Gold Rush: Cordillera, Philippines

Cordillera, Philipines

Sometimes the most interesting postcards are the most personal.  This one my friend decided to share with me that she received from her father.

The message from the back:

“Greetings from Mountain Province. This place still has some of the most incredible views of my lifetime — the only thing missing is you.

You’ve got to come back and see this road again - it defies imagination. Much more spectacular than I even remembered.

Thinking of you!

Much love,


She writes, “The postcard is from the Cordillera Mountains in northern Luzon in the Philippines. The road he is talking about is called “mountain trail” and it is a single lane road dorm many hours which winds its way from Baguio City (where I grew up) to Sagada (famous for caves and hanging coffins) and the Banaue Rice Terraces which are stunning!!! (The road also passes the highest point in the Philippines).”

The Transformation of Gold

The Cordillera Central is a massive mountain range situated in the northern central part of the island of Luzon, in the Philippines.  It is the country’s premier mining district where there are eight big mining companies operating which are mostly foreign controlled. 80% of the total Philippine gold production comes from the Cordillera.

The Cordillera Central is the ancestral home of the Cordillerans, an indigenous group of people also known as the ‘people from the mountains’. Cordillerans have strong and innate ties to the land, viewing the land as being sacred and a source of life.  The land forms an essential part of their cultural identity which can neither be bought or owned, but is nurtured for communal benefit.  It is the Cordillerans strong connections with the land that in the past, they have fought against colonizers to defend their right to remain on the land.

During the Great Depression, in 1927 the Benquet Consolidated Mining Company discovered one of the richest veins of gold in Cordillera.  This began the start of the gold rush into Cordillera.  Within four years, 94 mining companies in Cordilera grew to 17, 812 by 1933.

The extreme growth as a result of the mining industry has transformed the landscape.  Mining operations continued to grow and by 1939 the Philippines ranked among the world’s leading gold producers, and second to the state of California among US producers.


Lord Murugan and The Batu Caves

The Batu Caves Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpa during holy festival of Thaipusam

Postcard from Sutr, “The postcard is from my sister who was travelling with her boyfriend and his mother, who are from Sweden. She lives there now. The postcard describes the usual rigmarole of enmeshed family life in Malaysia. You forget how normal it all seems and how jarring their behaviours are on your return. “ 

Friday, 18 May 2007.

“Hello all in Sydney,

Lisa (Chris’ mum), Chris & I came to Penang yesterday from KL by bus 5 hours.  On the first day/night Chris and I arrived Uncle Bobby and Aunty GhekBee picked us up from the airport (KL) & fed us with a mountain of food.  ”chia chia chia!”…. They took Chris and I on our first day to Batu Caves.  We were all blessed and had red powder (see front) pressed onto our foreheads.  Some Indian guy in the carpark gave Chris the the thumbs up.  Uncle Fong gave us free dental check ups AIYAH!!  We tried to pay but they refused. *sigh* Will meet them for dinner when we go back to KL.



13 kilometeres north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia lies a 400 million year old limestone hill where lies a series of caves and cave temples complex.  Batu Caves takes the name from the Sugain Baut (Batu River).   The caves were used as shelters by the indigenous Temuan people.  A pattern emerging with these postcard sites is that these sites often become famous after being recorded by colonial authorities.  

Pillai was an Indian trader who founded the Sri Mahamariaman Temple in Kuala Lumpa, was inspired by the Batu cave’s entrance and decided to create a temple of dedication to Lord Muruga there.   

The story of Lord Muruga is described in Skanda Purana.  Lord Murugan is a popular deity amongst Hindu Tamils and is also known as the God of War or Skanda.   He was a young, handsome, fire-eating and spear-throwing deity.   Lord Murugan is considered to be the manifestation of handsomeness, robust youthfulness, masculinity, fragrance and unmatched valour - all symbolising the abode of happiness.  Muruga has no beginning or end. he was not born nor can die.  He has been described as being analogus to the sun, always shining brightly somewhere in the world, even when part of the world is cast in darkness.

He lived on forested hills and of course fond of pursuits typical to that of a handsome war god - hunting, fighting and had an appetite for blood sacrifice.  According to legend, Murga rose from Lord Shiva’s Third Eye to protect  gods who were subjected to extreme torture and cruelty by the demon Surapadma.  The gods appealed to Lord Siva who brought forth Murga, an element of Himself, and yet distinct from himself, who would alone be able to slay Surapadman and his clan.  Many of the shrines in the Batu Caves relate the story of Lord Murugan’s victory over the demon Soorapadman.

The Batu Caves consists of three main caves, the largest, the Cathedral/Temple Cave has high ceilings and features ornate Hindu Shrines.  For visitors and those making the pilgrimage they must first climb a flight of 272 steps.  It was in the Temple Cave, Pillai installed a consecrated statue of Sri Subramania Swamy.  The tallest statue of Murugan, is located outside the Batu Caves.  The statue, rising to an ominous height of 42.7 m and stands beaming in the sunlight covered in 300 litres of gold paint brought in from Thailand.  

The Batu Caves becomes the focal point of the annual Thaipusam festival and attracts  approximately 1.5 million Hindu devottees worldwide.  The processsion is an 8 hour religious ceremony begining at Sri Mahamariamman Temple in KL and leading to the Batu Caves.  Milk is offered to Lord Murga by devottees either by hand or in clay pots.  

The limestone hills is also home to numberous macaque monkeys which visitors sometimes feed.  They have posed a biting hazard to tourists and have become quite territorial.  Below the Temple Cave lies a two kilometre network of untouched cavens known as the Dark Cave.  Over thousands of years, stalagmites rise from the floor and stalactites drip from the ceilings to form intricate flow stones, cave pearls and scallops.  The caves are home to some unique species including the Liphistiidae spiders and Eonycteris and Rousettus fruit bats. 


Borobudur, Central Java, Indonesia

Central, Java, Indonesia, 02.04.1996.  Printed by Kanisius.

“Darling V,

Fabulous country
So much to do but
the heat is so terrible 
can not do most.
Feet are so swollen.
Met some very
Interesting people

with love


Under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth lay hidden for centuries, the monument of Borobudur in central Java, Indonesia.  Believed to have been founded around 800 CE there is no written record of who the Borobudur was built for or its intended use.  

The Mahayana Buddhist monument is decorated with 2672 relief panels and 504 Buddhas.  The temple’s design in Gupta architecture reflects both Indian and Indonesian influence.  The monument is now a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. 

Borobudur, ancient mountain, was abandoned in the 14th Centurty as the Javanese converted to Islam.  Tales of its past glory became intertwined with superstition of the falling of kings.

When viewed from above, Borbudur becomes the symbol of a giant tantric Buddhist mandala representing both Buddhist cosmology and the nature of mind.  The design resembles a step pyramid built to appear like a mountain or a high place where ancestral spirits live.  The monument is divided into three sections, each symbolising the Buddhist three realms - the world of desires (Kamadhatu), forms (Rupadhatu) and the formless world (Arupadhatu).  In the world of desires, Kamadhatu, is where most sentient beings exist and is represented by the base of the monument.  Those who no longer have attachment or desire for form live within Rupadhatu indicated by the five square platforms.  Those that are able to go beyond form and experience existence in its purest state exist in the formless, often known as nirvana which is symbolised in the three circular platform and the large topmost stupa.  The carvings of the Rupadhatu meld into the circular platforms of the Arupadhutu where all bodies and forms will eventually become formless.

In 1814, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, was advised of the location of the monument during his British rule of Java.  Since then, the existence of Borobudur has become known worldwide and has undergone several restorations.  The monument is now listed as a UNESCO World heritiage site.

Borobudur is still a place for pilgrimage and is one of Indonesia’s most visited tourist attractions (hence the swollen feet of Ms A.)


The River Mole

A contrast from sunny Mombasa, we’re back in England with this postcard which has no hello, sunshine or wish you were here.  It’s a sepia postcard taken in the early 1900s.  In cursive writing, the text is brief, melancholic and reads like a riddle:

“Baby no better, 

if anything just the same.  

Many thanks for the kind card.

- E.M.D.”

The postcard is a picture from the Frith’s Series by F. Frith & Co depicting Cobham, On the Mole in Surrey in which I can just make out the Cobham land mark, the water mill.  It stands on the site of earlier mills dating back to the Middle Ages.   The River Mole is a tributary of the Thames and has given its name to the surrey district, Mole Valley.  Quite a few writers and poets were inspired by the River Mole.  

I came across this one poem which seeemed quite haunting and made me think of the enigmatic woman who wrote the postcard.

The River Mole

Who may count back that forgotten time
When first the waters forced an outlet here:
When the foundations of these stedfast hills
Were shaken, and the long imprisoned stream
Flowed through the yawning chasm? That awful day
Yet leaves its trace. The waters find their way,
Now laughing in the sun - now swallowed up
In caverns pervious to their course alone,
They leave their channel dry, and hide awhile
Their silent flow; like bitter tears, unshed
From the dim eye, before a careless world
Unheeding of our grief; but swelling still
In the full heart, which leaves unsoothed, unseen,
And broods o’er ruined hopes, and days gone by.

- Mary Uniacke, 1839


‘M’ is for Mombasa

Mombasa Tusks, PostkartenProject

The blue ink on this postcard has started to fade and bleed making it difficult to read. Some stamp collector/spend thrift has steamed off the large stamp on the right hand corner. The postcard seems to be from the 1950s, the bright colours in the postcard remind me of the old American Technicolor films I used to watch as a kid. It reads,

“The warm seas of the Indian Ocean are driving away the trail vestiges of the UK hostilities. We are staying literally 25 yards from a spectacular beach which really has white sands. In the garden avocados, bananas, paw paw and flame trees of thika grow in abundance. Out of the trees appear baboons, colobus monkeys and bush babies. The girls have been bare back camel riding = uncomfortable by all accounts!

Wish you were here,



Mombasa is an island city set in a deep natural harbour on the Indian Ocean and is the major seaport of Kenya. Mombasa’s Kilindini port facility is the best equipped on the East African coast and was the trading center for many centuries. It has a checkered history and has passed through the hands of different ruling empires from the Arabs, Portugese and the British. The exact founding date of the city is unknown but is suggested to be 900 A.D. By the 12th Century it had grown into a prosperous trading town. Mombasa acted as a key port in the complex Indian Ocean trading network.

The Arab influence on Mombasa has been significant. Arab traders were known to sail down around to the Kenya coast from the first century AD onwards resulting in trade flourishing along the coast.  The British took control of Mombasa in 1895, after the sultan of Zanzibar leased the town to the British.  The British East African Protectorate was established, and promoted European colonization of Kenya lands and resources.  The center of its trade lay in spices, gold and ivory trading with countries as far as India and China. 

The Mombasa “Tusks” made of aluminum, appear like elephant ivory breeching from the ground to arch over the town’s entrance to spell out the letter ‘M’. Ivory was considered to be a valuable commodity. The structure was built in commemoration when Queen Elizabeth visited Mombasa in 1952. The Mombasa tasks were created as a symbolic gesture of embracing the Queen and the British Empire into the town and within its social structure.  Nowadays the Mombasa Tusks are a bit neglected.  Adverts and fliers are posted on the tusks and there are stories of a beggar making a home in the hollow of the tusks.

The British rule officially ended when Kenya finally gained independence on the 12th December 1963. 

Give me an “M”.


St Mylor, Cornwall

After a busy week of early starts and late nights, en route home and very much looking forward to dinner. Flicking through letters I notice that the first Postkarten postcard has arrived from Cornwall.

I haven’t been to Cornwall but I think about the sun and the breeze from the sea. Turning it over it is from Giovanna and Phillip. “… During a lovely walk we discovered this beautiful church in Mylor.”

Something about receiving a hand written postcard, it fills me with much happiness which is a bit indescribable.

Caption: “St. Mylor church, near Falmouth, Cornwall. Founded A.D. 411, the present picturesque stone church dating from the 12the century stands at the mouth of Mylor Creek on the Fal estuary. Photographer John Pallent”


The legend of Melor

Melor was the son of Prince Meliau of Cornuaille. When he was seven, his uncle, Riwal murdered his father Meliau to seize the throne. Riwal also desired the death of Melor but the council of bishops, the Breton Barons intervened. Instead of killing the young heir, Riwal had the boy maimed, cutting of his right hand and foot. According to Celtic tradition, anyone who was unable to ride a horse or wield a sword was no longer eligible to rule.

A silver hand and bronze foot were fitted to Melor and he was then sent to a Quimber Abbey under the care of Cerialtan. As the boy grew, his metal limbs began to work organically and grew with him and to be as though they were real. Legend has it that one day when Melor was playing with a toy catapult and shot a bolt through a rock. When he plied the bolt from the rock, water sprung and is now known as the Meilars, near Pont-Croix, in Finistere. When Melor reached fourteen, Riwal ordered Melor’s guardian, Cerialtan to kill him and bring him his head. Whilst he slept, Cerialtan decapitated him. In the night, Cerialtan woke his own son, Justan, so they could flee with the severed head. As they were climbing the castle wall, Justan misplaced his footing and he fell to his death.

Cerialtan pushed forward until he reached Kerlean, where exhausted and dying of thirst he lay down Melor’s head and rested. He cried with anguish about how his actions led to his son’s death and now his own. The dead head of Melor spoke and said, ‘Cerialtan, drive thy staff into the soil and water will spring up’. Cerialtan tired and driven by thirst, drove his staff in to the ground. A spring appeared and the staff took root branches growing rapidly to form a magnificent tree. Cerialtan revived from the spring continued onto Riwal’s palace and delivered Melor’s severed head. Riwal delighted offered Cerialtan all the land he could see from Mount Frugy. Cerialtan climbed the summit but upon reaching the top was struck blind. Melor’s body was buried at Lanmeur where the spring had formed and a church was built as a shrine.  Melor’s feast day is 1st October.

The cult of St Melor in Brittany grew and there have been a number of places and churches dedicated to him including St Mylor church in Cornwall which is pictured here. By the 19th Century the church was in disrepair and renovation began.  A 17 foot celtic cross was found and used as a flying buttress for one of the church walls.  Mylor village has long been connected with shipping.  The churchyard at St Mylor contains many graves including those of several ship captains.


Houses of Parliament

POSTKARTEN Project officially kicking off in London.

And with the Olympics on, I thought what would be a better way than to start off with iconic London’s Houses of Parliament?  Postcard was found in Camden Passage, Angel in an antiques market.

POSTKARTEN Project: Houses of Parliament

Houses of Parliament, London

The Palace of Westminster or the Houses of Parliament was designed by 19th Century architect Sir Charles Barry and is a wonderful example of Gothic architecture. The history of the Houses of Parliament spans over 900 years from the Anglo-Saxons to the present. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Palace is now a mixture of both ancient and modern buildings, and houses an iconic collection of furnishings, archives and works of art. The Clock Tower, now commonly known as the The Big Ben was completed in 1859.  Big Ben was originally the name given to The Great Bell but now Big Ben is collectively the clock, bell and tower.

Some interesting facts:

  • Wesminster Hall is the oldest surviving part of Westminster Palace, first built by William the Conqueror’s son in 1097.
  • The Houses of Parliament were almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1834 and was rebuilt and completed on 1870.
  • Protestant James I became King of England in 1603.  He wasn’t known being the most tolerant of Catholicism and Robert Catesby planned to end his reign by blowing up the House of Lords.  In early 1604 he began recruiting others to his cause which included the ill fated Guido Fawkes.  An anonymous letter was sent and alerted authorities on the eve of the planned explosion.  Parliament was searched and Fawkes was discovered guarding the barrels of gunpowder to be used in the explosion.   This day became synonymous with the Gunpowder Plot, the failure of which has been commemorated in England since 5 November 1605. His effigy is traditionally burned on a bonfire, commonly accompanied by a firework display.

Calling all postcard enthusiasts, collectors and travellers…

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber


Calling all postcard enthusiasts, collectors and travellers…

Postcard collectors and travellers are invited to submit postcards either collected or received for a research art project, POSTKARTEN Project by multiciplinary artist, Caroline Kha.  Her art practice explores travel, story telling and romanticisation of place.

Participants are invited to send an old postcard or copy of postcard.  Postcards could be one you collected or one you have received.  Location could be known or unknown.

The main aims of the project is to share stories and images of travel destinations and promote discovery of new and unknown places.  Submitted postcard images will be researched and used in the creation of a new body of work. Locations of a selection of postcards will be researched and information will be mapped and shared online in a collaboration with creative web developer Mike Chang.  Stories of place and the memories connected to them would also be welcomed.  All selected contributions will be acknowledged.  Artist reserves right to edit texts.

The second part of the project involves a traveling postcard book: POSTKARTEN - VOYAGES. Selected contributors will be asked to participate in POSTKARTEN - VOYAGES, which will travel the world and be documented simultaneously online. 

To launch the POSTKARTEN Project, there will be a Live Art Event held on Saturday, 11th August at Debut Contemporary Gallery in Notting Hill.  This event will bring together all elements of Kha’s art practice.  The day will include live painting, launch of POSTKARTEN Projectonline and travelling POSTKARTEN - VOYAGES book which will travel internationally. Local audience and participants are welcome to come to come along to share stories of their travels which will documented and mapped.  10% of sale proceeds on the day will go to The Travel Foundation, a UK charity who develop and promote sustainable travel and tourism.

To join the POSTKARTEN Project and to take part in this adventure of travel, we’d love to here from you.

For further information about the POSTKARTEN Project email:

The project can be followed on:

Twitter: #PostkartenProj




Submission requirements:

Send an old postcard or copy of postcard marked POSTKARTEN Project to 29C Islip Street, Kentish Town, London.

Postcards could be one you collected or one you have received.  Location could be known or unknown.

Write on the back or on a separate sheet of paper a couple sentences about: why you chose the postcard and any personal significance.

Or send 300 dpi postcard image and details to


The Travel Foundation