The Valley: A Photo Exhibit on the Pala’wan People

Alliance Française de Manille, Embassy of France to the Philippines, National Museum of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts present The Valley, a photographic exhibition by French photographer Pierre de Vallombreuse open for public viewing from August 31, 2017 to February 4, 2018 at the Old Senate Hall of the National Museum of the Philippines.


Pierre de Vallombreuse had dedicated almost 30 years of his life, since 1988, to document the landscapes and daily lives of the ethnolinguistic group, the Tau’t Batu in Singnapan Valley in Palawan. Eighty-one photographs and more than 100 digital photos are set to be presented.

This exhibit is a fitting tribute to the 70th year anniversary of the diplomatic ties between France and the Philippines.

I am deeply honored to have been invited by the National Museum of the Philippines to present my photographic work on the Tau’t Batu, which started in 1988. I hope that this exhibition will give the public a chance to appreciate this unique culture that we have to defend and protect. This exhibition is also an opportunity for the public to meet those endearing individuals who have become very close friends of mine over the years. I dare hope that this encounter will raise awareness on the issues, perils and challenges the valley is facing today. Never before have external pressures been so strong and have the Pala’wan people undergone changes so deep.

With the inhabitants of the valley, I was able to discover a community composed of wise poets whose sharp humor roughs up the ego. Laughter is very much present in the valley despite the harshness of life.

I was soothed by their fundamentally peaceful culture that rejects violence (Pala’wan people are among the few and rare peaceful societies in the world). Thanks to them, I learned that not all human societies are always driven and steered by violence, predation, greed, calculation and cynicism.

This is too rare and precious, and so we cannot just look the other way, especially during these crucial times.

My whole work with these indigenous peoples for the past 30 years has been fueled by only a few simple ideas and principles: to share my encounters with them, to advocate the diversity of cultures, to respect differences, to provide evidence of aggressions and injustices perpetrated against them, to show their evolution and adaptation in coping with changes that disrupt their lifestyle.

My actions are in line with the principles of international institutions such as UNESCO and its Program on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Although fragile, the intangible cultural heritage is an important factor for the maintaining of cultural diversity when confronted to an ever-growing globalization. Having an idea of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities is conducive to intercultural dialogue and it incites respect towards other ways of living. This heritage belongs to all, it is ours, and it is our collective responsibility to protect it.

Pierre de Vallombreuse

Biography of the Artist

Pierre de Vallombreuse was born in Bayonne, France in 1962. It was Joseph Kessel, a close friend of his parents, who inspired him to be an observer of his times.

In 1984, he entered the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs of Paris with the desire of becoming a cartoonist, but a trip to Borneo the very next year changed the course of his life. He discovered the Punans, one of the last nomads of the forests, and shared their daily life.

From a sedentary artist, he decided to become a nomadic witness of his times, and photography became his mode of expression. As a student of the Arts décoratifs of Paris, he spent nearly 3 years living in the jungles of the Philippines with the Pala’wan people. The first part of this work on the Pala’wan people was presented at the prestigious photo festival, Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles. He was the Secretary General of the Anthropology and Photography Association (University of Paris VII) with Jean Duvignaud, Emmanuel Garrigues, Jean Malaurie and Edgar Morin.

Since then, he regularly collaborates with leading international magazines: GEO (France, Russia, Germany, Spain, Korea, Japan), Sciences et Avenir, Le Monde 2, Le Figaro Magazine, Newsweek, El Mundo, El País, and La Stampa.

Between 2007 and 2012, he worked on his project called Hommes Racines (The Roots People). Over five years, he traveled to different parts of the globe to photograph 11 indigenous minorities.

The main purpose of this project is to show the intimate relationship between man and his environment. It is also a testimony of the diversity of lifestyles on this planet, as also the various kinds of practices and traditional knowledge which take root differently in very different environments. These cultures are the guardians of knowledge, essential for the preservation of biodiversity.

This project aims to make people aware of a ‘sustainable humanity’ whose corollary is the protection of nature. Each time linked to a specific minority, the project emphasizes the very many different answers to the diverse conditions of life, imposed by nature and history. It is in this context that the concept of “roots” is addressed.

The project Hommes Racines talks about the profound changes affecting our modernity by photographing completely different existences; on one hand of people totally rooted in their territory and on the other, people who have been completely uprooted from their lands. Indigenous peoples are often the first victims of environmental disasters: food shortages, deforestation, global warming, pollution, water conflict, and crucial questions that is far from being local concern our entire humanity. Since 2007, this project has resulted in 12 exhibitions and numerous publications.

His last project in Manila was in March 2016, when he presented the small scale version of The Valley at the Alliance Française de Manille Total Gallery.

Public Opening Thursday, August 31, 2017
Venue Old Senate Session Hall, National Museum of the Philippines, P. Burgos Drive, Rizal Park, Manila
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Dernière modification : 31/07/2019

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