German Scientific Work in the Cordilleras - a Continuing Challenge

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 Remarks on the occasion of the 5th Igorot
Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation

10-13 April 2009, Vallendar, Germany
By:  H.E. Ambassador  Delia Domingo Albert

 Introduction I congratulate the organizers of the 5th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe for hosting this gala night. Although I would have preferred a "Grand Canao", I am sure this event promises to be a memorable one. I'm afraid I will have to disappoint you tonight as I am in the Philippines while you are celebrating this evening. As a dedicated civil servant, I have to attend first to my duties as the Ambassador of the Philippines to the Federal Republic of Germany. As you listen to this speech, I am in the Philippines to accompany a German delegation who are looking into projects in the Philippines with special interest in microfinance and micro-insurance. As an Ambassador, I do my best to convince the German government and private sector to work with us in improving the lives of our people in the Philippines, especially those in need of development assistance. Later in the month, I will be in the poorest part of Mindanao, the Caraga area, which is going to receive assistance from the German government to improve the lives of the people in -the least developed area of Mindanao.I hope you will forgive me for not being with you this evening. Diplomats are like missionaries - they have to be where they are needed most.Moreover, I regret that I will not be able to speak on your theme, "Igorot Cordillera Rituals: Their Features and Significance". Many of you present here tonight are experts on the subject and are much better qualified to speak on such an interesting topic. Instead, I will share with you an interesting aspect of Philippine-German relations relating to early German scientific work in the Cordilleras.Early German contacts a)     German  financier  In tracing early contacts between the Philippines and Germany, it is said that the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan in the 16th century was partly financed by a German banker named Jacob Fugger from Augsburg. Perhaps we can say that unknowingly, he became the first German investor in the Philippines. I understand that a museum in Augsburg has information on the role that the Fugger family played in financing expeditions to Asia which was a risky business then.  b)     German  naval  movements  Later in the 19th century, there were movements of German naval ships in Asia, which some writers say could have changed Philippine history if those German vessels laid anchor in Philippine waters before the Americans did. But as world history tells us, the Germans were late in the race for colonies in Asia.

c)     German  scientists  Instead of colonialists, the early German travellers to the Philippines were scientists. The diaries and notes of the German scientists are contained in a book entitled, "German Travellers in the Cordillera 1860-1890" by William Henry Scott, an American scientist who described the Cordilleras as follows:

''The rugged mountain range which forms the geologic backbone of northern Luzon and divides its waters between the Cagayan river valley and the /locos coast is called the "Gran  Cordillera Central’.


The inhabitants of this region successfully resisted assimilation into the Spanish empire for three centuries and so preserved many aspects of older Philippine culture little modified by foreign influence." Thanks to the steady resistance of the inhabitants of the Cordilleras, we can still witness today the manifestations of a thriving Cordillera culture. Your discussions during this conference attest to this. Let me now cite some of the German scientists who went to the Philippines for reasons of scientific curiosity and who left personal accounts of their observations. 1.     Dr. Carl Gottfried Semper was born in Altona, Hamburg on 06 July 1832 and was the son of a prosperous manufacturer. In 1861, he spent 8 months in the Cordilleras collecting butterflies, mollusks and other zoological specimens which were subsequently illustrated in his monumental work entitled, "Reisen in Archipel der Philippinen". He is known to be the  first European to climb Mt. Data when he discovered a new species of butterfly in Mankayan and Benguet which he called "Vanessa benguetana" while collecting specimens. I would like to invite you to do some research and look for copies of his notes which were published in Leipzig in 1868. 2.     Dr. Adolf Bernard Meyer, Director of the Zoological Museum in Dresden, published an "Album von Philippinentypen" with 250 illustrations after visiting Abra, Benguet and Lepanto while traveling 2 years around the world in 1882. He sent his specimens to Dresden in the museum named after him.  I have seen the collection and would like to invite specialists in anthropology to assist in making a catalogue of this fascinating collection.  3.     Dr. Schadenberg was a German chemist who lived in Vigan and Manila and traveled extensively in the Cordillera between 1886 and 1889 which enabled him to closely observe the inhabitants of all five areas of BIBAK country, namely, Benguet, Ifugao, Bontok, Apayao  and Kalinga. He made' the finest collection of ethnographic photographs of northern Luzon and studied the racial relationship between the Igorots and lowland Filipinos. I understand his collection is mostly found in museums in Vienna as well as in The Netherlands. In addition to these German scientists was an Austrian industrialist named von Drasche who made a geologic study of the Cordilleras in 1875 during a trip to Asia looking into volcanoes and volcanic formations. Why  scientists? You may be curious to know why I choose to highlight the interest of some German scientists in the culture of the people of the Cordillera. It is my intention to get you curious and interested in following up their studies. I believe that this meeting should not just end in getting to know each other. I have deliberately identified specific scientific works so that you could make your own contribution in making the culture of the BIMAAK area better understood and appreciated not only for yourselves but to the community you have settled in. I am particularly looking for scholars who could study further and continue research on what the German scientists discovered in the Cordilleras and who introduced them to the rest of the world. I hope that someone or several of you could follow the trail opened by these scientists. The Embassy will be pleased to put those interested in contact with persons and institutions who will be of assistance.Baguio Historical  and Scientific MuseumFor my part, I am working to give Baguio City a historical and geological museum that will show the rich resources not only of the region but of our country as a whole. Baguio as you know celebrates its centennial this year as a chartered city. The official seal of Baguio dated 1909 explains its history

as a settlement that grew into a metropolis due to the development of four gold mining communities. These mining communities are enshrined in the seal represented by four gold dots on the red ribbon of prosperity. I hope that you are all familiar with the official seal of the City of Baguio.

In addition to this geological setting we wish to draw attention to the people who contributed to the development of the city. We also aim to encourage, through the interactive facilities of computers, the study of sciences. Baguio today is an educational center for the young people of Northern Luzon. We hope that our Museum could inspire the young students to be scientifically curious. This would be our contribution to the development of a generation that will be innovative and creative. Today, nations are competing for the best way to develop both natural and human resources.

Germany itself developed into a strong economy by developing its natural resources which provided the basis for its industrialization. The development of the coal and other mines of the Ruhr Valley led to the development of the country as a whole - from its steel industries to its manufacturing and other downstream industries to the present high-technology products which it offers to the world making Germany the largest exporting country in the world, so far.


The Philippines is a mineral-rich country. With proper technology to implement a policy of responsible mining, I believe that we can tum the economy around by developing our resources. We have seen the example of Germany, a country that has invested in the scientific education of a people who developed its resources.

I believe that with hardwork, dedication and political will, we can improve the lives of our people by harnessing our natural resources to scientific use. We can start by continuing the scientific work started by the German scientists who worked on the Cordilleras.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you once again for getting together to share and learn about our cultural roots. I would like to request copies of your presentations which we could share with a wider audience.

Finally, I wish to invite you to participate in our efforts to look for the scientific papers prepared by German scientists and to continue the dedicated scientific work that paved the way for a better appreciation of our country and people.

May I also invite you to open the website of the Embassy at to learn more about Philippine-German relations in general, and to the website of our modest but ambitious Baguio Historical Museum Foundation found at

Thank you.


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