Skip to body

Museum of Culture and Environment

College of the Sciences
Give to COTS

Follow Us

 flickr icon instagram icon

Creating a Puzzle Room at the Museum

Puzzle Room Video

Small Prey Big Baskets


Indigenous women are multi-taskers! During the growing season, women labor every day in the rice terraces to grow and harvest rice, the basic carbohydrate. They bring along special baskets for gathering wild creatures which provide needed protein for their families. Each basket trap is specifically designed to be placed either in fast flowing feeder streams, or in the stiller waters of the rice paddies where many fish breed, spawn, feed, and grow. When a fish swims with the current through the basket’s inverted funnel mouth, it becomes trapped in the bottom of basket. 

Different baskets are used to gather locusts and other insects, which serve as important sources of protein and which are considered a delicacy. Held under trees growing near rice terraces, these baskets are used to catch falling locusts when tree branches are shaken. The insects which fall to the ground are scooped up and deposited in the basket’s round opening, which is secured with a tightly woven lid. These large baskets provide sufficient  air and space to keep the insects alive until women return home to cook the evening meal.

FREE-STANDING CASE:  Fish and Locust Baskets

Locusts are an important source of protein and nutrition throughout the Cordillera. The small insects are gathered in baskets like this one. Each region has its own distinctive design for locust storage baskets—this Kalinga bocus provides enough room and air circulation (through the semi-openwork rattan sides) for locusts to remain alive while being stored for consumption.

1.  Butit (locust storage basket),  Ifugao.  MCE #2012.01.71

Bamboo slats are twined together with rattan strips, leaving some space for the free flow of air within to locusts being stored for future consumption in this basket. 
2.  Betit (locust storage basket), Kalinga. MCE #2012.01.46

This locust storage basket is conveniently outfitted with two shoulder straps, enabling easy transport from the gathering site to home.

In Fay Cooper-Cole’s 1922 ethnography (The Tinguian:  Social, Religious and Economic Life of a Philippine Tribe) of the Tinguian, a Cordillera group closely related to the Kalinga, she reports, “Locusts are considered excellent food, and when they are flying in great numbers, are taken by means of small nets. These are attached to poles, and are swung into the swarm. Sometimes nearly the whole village will unite in such a hunt, the catch being stored in large bottle-shaped baskets until needed.” (pg. 381)

3. Gubu (fish trap), Bontoc. MCE #2012.01.75

A smaller fish trap, this would have been set in the rice paddies as people were working during the day, retrieved at the end of the day, providing small fish to add to the evening meal.

4.  Alat (fishing creel), Tinguian, Pangasinan. MCE #2012.01.72

Made of split bamboo this fishing basket is submerged in the rice paddies to catch small fish. Fish swim into the basket to retrieve bait, but cannot swim out through the pronged lid (hasang) and are trapped inside.

5.  Gubu (fish trap), Ifugao. MCE #2012.01.74 

Larger fish traps are set in the streams feeding rice terraces, trapping fish as the current pushes them into the interior of the basket, past the spiked bamboo lid (hasang) that prevents their escape. People set up these baskets at the beginning of the working day in the rice paddies. By the end of the day, they have caught enough fish for the evening meal.

6.  misshapen globular basket—(possibly for gathering snails?) MCE #2012.01.73

Life on the Cordillera, 1978-80

Photographs by Dr. Ellen Schattschneider, who is now an anthropologist at Brandeis University.  Ellen lived in northern Luzon as a textile designer working in collaboration with The Design Center Philippines. She hiked through mountainous Cordillera Central communities, researching traditional textile techniques, and partnering with indigenous women and small textile manufacturers to develop income-generating weaving projects. 

This was a challenging period in the history of the Philippines; local people were suffering under the Marcos dictatorship and martial law and were often caught between government security forces and the leftist insurgency of the New People’s Army.

During her time in the Cordillera Central, Ellen collected many of the works of art (baskets, textiles and wooden bowls) displayed in the exhibition.

Next Section:    Tattoing (The Social Skin)

Previous Section: Rice and Culture

Take the Next Step to Becoming a Wildcat.