“When we came to this place, we first learned the names of everything – the mountains, the trees, the natural medicines. All these came from our Babalyan. Each family needs a Babalyan.”
Bolondong, Napsan, 2007.
This is the story of one family through four generations. It is part of a long-term project to visually record the culture of the Tagbanua tribe living on Palawan’s remote west coast.
Tagbanua people have a unique worldview based on intricate relationships with their ancestors and with spirits residing in nature. The Babalyan are their spirit mediums and natural healers who play a defining role in family life.
In 1900 Palawan was ninety percent forest; since then forest cover has been roughly halved. Commercial fishers exploit the sea leaving few spoils for locals using small paddle boats. In modern day Palawan the Tagbanua way of life, intricately connected to the forest and the sea, has been interrupted. Yet somehow – in this family at least – it still endures.