(UPDATE: Sadly, Lola Filomena passed away in 2017. Her sharp mind and wit, her generosity and loving spirit will forever be missed. I think of her often as I lean out our bedroom window to gaze across our village of Savidug, just a few houses from where she lived and sang. Rest in Peace. And may this work to preserve Laji be a humble honor to her memory. DM.)
Lola Filomena Hubalde was the last living Laji singer in the small town of Savidug on the island of Sabtang. She carried in her songs the unique culture of the Ivatans, who reside in the remote, northernmost islands of the Philippines.
Hubalde’s life spanned the post-colonial American period, the Japanese occupation of World War II, the arrival of electricity and running water to the barrios, the martial law period under dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and – more recently – the introduction of the Internet and mobile phones.
Throughout the many changes and developments, Hubalde and her fellow residents of Savidug, have maintained a traditional lifestyle that is based on fishing, farming, skilled handiwork and the Ivatan tenants of cooperation and hard work.
But today, Hubalde’s Laji, and the deep cultural knowledge it embodies, is in danger of vanishing.
This project aims to document and preserve Laji and the linguistic diversity of the Ivatans through audio, video and photographs. Filomena Hubalde is one of sixteen singers who volunteered to contribute their knowledge for future generations of Ivatans and for people around the world. You can listen to Hubalde’s Laji, Sinavung Ka Paru Ninuy, or watch a video with her here.