The photos above show four anito (Igorot idol) fern carvings on display in a glass and iron cage in front of the Baguio Cathedral.
If the image were to be read as a "text" (i.e. something to be interpreted), it may be seen as dramatically portraying the conquest of an indigenous faith system ("pagan religion," to you theologians) by Christianity (or, more appropriately, the Roman Catholic version thereof). If that is so, then it matches the Baguio Cathedral's commanding position in the city's "politics of space,"¹ it being situated at the heart of the city and close to the crown of the city's most significant thoroughfare, Session Road.
On the other hand, the fact that the anito carvings are not encased in an airtight structure and are open to public viewing may be read as depicting the incomplete victory of the colonial religion. If that is so, then it also appropriately points us to many Igorot Christians' syncretistic practices such as consulting the local faith healer after attending mass and adhering to tribal myths alongside Bible teachings.² Whether these religious expressions are seen as evidences of "half-baked conversions" or as legitimate and persistent acts of resistance to an imposed belief system, they all the same offer us a view of the interplay between faith and praxis, westernized Christianity and local culture.²
So far from simply serving decorative or tourism purposes, the caged anito projects one of many areas of contestation in contemporary culture.
¹ In the recently held Baguio Centennial Conference at the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB), one of the 27 panels was titled "The Politics of Place and Space." In this intriguing session, Maureen Z. Macaraeg (UPB), Seng-Guan Yeoh (Monash University, MY), and Ruth M. Tindaan (UPB) respectively discussed the following topics: "Carving Niches: Social History through Morphology and Urban Social Geography," "Showcasing Session Road: A Critical Anthropology of Public Spaces, and "SM Baguio and the Politics of Space."
² Adventist theologian Reuel U. Almocera discusses the issue on "Folk Catholicism" (the intermarriage of Christian and pre-Christian beliefs and practices) in his article "Popular Filipino Spirit-World Beliefs with a Proposed Theological Response" in John Suk, ed., Doing Theology in the Philippines (Manila: OMF/ATS, 2005), 78-98. Syncretistic practices among the Igorots of Benguet are documented and evaluated by evangelical writer and Benguet native Mona P. Bias in her essay, "Consulting the Mediums of Endor: Parallels and Analogies," in Larry W. Caldwell, ed., Principalities and Powers: Reflections in the Asian Context (Manila: OMF/ATS, 2007), 100-118. For a more comprehensive and non-theologian's presentation of Ibaloi/Kankanaey traditional culture, read Anavic Bagamaspad & Zenaida Hamada-Pawid, A People's History of Benguet Province (Baguio City: Baguio Printing and Publishing Company, Inc., 1985), 94, ff.