Hostels and Inns
Masferré: A Home in the Valley, A Glimpse of the Cordillera
Christa De La Cruz | Nov 06, 2015
Sagada in Mountain Province has become a popular destination for backpackers and trekkers. Nestled in a valley between the main Cordillera Ranges and the Ilocos Range, the municipality boasts of its limestone cliffs, a couple of waterfalls called the Bomod-ok and Bokong, the rock formations inside the Sumaguing and Lumiang Caves, and the hanging coffins of the native Cordillerans. And, of course, who can forget the glorious sunrise in Kiltepan featured in the rom-com That Thing Called Tadhana.
Lucky for adventure-seekers, Sagada is dotted with low-cost inns and family-owned hostels where one can unwind after spending days rappelling down the cliffs or hiking in the mountain ranges. One of the most recommended accommodation options in the valley is the Masferré Country Inn and Restaurant.
Complementing the warm and cozy interiors made possible by the low ceiling with beams and tables made of old wood are the black and white photographs taken by Eduardo Masferré (1909-1995) himself. An icon in Philippine photography, the half-Spanish and half-Kankanaey devoted most of his life in recording and honoring the culture of the the people in the Cordilleras. For this self-elected project, he is regarded as the Father of Philippine Photography.
Masferré's father, a Spanish soldier-turned-farmer, settled in Sagada after the Philippines was turned over to the United States in 1898 and married a Kankanaey. At the age of five, Masferré was brought to Catalonia, Spain where he began his early studies. His father eventually resettled in Sagada and the whole family became involved in a missionary work for the Philippine Episcopal Church.
Inspired by photographs captured by National Geographic and Picture Post, Masferré ordered a camera and developing kit from Manila. The self-taught photographer also immersed himself in the craft through imported photography magazines and books. In 1934, he set up a studio in Bontok, the provincial capitol, and made a living through portraiture. His subjects were mostly the people from more remote areas coming into the capitol and other natives he met during his trips across the region. In an article by the National Gallery of Australia, it was quoted that Masferré wanted to take pictures "beautiful enough to hang on the wall" and showcase the indigenous people as "noble and dignified."
In 1951, Masferré married Nena Bansiong Ogues who has roots from the Ibaloi and Kankanaey. Five years later, the photographer stopped working as a full-time artist and focused on farming oranges to support his family. His studio was maintained by his son who was also his apprentice.
For two decades, Masferré used large format view cameras that accepts only one wet film at a time and developed his own photgraphs in a makeshift darkroom. This did not stop him from conveying the pre-Hispanic culture of our people and proving the dignity and humanity of our race.
The next time you're in Sagada, look not only for caves to explore or cliffs to climb but also into the lives of the people of the Cordilleras through Masferré's eyes.
Masferré Country Inn and Restaurant is a stone's throw away from the old municipal hall in Poblacion, Sagada, Mountain Province. The inn can be reached through 09183416164.
How to Get There:
From Manila, you have two options: take the western route (via Baguio) or the eastern one (via Banaue and Bontoc). The western route is a bit more convenient, as there are dozens of buses from various bus lines going up to Baguio City every day.
The eastern route gives you fewer options, with only a few buses plying the Manila-Banaue route per day. (An alternative would be to ride a bus to Solano in Nueva Vizcaya, where you can ride the jeepney to Banaue. This has been our route these past years.) Once you get to Banaue, you’ll need to transfer rides to get to Bontoc, where you can hop on a bus to Sagada.
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