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Ili: Photographs by Tommy Hafalla

Ili beautifully documents the life and rituals of the ethnolinguistic groups of the Northern Philippine Cordillera. Translated literally as “home village,” ili is a word widely used to refer to one’s place of origin — but its true meaning is much harder to encapsulate. Your ili is your orientation, your traditions, your culture, how you identify — it is where you belong.

As featured in the exhibition and in Hafalla’s first book (available in the MuseumShop), his photographs capture how the indigenous respond to shifting traditions and to modernity. Many of the rituals documented are private, thus Hafalla provides a window to customs and traditions not usually seen.

About the artist

Originally trained in as an airplane mechanic, Tommy Hafalla (b. 1957) volunteered on medical missions to the most isolated areas in the Northern Philippine Cordillera, where he was introduced to the people and their ritual way of life. For over three decades, he has been photographing the way of life of the indigenous communities in this region, which includes Benguet, Kalinga, Ifugao, and the Mountain Province.

Hafalla incorporates himself and his camera in the rituals he captures, moving away from the grand narrative towards the local and particular. Hafalla has held numerous exhibitions in the Philippines, his most recent was at the UP Vargas Museum in 2015. He was a recipient of the CCP Thirteen Artists Award in 1992.

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