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(P13) The negrito peoples of the Philippines: genetic origins, socio-cultural adaptations, and prospects for the future

Thursday 26th July, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM, and 2:00 – 3:30 PM. Room: SK202

Convenors: Keiichi Omoto, University of Tokyo; Leslie Bauzon, University of the Philippines at Diliman 

The Philippine archipelago has been critical to understanding ancient population histories in the Western Pacific, but little of this discussion has been broached at CHAGS. On the other hand, the so-called negritos of the Philippines (Agta / Aeta / Ayta / Eta, Mamanwa, Batak, etc.) have been well-discussed in hunter-gatherer studies since the 1970s, with key ethnographies and ethnoarchaeological studies helping to revise models of (for example) forager-farmer interdependencies, women hunters, settlement patterns, and tropical subsistence. At the same time, these groups have also drawn the attention of historical linguists, evolutionary anthropologists and biologists, and molecular geneticists. With groups pulled into wider political and military conflicts, and problems stemming from environmental degradation, land loss and displacement, and poverty (among some key topics), research foci have also diversified in recent decades. Although the number of researchers working on so-called negrito issues has grown, there is sometimes a lack of conversation across disciplines. This session invites researchers to consider, interdisciplinarily, the current state of knowledge about the so-called negrito groups, their positions in the modern Philippine state, their histories, and their futures, and identify key issues facing them today. 


Part I


11:00 – 11:15 AM. Who are the negritos of the Philippines: a race, ethnic groups or neigh-bors?

Keiichi Omoto, The University of Tokyo

A brief historical overview of Philippine negrito studies is presented. Population genetic, ethnographic and ethno-linguistic studies have contributed to answer who they are. Now, it is time to regard them as neighbors.

Long abstract: Rapid developments of population genetic methods have enabled anthro-pology to examine the evolutionary past of human populations precisely, denying the clas-sic concept of race. Ethnic groups such as the Aeta, the Agta, the Mamanwa and the Batak are found to share a unitary origin, with a possible exception of Mamanwa. They are the first people who arrived in the Philippines during the Upper Paleolithic Period, 10,000 to 50,000 years ago (Omoto, 1985; Delfin et al, 2014; Jinam et al, 2017). Judging from prehis-toric and ethno-linguistic evidence, the next wave of migration occurred, circa 5,000 years ago, in the Neolithic Period (Bellwood, 2013). Ethnographic field studies of the Agta and the Aeta groups show unique strategies of their ways of subsistence and adaptations to changing environments (Headland, 1975; Griffin, 1985; Reid, 1987; Shimizu, 2001; Mint-er, 2010). Today, however, most negrito groups are so marginalized that some are on the verge of ethnic extinction (Eder, 1993). They are politically neglected and confronted with problems of human rights. It seems unfair to deal with them jointly with farmers under the common name of indigenous people. It is time to regard them as neighbors in order to share hopes for their future.


11:15 – 11:30 AM. Tasaday: what is their situation today?

Lawrence A. Reid, University of Hawai`i

Tasaday were former hunter-gatherers. The paper reports on recent efforts to contact chil-dren and grandchildren of the group and identify their current social situation, languages spoken and life-styles.

Long abstract: Although the Tasaday are not recognized as a Negrito group, they were hunter-gatherers when first described and should be included in a session on Philippine hunter-gatherers. The Tasaday, a small group of former hunter-gatherers in the rain forest of South Cotabato, the Philippines, whose identity is still considered a hoax by some aca-demics, has been confirmed by research into their language (Molony and Tuan 1976; Reid 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997). It has been fifteen years since the last reports on the group (Hem-ley 2003), and many of the older members of the group have died. However, their children and grandchildren are still alive and still identify with their ancestors, including at least two who have graduated from college. This paper reports on recent efforts to contact the group and identify what their situation is today, the language(s) they speak, their social interactions, and style of life.


11:30 – 11:45 AM. What language endangerment tells us about negrito societies: the story of the Arta language

Yukinori Kimoto, Nagoya University

This talk aims to investigate the sociolinguistic situation of a moribund Negrito language in the Philippines, Arta, with a special focus on the relationship between language endan-germent and changes in human ecology.

Long abstract: The Arta language is one of the most severely endangered Negrito lan-guages in the Philippines, spoken in Quirino and Aurora provinces of Luzon, with only ten people being able to speak the language fluently. This talk aims to describe how closely language shift or language endangerment relates to changes in human ecology. After as-sessing the vitality/endangerment of the Arta language with reference to six criteria, it was shown that the following change in their social structure was relevant for the language’s decreasing vitality. The successive incursion of farmers (non-Negrito newcomers) into Quirino province violated the Arta’s habitats and made it difficult for them to continue their hunting-and-gathering life. They eventually abandoned the area and had to assimilate themselves with Casiguran Agta (another Negrito group). Their strong identity as “Negri-to” also accelerated the assimilation to Casiguran Agta and the Arta language eventually went out of use. This case study suggests that language endangerment commonly found in Negrito societies may mirror a disruptive triadic symbiosis between Negrito people, neighboring farmers, and the natural environment.


11:45 AM  – 12:00 PM. Ethnogenesis of of Katutubo (indigenous) Ayta: engaged anthropology of 40 years before and after Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991

Hiromu Shimizu, CSEAS, Kyoto University

A report of 40 years committed fieldwork with Aytas at Southwestern foot of Mt. Pinatubo, western Luzon. They have experienced drastic changes in life style and socio-cultural consciousness since the 1991 eruption.

Long abstract: In 1991, the Mt. Pinatubo eruption seriously affected over 20,000 Ayta people who lived at the foot of the mountain in western Luzon, the Philippines. The Ayta are an Asian type negrito who made a living mainly from slash and burn agriculture, sup-plemented by the hunting of small animals and birds with a bow and arrows, collecting wild vegetables, and fishing with a spear in rivers with hand-made goggles and lubber propelled iron spear. Through years of hardship after the eruption with many relocations to different temporary stations and resettlement areas and other places, the afflicted Ayta people dramatically strengthened their awareness of being an indigenous people, through a shared common cultural heritage, everyday association, negotiation and sometimes con-flict with lowlander-Christian neighbors, government officials, NGO staff, the media and school education for children. This was not the mere recovery of or return to a pre-eruption state but regeneration as a new people living in a new place leading to the devel-opment of a new self-consciousness and lifestyle. This is a report of a case study on a natu-ral disaster that led to the creation of new kind of personhood and community, in other words, the ethnogenesis of an indigenous people.


12:00 – 12:15 PM. Reading Mag-Indi Ayta identity as hunters through games and manner of fighting

Rachelle Peneyra and Michiko Aseron (both of University of the Philippines College of Human Kinetics)

We are Physical Education teachers undertaking the documentation of games of indige-nous people of the Philippines. Our primary partners are a community of Mag-Indi Aytas in the province of Pampanga, in Central Luzon.

Long abstract: In 2013, a community of Mag-indi Aytas in the Philippines decided to re-vive their traditional games to assert their cultural identity. Now, the community elders want to preserve their manner of fighting as well. This paper describes their games and manner of fighting as translations of their identity as hunters, from the lens of physical educators. Four games are presented to describe skills developed that are used for hunting: Two are archery games that develop accuracy from various distances. The other two re-quire holding the breath for as long as possible, which are skills that support how to re-main still and undetected while closing in on their prey. What the elders have described as their manner of fighting (buwad) is posited in this paper as an extension of their hunting system, applied to people as ‘prey’. This system also takes in the physical features of Aytas, and reflects how buwad is modeled after snakes and wild cats in terms of movement pat-terns, to creep up and close in on their prey. Portraying activities in this manner reveals dimensions of physical skills as cultural texts, and expands the valuing of physical activi-ties in physical education, other than for health and entertainment.


12:15 – 12:30 PM. Discussant: Naruya Saitou


Part II


2:00–2:15 PM. New threats and vulnerability among the Mamanwa in Southern Philippines

Nimfa Bracamonte, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology

The Mamanwa in Northeastern Mindanao face economic, political and sociocultural issues arising from the entry of mining enterprises. The advent of modernity have dis-placed them through exploitation of their natural resources

Long abstract: Employing key informant interviews and FGDs, this articulates the chal-lenges plaguing the Mamanwa of Surigao and Agusan provinces in Northeastern Min-danao, Southern Philippines as an endangered people. With the advent of modernity, development efforts have displaced the indigenous peoples through exploitation of their rich natural resources. Proliferation of insatiable extraction of resources by private/elite interests and government development projects threatened the survival and integrity of these indigenous peoples as manifested by the presence of mining and logging companies in their ancestral domain. Forest resources rapidly dwindle because the natives’ access to and control over natural resources have eventually declined bearing on the issue of marginalization. “Historically marginalized and neglected indigenous peoples have come under renewed assaults as resource competition for ‘development’ expands in the Philippines” (Duhaylungsod, 1996:83). The entry of mining enterprises within their ancestral domain is now poised to modify their lowland agricultural practices, the latest in a long cycle of displacement and adaptation. They continue to face various eco-nomic, political and sociocultural issues. Some significant questions worth investigating include the 1997 Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) implementation, Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) processing, and how the corporate social responsibility of mining companies is being carried out. 


2:15 – 2:30 PM. The plight of the Mamanwas, first peoples of the Philippines

Luzminda Caga, MAMASANSISU Mamanwa Tribal Organization

It’s about the Plight of the Mamanwas, first people of the Philippines who had been marginalized since history unfolded can be openly dealt by civil society in the hope of responding to the challenges confronting them.

Long abstract: This paper dealt the issues during the 1st International Mamanwa Sym-posium in 2014 at Surigao City, Philippines. Represented by 29 Tribal leaders and 58 Mamanwa community representatives, significant issues and concerns were declared. It dealt with unresolved complaints of cultural people. The issues catered towards the continued destruction of their villages, which threatened their security within their ancestral domain, and the unabated violation against human rights. The current situation of the Mamanwa in Surigao and some parts of Agusan were dwelt as well. They are threatened in their forest abode due to intensified encounters between the military and the armed group brought by the government’s war against the extremists and extortionist. In May 2017, Mindanao was put under Martial Law which was extended until 2018. The Mamanwas are people troubled by the deadly crossfire between the armed forces and the rebels. Primarily, this paper presents these multifaceted issues haunting the priceless aborigines of the Philippines. They are peace-loving and gentle people of the forest. Through this, the plight of the Mamanwas, who had been marginalized since history unfolded, can be openly dealt by civil society in the hope of responding to the challenges confronting them.


2:30 – 2:45 PM. Our ancestor’s tale:  the dying “Mamanwa” of Mindanao

Fernando Almeda Jr., Surigaonon Heritage Center; Leslie Bauzon, University of the Philippines Diliman; Samuel M. Briones, Gingoog Christian College, Philippines

This paper deals with the plight of the Mamanwa,‘People of the Mountain’ who are threatened with extinction by large- scale mining, in Surigao del Norte which is de-stroying the forest, “the basis of their existence”.

Long abstract: They are known as “kongking”, which every Mamanwa says mean mon-key or “kingkong”, the giant gorilla in a popular movie by that title. Another pejorative refers to them as “mamaw” or monster. But their accepted ascription is Mamanwa which means people of the ‘banwa’ or mountain. All told, they are people whose hu-man rights and dignity have been violated and altogether denied from them. They are treated “like animals.” These endangered people are largely found in Mindanao, Southern Philippines, specifically in the region of Caraga in the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte. They inhabit the high forest ridges in Diwata Mountain to the southeast and the Malimono highlands to the west, all of which hold vast deposits of gold, iron, nickel, chromite and other minerals that are the sites of large-scale surface mining which is “destroying the forest that is the basis of their existence”, according to Dr. Keiichi Omoto, a noted Japanese biological anthropologist. This paper deals with the numerous factors that threaten to bring about the demise of a human race described by Dr. Leslie E. Bauzon as a “priceless heritage of the Filipino people”.


2:45 – 3:00 PM. Negritos of the mountains: their place in the history of the Philippine nation

Leslie Bauzon, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City (retired); Fernando A. Almeda Jr, Surigaonon Heritage Center, Philippines; Samuel M. Briones, Gingoog Christian College, Philippines

This paper aims to highlight the role of the Negritos including the Mamanwa as First Peoples of the Philippines; and describe their contribution to the formation of early human life and culture in Filipino society.

Long abstract: History courses in elementary and high school do not mention the negritos, the true indigenous peoples of the Philippines. This paper aims to redress this situation and enlighten the primary role of such ethnic groups as the Aeta, the Agta, the Batak, and the Mamanwa. When the Spaniards arrived in 1565, they found small black and frizzy-haired peoples whom they called Negritos del Monte, the small negroes of the mountain. Jesuit priest Francisco Colin in 1664 expressed they were the first inhabitants of the Philippines. It was Keiichi Omoto, Japanese biological anthropologist who first examined in 1978 the origins of the negritos, showing the genetic evidences for the First Peoples. He hypothesized that the Mamanwa are the oldest among them to migrate in the Philippines. Recent DNA and genome studies confirm their arrival time to be in the Upper Paleolithic Period, 20,000 to 50,000 years ago. It is needed to know their human nature, laws, religion, epistemology and worldview, and rich indigenous knowledge of flora and fauna. It is time to recognize the negritos including the Mamanwa as National Treasures, and that any discussion of the early Philippine history should start with them, rather than with Magellan’s arrival in 1521.


3:00 – 3:15 PM. Discussant: Tomoaki Nishihara

3:15 – 3:30 PM. Discussant: Bion Griffin


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