, very little construction or modernization has been done which has greatly helped the town with saving its history through the towns buildings and overall. The conservation of the buildings and of the center of Zacatecas in general has been closely monitored by the municipal of the town as well as private owners. The historic buildings have been secured by the Federal Law on Monuments and Archaeological, Historic and Artistic Zones of 1972 which is described in the UNESCO website as well as State government laws. Both the Junta de Monumentos and the Ayuntamiento and INAH are in charge of supervising that the site of the Centro of Zacatecas is well maintained.


zacatecasfountain   zacinseguridad

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