Burton Holmes At Work in the Philippines, 1913

Pam Sutherland of Beaverton, Oregon, provided us with these pictures of Burton Holmes at work in the Philippines in 1913. Her Grandfather, Edwin C. Bopp, worked for the Information Division of the Philippine Constabulary in Manila at the time, and helped make arrangements for Holmes to visit some of the locals. During those visits he took personal photographs of Holmes at work, and kept them in his own albums.

As far as we know, this is the first time these pictures have ever been shown publicly. Copyright ©: Pam Sutherland; displayed here by permission.



The following letter was found among the Bopp papers:


Baguio, P. I.
May 2, 1913

Mr. E. C. Bopp,
Information Division, P. C.,
Manila, P. I.

Dear Bopp:

Your letter of the 30th to Colonel Harbord was handed me, and it might be a good idea to make tentative arrangements on Mr. Homes' return from Baguio to Manila about the 12th. I, myself, shall be in Manila by that time, and Mr. Holmes will probably accompany me on a trip down through Tayabas to Atimonan and on a trip throughout the southern archipelago when I make my inspection between May 20th and June 10th. All of the foregoing is confidential as it is not advisable to advertise such moves.

When I arrive in Manila I will make the necessary arrangements with Mr. Wright relative to any railroad transportation that can be furnished Mr. Holmes south of Manila. I have seen a good deal of this gentleman since his arrival in Baguio, having had him to dinner one evening and furnished him with transportation and guides about Baguio. He is certainly very much interested and can do the Philippines a world of good in the States.

A few days ago I received a magnificent photo of the Zig-Zag which contained no card or return address on the cover. Mr. Holmes said he recognized it as being your work, and if such is the case I am certainly very much obliged.

I am thinking now of having you come up to Baguio to arrive here about the 8th and put in a day taking some photographs in and around the Constabulary reservation.

I have notified Colonel Crame confidentially of the probable date of my return.

Very truly yours,


Regarding this trip to the Philippines, Genoa Caldwell's book The Man Who Photographed the World (pp. 201-203) has two photographs from it, and includes this quote:

It has taken us a six-day hike to get here to beautiful Bontoc—the Igorot metropolis. It lies on a treacherous, capricious river, three thousand feet above the sea. We are amazed to find this remote, chief city of the Igorots already so conspicuously Americanized. The things that have followed our flag are legion. The Bontoc Bilibid, the model prison for the correction of the head-hunting mania. And the new hospital, where they do everything for the Igorots except the putting on of heads that have been cut off. Here we find a doctor from Milwaukee, and nurses from northern Illinois.

At the Provincial Government building we are received by the Governor, who orders out his Igorot constabulary to show us what a slendid military force can be recruited from these superb natives. The Governor speaks the Igorot dialect and orders these men out in their own language—and very little else! The hat, the "G" string and cartridge belt (and sometimes, a shirt) make up the uniform of these beautiful, bronze Bontoc boys. Don't think they have stripped to have their picture taken. They are fully, properly clad.

The old men of Bontoc still preserve with pride, trophies of their youthful prowess in the head-hunting game. It was, so to speak, the National Game of the Igorots. Five skulls, taken only a few years ago, were brought out by the Mayor of the town from the old men's council house. Today, head-hunting is almost obsolete, punishable with life imprisonment. It was too much a recognized heroic custom, a necessary proof of valor, a token of a petty but proud patriotism, to be treated as a capital offense. Our judges have been humane and wise enough to put themselves in our brown brother's place and see things from his primitive point of view. And happily this policy of common sense is succeeding. There is more murder today in New York City or Chicago than head-hunting in all the the primitive wildernesses of Luzon.


Photo Tech Section

Holmes was an early adopter of new camera technology. He was the first to add movies to travel lectures, and used a variety of cameras in remote locations. (Compare the cameras, and the movie display box, he uses and demonstrates during the 1901 Siberia trip.) Here are some closeups of his cameras, and the light-tight bag he uses (presumably for changing film).


UPDATE 11 October 2005:
Grafton H. Cook writes to tell us that the "HHB" who signed the letter above was Harry Hill Bandholtz, 1864-1925, and Chief of the Philippine Constabulary 1907-1913. There exists in the collected Bandholtz papers, at the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a photograph of him and Burton Holmes from this period. Grif Cook adds, "Bandholtz kept everything," so we may find both sides of any correspondence between him and Holmes. Bandholtz himself seems to have been a character of unusual intestinal fortitude, as witness the events which led eventually to the statue of him on the grounds of the American Embassy in Budapest.


If you have anything similar that you would like us to share with the world, or if you would like to contact Pam Sutherland, send us mail.

Michael Ward / BurtonHolmes.org

Update history: This page created 19 November 2003. Latest revision 26 March 2012