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The Agta Tribe (Dumagat Remontados) of the Philippines - History, Culture and Traditions [Philippine Indigenous People | Ethnic Group]

The Agta (Dumagat) Tribe of the Philippines - History, Culture and Traditions [Philippine Indigenous People | Ethnic Group]


Since pre-history, the Agta in the provinces of Rizal, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Quezon, Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, Cagayan, Abra, Camarines Norte, and Camarines Sur have called themselves “Agta,” which means “human” in their native language (Ancestral Domain 2014, 3; Bennagen 1977, 35).


Coastline of Baler, Aurora (SIL International)
Coastline of Baler, Aurora (SIL International)


The Sierra Madre mountain range, home to 16 Agta groups, traverses north to south of the eastern side of Luzon. Demographic surveys from 1980 to 2000 yield a population count of 10,503. There were 1,644 Agta in Isabela in 1980; 1,200 in Eastern Cagayan in 1985; 800 in Central Cagayan; 300 in Quirino; 2,700 in Camarines Sur; 200 in Camarines Norte in 2000; 609 in Casiguran, Aurora; and 3,050 in Quezon in 2003. This population count excludes the Agta of Abra province, a group whose foraging activities before World War II led them from Cagayan province to Villaviciosa near the Ilocos Sur border (Headland 2003, 1; Minter 2010, 42; Malicdem 2000, 16).


The Agta in Quezon, Rizal, Bulacan, and Aurora provinces are also called Dumagat. However, the term Dumagat is believed to be an exonym because there is no Agta word that begins with the syllable du. In fact, the term has no meaning in Sinauna or Hatang-kayey, their native language. But in Tagalog, it is synonymous with “people from the sea.” The Agta are also called Remontado, which is derived from the Spanish word remontar, meaning “to flee to the hills.” Remontado was the name given by the Spanish colonialists to the natives in lowland villages who decided to flee to the highlands. And because it is associated with “bandits” and “thieves,” there are Agta who do not want to be called Remontado (Padilla 2013, 4; Ancestral Domain 2014, 3; Bennagen 1985, 228-229).


In time, though, the Agta were accustomed to being called “Dumagat” and “Remontado” by outsiders like the Tagalog. However, the different names engendered social and geographic separation among them. Those who call themselves Remontado resided along the Agos River in the western portion of the ancestral domain of the Agta in Quezon province, while those known as the Dumagat settled along the Agos River toward the Pacific coast and onto the Umiray River. Moreover, there are those who believe that the offspring of a native and a non-native should be called a Remontado, while the offspring of pure natives should be called a Dumagat. The basis of this differentiation had been documented as early as 1916 by a Tagalog official who became a town mayor in Rizal province until after World War II. This town mayor recounted that the Remontado of Tanay were descendants of the Tagalog who escaped to the forests and intermarried with the Agta or Dumagat. Decades after, the different labels have resulted in uncertainty regarding what the official name of the ethnic group should be. But the anthropologist Sabino Padilla Jr asserted that the term “Agta” is the unifying nomenclature for all Agta sub-groups which include both the Dumagat and the Remontado (Bennagen 1985, 228-229; Ancestral Domain 2014, 3).


In the ancient past, the Agta used leaves from the forest as a form of communication. There was an ascribed meaning for each leaf. Combinations of leaves and branches conveyed different messages. For example, a family that departed from one location informed relatives of their intended destination by using branches. They also used ropes to indicate time. This type of communication is no longer in use, though, because there are no more experts in forest flora among the Agta. However, remnants of such communication skills are still being utilized for survival in forested areas. Leaves are still mounted on poles to warn people or to serve as signs pointing to alternative trails (Ancestral Domain 2014, 4; CADT Recognition Book 2008).


Each of the 16 Agta groups in Northeastern Luzon speaks its own Austronesian language generally called Agta. All of the 16 Agta languages or dialects are endangered and some are close to extinction. Some of the languages spoken by the Agta are Casiguran Agta, Dupaningan Agta, Palanan Agta, Paranan, and Kasiguranin. The last two are also spoken by the non-Agta (Headland 2003, 1; Robinson 2008, 1). There used to be intermediate languages and dialects among Agta communities living in specific terrains. Those who resided along the shorelines and near the mouths of rivers, from the east coast of Quezon up to Umiray, used to speak in Bulos, which means “sea.” The dialect called Ilog was used by the people along the river, from Umiray up to Aurora. Meanwhile, Hattangkaye, a language spoken in bamboo-forested areas, was also spoken in Umiray and in some portions of Bulacan. These language classifications slowly disappeared, until the only distinctive language being spoken at present is Dumagat, which is also known as Hatang-kayey, Remontado Agta, or Sinauna. With the in-migration of other ethnolinguistic groups into their territory, the Agta have learned to speak Tagalog, Bikol, Visayan, and English. There are areas where the Agta no longer speak their native languages (Ancestral Domain 2014, 4; Ethnologue 2013).




History of the Agta tribe in the Philippines


The Agta came from the Negrito population that arrived sometime between 35,000 and 60,000 years ago. One population movement from the southwest journeyed through northern Mindanao to the eastern part of the islands northward and settled in the Bicol peninsula, the eastern and northern Sierra Madre mountain range, and the coastlines of the Pacific Ocean (Minter 2010, 35; Peralta 2013). In precolonial times, they were hunters and gatherers who lived in harmony with nature. For centuries, the Agta foraged every day for food, yet they left no negative impact on the environment. Though they were also swiddenists or kaingineros, their activities were ecologically sustainable (CADT Recognition Boook 2008; Bennagen 1985, 230).


During the Spanish colonial period, the Agta still maintained their foraging lifestyle. Spanish colonialists, who were determined to convert the Agta, established Franciscan and Dominican missions in the Palanan and San Mariano-Ilagan areas. When these efforts failed, the Spaniards regarded the Agta as infidels and barbarians.


Depiction of the Agta People Tribe
Depiction of the Agta (Les Philippines: Histoire, Geographie, Moeurs, Agriculture, Industrie et Commerce des Colonies Espagnoles dans l’Oceanie by Jean Mallat. A. Bertrand, 1846)


The Agta had contacts with other ethnic groups—the Ibanag, Yogad, Gaddang, Kalinga, and Paranan, also known as the northernmost Tagalog—who took refuge in the mountains of the Sierra Madre when they escaped Spanish colonization. Relationship between these farming groups and the Agta sometimes became hostile. The Agta who were experts in archery launched raids against these groups. But their lack of sophisticated political and military organization rendered the Agta vulnerable to slave traders, who sold them in China and Borneo (Minter 2010, 37-39).


The Agta still have a living memory of World War II. They experienced military encounters with Japanese imperial forces in 1945 to 1946 when the troops retreated into their territory, desperate to reach the Pacific coast where the vanquished Japanese soldiers hoped to be rescued. Starting in the 1970s, the Agta again experienced armed conflict when guerrilla troops of the New People’s Army (NPA) operated in their ancestral areas, resulting in unaccounted but significant number of deaths among them. Both NPA and government troops recruited the Agta as combatants and civilian supporters (Minter 2010, 41).


Their pristine way of life was reversed during the late 1950s when the government allowed the conversion of forested lands into agricultural settlements. Ilocano, Tagalog, and Visayan migrants settled in their ancestral lands. For example, the Casiguran Agta, after World War II, occupied 90% of the forests in Casiguran Valley. Majority did not even know they lived in a country called the Philippines. When new government roads opened up remote areas like Casiguran in 1977, the ratio of settlers to Agta became 85:1. The Casiguran Agta started to abandon living in the rainforest to work as casual workers for lowlanders in exchange for commodities like rice, liquor, clothing, and cash. By the first decade of the 21st century, with only 3% left of primary forests, the traditional lifeway of the Casiguran Agta is almost gone (Bennagen 1985, 230; Headland 2003, 2).


The surge of the timber industry, also in the 1950s, resulted in the loss of forest cover, which was another major reason for the decline of the Agta’s way of life. Recognizing the urgent need to save whatever was left of the Philippine forests, the government, by virtue of the National Integrated Protected Areas Systems (NIPAS) Act, declared the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP) as the country’s biggest protected area in 1997. Then a new decree in 2001 granted the NSMNP permanent protected status that prohibits all extractive permits. The protected area recognizes the interdependent role of the Agta with the precious habitats of the Sierra Madre forests (Conservation International 2014).


Despite a series of logging bans implemented from the 1980s up to 2002, illegal logging in Quezon province continued, with the support of some officials and politicians who enticed some influential members of the Agta with quick wealth from the extractive industries. Majority of the Agta resisted but were powerless compared to the political and military superiority of those involved with logging. Then the inevitable happened: Extreme weather disturbance symptomatic of climate change occurred between 14 November and 4 December 2004. Four successive tropical depressions and typhoons caused gigantic flash floods and mudflows with countless logs rampaging through the towns, killing over 1,600 people, with hundreds of Agta among the casualties (Gaillard, Liamzon, & Villanueva 2007, 6-7, 11; Calzado 2013; Astoveza 2013).


After the 2004 catastrophe, the Agta elders and traditional leaders realized how logging and modernization eroded their culture, traditional governance, and symbiotic relationship with the natural environment. The Agta in General Nakar performed the ngayangay ritual so that such a grave disaster would never happen again. They decided to revive their traditional governance, to develop the political will to protect the environment, and to fight for their ancestral domain (Conchada 2013; Astoveza 2013). In 2009, the Agta of General Nakar completed the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) declaring 164,000 hectares as their ancestral domain by virtue of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA). But for the rest of other Agta groups in Aurora province and in the Northern Sierra Madre, legislations like the IPRA and the NIPAS Act have neither changed their marginalized existence nor stalled deforestation (CADT Claim Book 2008; Minter 2010, 26).


The Agta confront continuing threats and challenges brought about by modernization and development. These include the Laiban Dam project of the government, which will engulf many barangays of Tanay and General Nakar, destroy over 27,800 hectares of agricultural land, bury rainforests with endangered species, and submerge the ancestral domain of the Agta along with their sacred sites. There is also the ambitious Pacific Coast City Project envisioned to transform a big portion in Umiray into an industrial, commercial, residential, and tourist haven. Meanwhile, mining companies continue to operate, and illegal logging persists. Amid such threats and challenges, the Agta struggle to fight for the legitimacy and recognition of their social, economic, political, and cultural rights (Ancestral Domain 2014, 31-32; Freedom from Debt Coalition 2009).




Way of Life of the Agta People



Despite the grave loss of forestlands, hunting is still a highly valued activity, especially in the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, where the last virgin forests of the country remain. Hunting still defines their pagkaagta or Agta identity. A survey among 134 households in mid-2000 showed that about 90% of Agta are still active hunters (Minter 2010, 112). The women hunters among the Dupaningan Agta are as skilled as the men. Bearing and raising children are not impediments to their active participation in hunting expeditions. Lactating mothers sometimes bring their babies along on hunting trips, especially during overnight expeditions (Estioko-Griffin 1985, 26-27).


Agta man with his catch
Agta man with his catch (SIL International)

Economic activities strengthen kinship ties among the Agta. Bahaginan or the partitioning of the hunted wild pig or honey is a practice that helps their survival as a people. It is not uncommon for the Agta to travel for half a day just to distribute shares among relatives (Bennagen 1977, 47).


Agta farmer harvesting rice
Agta farmer harvesting rice (SIL International)


Their staple food is rice, augmented by corn, root crops, and fruits like banana and papaya. Rice is planted in the swidden farms. There is evidence that kaingin or swiddening is a precolonial tradition among the Agta. Before World War II, the Agta relied on their kaingin, which provided enough rice and other produce to sustain them until the next harvest.


The Agta of Rizal and Quezon provinces engage in fishing, mostly in rivers and streams. They use sharpened metal rods and bamboo traps to catch eels and fishes. Children use makeshift fishing rods. Women use hand nets to catch shrimp and small fishes. They still hunt and gather food, but these have become difficult sources of food in recent years (Bennagen 1985, 232, 238-39).


Gathering forest products for trading is an age-old economic activity of the Agta. In 1978, when intensive commercial trading of rattan was at its height, a rattan dealer who married a Dumagat would harvest about 20,000 sticks weekly. A stick was a rattan pole as long as six feet. One rattan vine supplied about two to ten sticks. Sticks were bound into 100 pieces per bundle, fetching around 35 pesos, when the exchange rate was still 11 pesos to a dollar. However, it was more common for the Agta to barter rattan sticks for rice, consumer food items, cigarettes, and alcoholic drinks. But unrestrained gathering of forest products like rattan resulted in the severe decrease of the species. When forests became denuded, charcoal making and gold panning became the important sources of cash for consumer goods (Bennagen 1985, 242-243).


The Agta of Quezon and Aurora still engage in pagyuyuro, the gathering of yuro extracted from the soft part of a big tree called pugahan, which, when left to dry under the sun, becomes as white as flour. Yuro is sold in the market of Infanta, Quezon or bartered for rice, salt, and other needs. Paglalangdes or the ancient practice of gathering honey is still an important livelihood. There are ingenious ways of looking for honeycombs in the forest, like following the droppings of endemic birds (Astoveza 2009).


The Casiguran Agta no longer rely on foraging due to severe loss of dense forests and hunting grounds. Some of the Casiguran Agta maintained their swidden fields up until the 1980s, but the harvests were not enough for subsistence. By 1990, almost all Agta families have been living near settlements of lowland farmers where they work as laborers in exchange for cash, food, clothing, and other goods. They are forced to engage in charcoal making and even logging. The men still augment their economic activities with the hunting of wild animals, and the meat is sold to lowlanders. They still gather forest products like rattan, honey, resin, and exotic plants for trading (Peralta 2013).




Indigenous Agta's Self-Identity, Sociopolitical Structures and Political System


Long before political boundaries separated Luzon into provinces, the Agta already had a system of traditional governance. Among the Agta of Quezon, Aurora, Rizal, and Bulacan, the highest-ranking leader, called rupos (male) or moden (female), gives the final decision on any conflict. Everyone in the clan or extended family abides by the decision. Members perform tasks and functions decreed by elders, such as an order to transfer encampment or to help a sick relative living in a remote area, with respect and haste.


The second-in-command is the bubu (either male or female), who may decide only on matters that are within their jurisdiction or territory. The bubu is called upon to investigate complaints, such as theft, by consulting both complainant and accused. The bubu may consult the rupos to deliberate on graver offenses like adultery, murder, or land incursion. Usual punishments given to the guilty are beating and exposure under the sun. The bubu may appoint younger leaders of every pact or team to be in charge of hunting and gathering. Elders also give due respect to the younger leaders, in recognition of their abilities in fishing and hunting.


Gathering of Agta men
Gathering of Agta men (SIL International)

Traditional authority is vested and lasts until the time of death. Then the members of the clan collectively decide on the succeeding leader or leaders. When political authority was transferred to the branches of the civil government, the Agta were assimilated into the electoral system and began to participate in elections, either as candidates or as voters. Although the traditional authority of elders was still respected within the Agta sociopolitical sphere, the role of the younger members became more important. In 1987, the administration of President Corazon Aquino created the Office for Northern Cultural Communities, which initiated efforts to bring together various Agta groups under one leadership. The first governor was Pedro America, succeeded by Thelma Aumentado. The jurisdiction of the tribal governor was limited to General Nakar, Quezon.


In 2010, the elders from two big Agta groups in Quezon chose Napoleon Buendicho as kopselen or pokselen, also known as tribal governor. The Agta elders carefully choose the pokselen by consensus, based on thorough discussions regarding the qualities and abilities of the person to perform the challenging responsibilities of being a tribal governor in contemporary society. Any person chosen as pokselen, whether male or female, cannot contest the decision and must wholeheartedly accept the position. Pokselen Napoleon Buendicho led the Agta in articulating the Agta struggle against government and private projects that sacrifice the environment and the interests of the indigenous peoples, such as the Laiban Dam project. Pokselen Ramcy Astoveza succeeded Buendicho after his untimely death in 2013. Buendicho and Astoveza belong to the new generation of Agta leaders born in the 1970s and the 1980s who recognize the need to revive the traditional leadership of the Agta over their ancestral domain (Ancestral Domain 2014, 16-19; Astoveza 2013).


The Casiguran Agta give authority by birthright to a group elder known as kaksolan or kaksaan, who also presides as judge and formulates decisions made by consensus together with other elders. The kaksolan decides on the guilt or innocence of accused members as well as on the appropriate punishments. Consensual decision-making legitimizes any judgment. Once promulgated, the resolution is carried out and respected by all members (Peralta 2013).




Agta Tribe Social Organization, Customs, and Tradition


The patterns of movement of the Casiguran Agta are governed by the cycles of nature. For example, they move habitation near trees that bear fruit, where the birds that they hunt congregate, and where fallen fruits attract wild boars and deers. During hot months, they move to coastal areas to gather shellfish. During typhoon season, they move to higher ground into the forest. A nuclear family rarely thrives alone and is composed of parents, young children, and maybe a grandparent. Children live separately when they form their own families. A band of families, also called bertan, form a group of lean-tos grouped like a small community. Moving to another area is decided by the whole band, with advice from elders. A family does not move alone but with the rest of the band (Peralta 2013).


The Agta communities of Quezon and Aurora are led by the oldest member of the clan or group. The respect and trust given to the oldest member is based on their belief that she or he has the wisdom from many years of experience and, moreover, has done many good deeds and has intimate knowledge of the mountains, rivers, and coast (Astoveza 2009).


The Agta household in Palanan, Isabela is composed of a matettena (nuclear family), usually composed of the amEng (father), the inEng (mother), and the children. The terms for father and mother are also used to call the siblings of the father and the mother. The name for siblings is matkaka,which is also used for cousins. The matettena belongs to the pisan or group of families living in a place (Bennagen 1977, 43-44, 47).


Agta woman teaching children in Aurora

Agta woman teaching children in Aurora (SIL International)


Agta families in Northern Sierra Madre live as closely linked households, which are part of the extended family. The group consists of siblings with their nuclear families and their parents. The families live by the river or coastal areas that have been occupied by past generations. They may move to an adjacent watershed or coastal area occupied by the kin of their parents or the kin of their spouses (Minter 2010, 59-60).


Agta mother with child
Agta mother with child (SIL International)


There are remarkable courtship practices among the Agta of Quezon and Aurora. A man who wants to court a woman shows his intention by arranging leaves on the trail where she passes. This botanical message of love is composed of plants and leaves with names that, when added together, can be interpreted as a statement of love. The woman may respond in the same fashion by picking leaves and plants with names that may be intelligibly read by the suitor. Courtship is also expressed through a serenade or harana imploring the woman and her family to allow the serenading suitor to enter the house of the woman. Courtship through mama (betel nut) is another custom. A male suitor expresses his intention by giving betel nut to the female of his affection. Once she receives the betel nut, it is already a sign of acceptance. The male then gives her a bracelet, which she wears to show that she can no longer accept other suitors.


When the woman finally accepts the man, the latter is expected to render service to the woman’s family for an indefinite period to allow her parents to see whether the suitor will be a suitable husband. The suitor is expected to exhibit utmost respect, humility, and diligence to persuade the woman’s parents to accept him as husband of their daughter.


On the wedding day, relatives of the bride and groom come together for the ceremony officiated by the leader of the Agta community. The bride, who dons a wrap-around cloth from tree barks, and the groom, who wears a G-string, sit in front of their parents. The wedding banquet consists of food gathered from the forest: wild pig and wild deer, along with endemic root crops and forest products like abukot, paynot, agakot, and pugahan.


Kin from near or far visit the expectant mother during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, to give her moral support and assistance. The pregnant mother drinks an herbal decoction of leaves and roots to ensure easy childbirth. They use bamboo to sever the umbilical cord. Elders give the newborn a concoction with ingredients from the bile of a python or from leaves of an endemic plant, to eliminate wastes that the baby may have ingested from inside the mother’s womb (Ancestral Domain 2014, 8).


Child mortality is high among the Agta. The chances for an Agta child to die before five years of age are seven times higher than that of the average Filipino child. Children are therefore precious, showered with affection, and rarely given corporal punishment (Minter 2010, 66-67). To stimulate a baby growth, the Agta in Northern Sierra Madre tie a string from the manglat tree (Ficus rivularis) around the infant’s belly until the baby can already walk. To ward off evil spirits, they burn almaciga (Agathis philippinensis) resin and let the child wear a necklace made of garlic. Some hang a monkey’s skull in front of their house. From toddler to six years of age, Agta children spend time playing with sibling and cousins. Children help in domestic chores when they turn six. By age 10, both girls and boys assist in livelihood such as fishing, planting, collecting and trading forest and marine products, and laboring in farms. Boys join the hunting trips of adults. In logging areas, boys may help in cutting and hauling logs. In mid-2000, less than 10% of all Agta children in the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park attended formal schooling (Minter 2010, 69).


Adultery is taboo, and punishment is to be decided upon by the elders. The whole community is involved in the case of separation in marriage. The leader of the community interviews the estranged spouses about the reasons for separation. In a study among the Northern Sierra Madre Agta, there were cases of adultery, wife battering, alcoholism, aggressive behavior, and incompatibility leading to incessant conflicts. Although elders mediate to save the marriage, separation is welcomed when the differences are irreconcilable (Minter 2010, 66).


With the death of a spouse, the surviving partner refrains from speaking to anyone, cuts his or her hair short, and dons a black cloth over the head. A widow or widower may remarry when the duration of mourning that he or she promised to the spouse is over, which may be anywhere between one year to even a whole lifetime. When the widow or widower decides to end the mourning period and plans to remarry, a ritual is done to communicate such intentions to the departed spouse (Calzado 2013; Ancestral Domain 2014, 9-10).




Religious Beliefs and Practices of Ethnic Filipino Agtas


The Abra Agta revere Bagatulayan as their supreme being and creator. Bagatulayan is also the most powerful god, sometimes referred to as Apo Dios. Bagatulayan created other deities, and the most feared of them all is Kadaklan, meaning “the biggest,” who is hailed as “ari ti Sal-it” or King of Lightning. Kadaklan may visit humans in their dreams, accompanied by a dog named Kimat, which means “thunder and lightning” (Malicdem 2000, 87-88).


Agta elders performing a healing ritual in General Nakar, Quezon
Agta elders performing a healing ritual in General Nakar, Quezon, 2008 (CCP Collections)

The Agta of Quezon and Aurora believe in a supreme being and creator of all things whom they call Makidepet or Makedyepet, “the one who has the right over all things.” The reason why the Agta has great respect for nature is because of their belief that Makidepet is in all of creation—in animals, plants, rocks, rivers, and seas. The Agta worship Makidepet in the sacred places located in their ancestral domain. Examples of these sacred grounds are Tulaog and Durungawan in Ilaya at the west side of Agos River in Quezon province. However, illegal loggers and treasure hunters intruded and attempted to plunder these sacred places. Now the sacred places are being protected under the proclamation of the CADT.


Makidepet not only created humans but also other spiritual beings that are not in the physical realm. These spirits in nature have harmonious relations with Agta ancestors and have been given the responsibility by Makidepet to guard over the mountains, forests, rivers, and other environs that are the dwelling places and hunting grounds of the Agta. The Agta ask permission from these spirits whenever they need to get anything from the natural environment. One kind of nature spirit is called tumatanan. The tumatanan are the defenders of the forests. They have the ability to change the directions and images in the forest to confuse and stop anybody who wants to harm the forest. The Agta believe that once the tumatanan leave the mountains, the forests and mountains will vanish sooner or later. There is another kind of spirit called subkal or the spirit in an animal. Once the subkal becomes a friend, the subkal can enter the body of the person and teach him or her how to heal the sick. A person who becomes a medium of a subkal is called subkalan. The subkalan can talk to the spirit of an animal, such as a bird, to determine which trees and plants in the forest have curative qualities for specific diseases. The subkalan lives like a recluse in the forest and refrains from using anything that is not natural, like soap or manufactured clothes. His or her perfume comes from aromatic leaves that are bound around the arms to attract the subkal.


The ngayangay or ngayengey is a prayer or ritual to connect with the spiritual dimension. There is a specific ritual for Makidepet, for ancestor spirits, and for nature spirits. The Agta also perform ngayangay before hunting or when they need to cut a tree, catch fish, or kill a wild animal. They believe in certain omens. For example, pitcher plants signify death (Peralta 2013).


Among the Agta of the Northern Sierra Madre, hunting is not solely based on skill and circumstances but also on supernatural forces. Hunters ask permission from both ancestors and nature spirits by making food offerings. Omens and images in dreams are signs that spirits will guide a hunter. One good sign is to dream of a water buffalo with a child. It is important not to antagonize the spirits. Taboos include joking about animals, defecating or urinating over hunting instruments or within hunting grounds, wasteful hunting where animals are left to rot, and showing disrespect to animals by damaging their mandibles which are believed to be the carrier of the kalidua (souls) of animals. In case of repeated failures in hunting trips or when a hunting accident happens, the Agta perform a three-step ritual using local plants to dispel the misfortune (Minter 2010, 114-115).




Agta's Way of Living: Dwellings and Community Settlements 


The basic house of the Casiguran Agta is the lean-to built along rivers, streams, and seashores. The lean-to is made up of a ridgepole across two posts made from slender tree trunks, supporting a roof made of leaves or grass. The open side of the lean-to is shifted to always face the sunlight. The flooring may either be bare ground or covered with bamboo slats or plant material. There is usually a fireplace near the opening for cooking, light, warmth, and protection from pests. The lean-to contains the basic necessities like hunting tools, clothing, cooking wares, and cooked root crops. After using up the resources in one area or when pests have multiplied, the Agta will move to a previously known area that has been fallow for a long period. They will not move into an unknown area in the forest unless by force of circumstances.


The pinanahang, the Palanan Agta’s lean-to, can be built within 30 to 60 minutes by the family members. It measures 4 square meters, made up of branches and palm leaves erected over a space with no flooring. The kubo is made up of two pinanahang that are joined together. The tinaltal is a pinanahang with bamboo flooring laid on the ground. It is called tagapa if the flooring is made of grass. Sahing is the pinanahang with bamboo flooring raised about 1 to 2 feet from the ground. The simplest shelter is the kabbun, which is the big leaf of a palm locally called denEp, used like an umbrella by a person who sleeps in a squatting position (Bennagen 1977, 63).


Agta Tribe pinanahang or lean-to house
Agta pinanahang or lean-to (SIL International)


Similarly, the Agta of Northern Sierra Madre usually build the simple pinanahang during summer. It is a movable shield against sun, wind, and rain, woven from palm leaves erected by one or several wooden poles, with flooring made of bamboo or wooden planks. The construction materials may be carried and rebuilt elsewhere when the present site becomes unsanitary. During rainy season, more solid materials for the pinanahang are used: bamboo or wood for the raised floor, and a roof made from palm leaves and wooden poles. Tarpaulins, sacks, plastics, and other materials may also be used. The hearth is on the ground. Walls may be absent or may be built using palm leaves. Some Agta who live near the village center have houses with tin roofs (Minter 2010, 63).


Agta house of bamboo and nipa
Agta house of bamboo and nipa (SIL International)

There are three kinds of lean-to houses among the Agta of Quezon: the saulen, the linages, and the rungarung at binutuk, also known as talikod-mundo (shield from the elements), because the latter can easily be remounted in any place. The simplicity of their houses have no negative impact on the environment because they do not need to cut big trees to make them—only woody branches, saplings, and leaves. They also use anahaw (Livistona rotundifolia) palm species for building materials. The fan-shaped leaves are used for roofs and walls (Ancestral Domain 2014, 20; Ella 2014).




Agta People Arts and Crafts


The Agta are experts in the use of bows and arrows. In Central Cagayan, the Agta have various types of arrows depending on the hunted prey. One arrow is called zita, which also refers to the poisonous sap of the zita tree that is used to stain this arrow. Another poisonous arrow is called ballang, named after the wooden part of a palm called ballang, a material used to make an arrowhead about 3/8 inch in diameter, with length of 10 to 12 inches. A similar arrow for targeting fish, but poisonless, is called arutang. As a rule, poisonous arrowheads, when not in use, are protected by a bamboo hood to avoid accidentally injuring people and animals.


There is also the barbed arrow called gilat, which has an arrowhead that may be detached from the shaft. The gilat has numerous flaring spikes at the base of the arrowhead for efficiency in hunting wild pig. A running wild pig shot by the gilat can easily be pierced by its barbed arrowhead. The cord tied to the shaft loosens to allow the shaft to be dragged and to be entangled with vegetation, pinning down the pig and enabling the hunter to catch up.


The gintab is a double-edged iron blade shaped like a teardrop, about 6 to 12 inches long. The gintab is the Agta’s most commonly used arrow, securely placed in a sturdy reed called bihaw, with a shaft that measures about 1/2 to 5/8 inch in diameter. There are other types of arrows, namely, the sihil or wire-pronged arrow for fishing; the albig, with an arrowhead made from bamboo but shaped like a gintab; and the pulungot or palangot with an arrowhead that has four spikes from the axis.


The tail feathers of the endangered kalaw or rufous hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax) are important materials in making arrows. Three feathers, one white and two black ones, are used to mark the correct position of the arrow. The Agta use sap from the taggat (Pterocarpus sp.) as an adhesive and the inner bark of the dapir vine as a band to fasten the feathers and arrowheads in place (Cababag 1980, 46-48).


The Agta of Quezon also navigate rivers and seas through the delos, a canoe they use as means of transportation from the hinterlands of the Sierra Madre to villages downstream. They use the delos to transport forest products along the Agos River and into other settlements through its tributaries (CADT Recognition Book 2008).


The Agta make watertight baskets using sealants such as clay to protect its contents. From coconut shells, they make spoons that are fastened to long bamboo handles carved with various artistic designs so that its users may have better grip of the handles. The Palanan Agta have several containers important for their daily chores. The galalan is a container for plant products, made from leaves of the sabutan (Tectorius sp.) The po:ut is a container for rice and corn. The ulang is the container for fish, shells, and eels. For storing clothes and personal paraphernalia, they use the sukluban (Waldron 2014; Bennagen 1977, 63). The Cagayan Agta carries along an abyat or bamboo tube, the usual size of which is 3 to 12 inches long, used for drinking and for storing honey, tree resin, or rice seeds (Cababag 1980, 47).


Agta woman with child and baskets
Agta woman with child and baskets (SIL International)



Agta Traditional Costume and Ornaments


Casiguran Agta children sporting rattan headdresses known as biskal
Casiguran Agta children sporting rattan headdresses known as biskal, 2014 (Jean Navea)


The traditional male garment in Quezon and Aurora is called the bebet, a narrow piece of cloth from barks of trees, fastened at the waist. In Isabela, the loin covering is sometimes decorated with traditional prints and designs. The traditional female garment is called the taloktok, made from the bark of a tree locally known as tangisang bayawak, which is pounded and dried under the sun, then dyed with mama (Astoveza 2009). The children are usually naked (Peralta 2013).


Both male and female Agta are fond of using personal ornaments. Agta men wear ornaments like leaf ear plugs, bead necklaces, arm bands fashioned from rattan and local fiber, leglets from the hair of boars killed by the hunters themselves, and ornamental combs with decorative incisions and feathers worn by accomplished hunters. Women show off handmade bracelets from local plants called beklow. Men enhance their appearance by wearing the biskal, an ornament from rattan combined with woven materials. For perfume, the women use the scents from a local plant called surob. At present, the Agta already wear ordinary garments like the lowlanders (Waldron 2014; Astoveza 2009).


The Casiguran Agta put on bracelets, girdles, and necklaces made of vines, which are sometimes combined with copper or bronze. They wear wooden earplugs adorned with engraved mother of pearl. The Agta practice body scarification according to the belief that the patterns of scars shield the body against diseases. The wounds inflicted on limbs, hands, back, chest, and abdomen have definite designs. To produce the keloids that show off the pattern, the wounds are irritated with ash, lime, and fire. The Agta also display blackened, chipped, or filed teeth.




Agta Language and Literary Arts


Agta riddles range from simple descriptions to rich metaphors, as seen in Eugenio (1994):


Dobam mu.

Ari lubbe nu aram mu apan. (Pana)


(You send it, it doesn’t come back

If you don’t go after it. [Arrow]) (632)


Ajjan mangin si amiling

Ipammate tam ngamin. (Gabi)


(The tiny hot pepper is here

To put us all to death. [Night]) (706)


Appeka mattuttu.

Masingan ga ulu. (Pata)


(I’m pretending to hide

But you can see my head. [Carpenter’s nail]) (719)


Binungun ta binungun,

Nabungun ta berdi sinnun

Ari malabbalabbun. (Mabussi)


(Wrapped round and round,

Wrapped in green cloth;

It will never be guessed. [An unborn baby]) (354)


Agta aphorisms reflect their sustainable way of life that is the opposite of conspicuous consumption in the modern world:


Mangamit na husto pangudtuan,

Mangamit kani panginabian kitam,

Mangamit ka inapun.


(Just get enough for breakfast,

Just get enough for lunch,

Just get enough for supper.) 

CADT Recognition Book 2008


The Labin Agta of Cagayan call their epic poetry nanang. Two epics were recorded by Ernesto Constantino in the 1970s. One is about the abduction and wedding of two Agta maidens. The other nanang, I Taguwasi anna I Innawagan (Taguwasi and Innawagan), is about the fantastic rescue of the maiden Innawagan by the epic hero Taguwasi. Both epics were chanted by Marcela Tumbali, also known as Baket Anag.


Taguwasi rescuing Innawagan as Talimanog falls to his death
Taguwasi rescuing Innawagan as Talimanog falls to his death (Illustration by Rommel Joson)

I Taguwasi anna I Innawagan was the first nanang recorded in 1977 in Maraburab village located in Alcala, Cagayan province. The sky god, Pane Kalimangalnuk ya Langit, orders the bird, Ammalabukkaw, to abduct Innawagan and imprison her in the fifth layer of the sky until her wedding with Kalimangalnuk. Alig, older sister of Innawagan, calls on her three brothers to rescue Innawagan. The three brothers—Talimanog, Ammani, and Annibo—take turns in fighting against Kalimangalnuk for many months. They all fail to defeat the sky god whose powers lie in his arrow. Seeing how her brothers are no match to the sky god, Innawagan sends Talimanog’s bird, Dalewasan, to go to Alig and seek help. Narrowly escaping barbed obstacles as it travels through the sky world, Dalewasan reaches Alig, who instructs the bird to find Innawagan’s savior in the place where the sun rises. Dalewasan flies to the bottom of the sky to find Sinag, who informs Dalewasan about her brother. The bird searches for her brother, bringing along betel chew and Sinag’s scent or essence. When Dalewasan finds him, the bird recognizes him as Taguwasi, the fearless warrior. Dalewasan convinces Taguwasi to set Innawagan free by offering her to be his wife. With betel chew in his mouth and the scent from Sinag, Taguwasi and the bird fly to the fifth layer of the sky, where a golden door is guarded by a supernatural creature named Pane Nagdombilan. Taguwasi succeeds in defeating Nagdombilan by asking help from Ina Nanolay, mother of life. He uses his physical strength and the force of the wind spirit emanating from his g-string and chest to destroy and hurl the golden door, revealing Innawagan sitting yonder like the vibrant moon. But in that same moment, Talimanog, who continues the battle with the sky god, falls. Dalewasan introduces Taguwasi to Innawagan as her savior but with Talimanog’s death, she is inconsolable. Calling on Ina Nanolay and the force of the spirit wind to ward off Kalimangalnuk’s arrow, Taguwasi fights the sky god until he weakens. Then, Taguwasi rescues Innawagan and rips the bottom of the sky with his arrow to make an escape route for Innawagan and the three brothers. Taguwasi then confronts a revitalized Kalimangalnuk who, at this point, is with his allies. With the force of his wind spirit, Taguwasi throws the sky god and defeats his allies, their headless corpses lighting up the sky. But Kalimangalnuk comes back just when Taguwasi and Innawagan are about to leave. Taguwasi urges Innawagan to escape, and she finally reaches the land of her brother, Talimanog. Taguwasi arrives there, too, but Kalimangalnuk returns to challenge Taguwasi, who beheads the sky god. Meanwhile, Alig revives the waning life forces within her brothers. Ammani, Annibo, and Talimanog are made to chew betel nut and to bathe and drink from the waters of a mystic sky river called upon by Alig to appear in the middle of the house. In due time, the wedding of Taguwasi and Innawagan commences, after rituals and negotiations between the families are completed. The ceremony and merriment continue through the night. The noise annoys the Katallaritan Kinallinga. Led by Pane Namandiyanin, they attack the wedding reception, but Taguwasi defeats and beheads them. The people then resume the euphoric celebration of the wedding (Constantino 2001).


Ernesto Conchada, an Agta elder and traditional leader from General Nakar, Quezon province, composed “Pamana ni Bobong Laki ki Bobo a Gupad” (in Conchada 2013), a bilingual poem about the loss of his birthright. He recited the poem in Dumagat and Tagalog on occasions like national tribal festivals and conferences among indigenous peoples.


Pamana ni Bobong Laki ki Bobo a Gupad


I

Pagsiket nun hari a adow

Binogbog ko mangapo ko

Gumiyos kamo de ta lalaweg tam

Un buko patun tages a tinudo nun bobo ko


II

Apon apon nun dumatung kami

De beloy a untik de gitna ne bukod

Dumen masayein a eyen ti problima at sagina


III

Nun lumipes e adow hinanap ko

Pangumeden ko un pamana ni bobo ko

ay ankod pikita


IV

Kaye sabi ni puso ino kayye lapestangen ino kayye

anti kalbi namugtos nun kew ede pati umid a

pamana ni bobo.


(Heritage of Grandfather and Grandmother


I

At sunrise

I woke up my grandchildren.

We will look for the tree where honey is kept

As instructed by my grandfather.


II

It was sunset when we arrived

At the humble shack nestled amid the mountains,

Where, once, we lived in joy and bounty.


III

Days passed and I looked for my pugahan.

The gift from grandfather is gone.


IV

My heart cried out in pain, they have no respect

or mercy.

They cut the trees and the pugahan, the heritage

from my grandfather.)


The tale of Mandaripan from an anonymous storyteller in Central Cagayan is funny, absurd, and magical. It reflects the Agta’s worldview in coping with unfortunate situations brought about by the grave economic and social changes that threaten their foraging existence. The story revolves around how an insistent bird pesters Mandaripan in his sleep. First, the bird demands to be shot. Mandaripan, who wants to go back to sleep, shoots the noisy bird, only to be disturbed again when it urges him to pick up the carcass. Then the carcass calls out to him, requesting to be butchered. Soon, it insists to be cooked in boiling water. Thereafter, it demands to be eaten. From inside Mandaripan’s belly, the troublemaker wants to relieve himself. Once excreted, the feces plead to be put on a plate and to be cut. Then Mandaripan is surprised to see a great deal of money. With the sudden fortune at his disposal, Mandaripan decides to go to the king and ask permission to marry his daughter. The king agrees, only if Mandaripan could give a dowry of 200 pigs, 100 carabaos, and 200 cows. Mandaripan leaves to contemplate on how to gather herds of carabaos, pigs, and cows. Suddenly, these animals appear before him, and he returns to the king with the huge bride price. Mandaripan fulfills his wish to marry the king’s daughter (“Mandaripan” 1987, 49-55).


Sleeping Mandaripan pestered by a bird

Sleeping Mandaripan pestered by a bird (Illustration by Rommel Joson)


The Agta of the Northern Sierra Madre have legends about animals in the forest that also convey lessons in life. One story told by Bawe Donato recounts why the amtik (red ant) came to have a tiny waistline. The story features Amtik the red ant, Pegpakao the button quail, Bulayo the Philippine eagle owl, and Ogsa the Philippine deer. From his home inside a tree hole, Amtik climbed up the trunk but was suddenly assaulted by the foul smell from the stools of Bulayo perched above him. Amtik bit Bulayo’s bottom, who squeaked in pain, which scared Ogsa away. As he ran away, Ogsa trampled on the newly laid eggs of Pegpakao on the forest floor. The furious Pegpakao confronted Bulayo and Amtik. The three asked Ogsa why he crushed the eggs. After their investigation, Bulayo, Ogsa, and Pegpakao pronounced Amtik as the culprit. Amtik’s bite caused Bulayo to squeak, which scared Ogsa, who scampered and crushed the eggs. The animals punished Amtik by tightly fastening a string of rattan around his waist, and that was how the red ant got a sexy waist (Minter 2010, 105).


The Agta in Quezon have legends or stories about the names and origins of places. A place called Maybahag got its name because long ago, a young Agta killed a wild pig on the same spot where he left his loincloth smeared with pig’s blood. Nasarompa is a place named after the pledge of love between and man and a woman. Tuno is the location where young men tuned their guitars and other musical instruments before a serenade. Tamala comes from the world “tama lanay,” a designated site for bahaginan or equitable partitioning of the hunted animal to be distributed to all families of the group (CADT Recognition Book 2008).




Agta Tribe Traditional Song, Dances, Tribal Festivities and Funeral Rites


The Agta of Quezon love to sing. There are songs for various situations in life: for mourning, romance, celebration, and success. The saludsod is an extemporaneous song performed during joyous occasions. People who are in mourning are not allowed to sing it. It is considered a grave misconduct to sing it in the presence of a person in grief. Below is an example of a saludsod:


On Manok a Malaye


On manok a malaye

De kitam a belanggo

ay gepangolela de hawla a ginto

Eyen de kakanta te begin e poso

ta e pelaweg na on laye anaglaho.


Pangano ko e yiman on dengal at donong

Pag-alipin nok pen de habiang panahon

Magtiis ok mangko on uhaw at tiga

piyon pa on eyen te pe Panginoon.


(The Free Hen

The hen once free

is now a jailbird

Forlorn in a golden cage.

With a wounded heart it cannot sing

Wishing for lost freedom.


There is no use for wealth, pride, and wisdom

If I were forever a slave.

Better to suffer thirst and hunger

Than be under a master.) (Ancestral Domain 2014, 21)


There are songs of sadness, like the more popular “Bedo Kong Ladot.”


Bedo Kong Ladot


Bedo kong ladot on esen la (2x)

Eyen te kak moken tambingtinaptapan

at paka mala tangen ti masoksok


Unay ti pag ani ge pangane kanin be eyen

Anehen kamote o eyen gitangos

E ina gitangos, e ama gitangos

kami de kahedepen.


(Tattered Garment


My one and only garment (2x)

To be promptly washed and dried

And worn again.


Rice is our food during harvest season

After harvest, not even camote is on hand.

Father weeps, mother weeps

We all weep in poverty.)


People who are weary from work seek comfort and relaxation in songs like “Awit sa Paghapay” also known as “Gipulak.”


Gipulak


Gipulak kok di ni kew nundi parang

Addi ko ay palakol kadowwe e puthaw

Un mahona inun ay paki sabien

Makat pati eye ay madien di pagkalipa na ay nappa

abot de

Sigudo pen ay nakakapoy de

Dengen nok sumunod ni dudol ne kakmuken


(Gathering Wood


I will gather firewood in the fields

With my axe and iron tool.

Kindly inform Aling Kuwan

So she will not be hit by chips.

I am restrained when I try to sit.

But maybe I could rest for a while before I obey

another order.) (Ancestral Domain 2014, 22)


“On Potok,” 2010, is a contemporary protest song popularized during the people’s actions against the Laiban Dam project. Its music and lyrics were composed by facilitators of the Tribal Center for Development of the Agta in Quezon province, including the late tribal governor Nap Buendicho:



On Potok


On potok nayenade naayenade ni Makidepet (4x)

Gak mukati Agta, para sa mga Dumagat

Sa pusod ng Sierra Madre tahimik

ang aming daigdig

Nang dumating ang mga gahaman dala ay ligalig


On potok ng lupang nilikha ni Makidepet

Binulabog na ng ingay ng lagareng de-makina

Ang yaman ng kagubata’y kanilang kinukuha

Panaghoy ng Sierra Madre aming ina


On potok nayenade naayenade ni Makidepet (3x)


On potok nayenade naayenade ni Makidepet

On potok ng lupa libingan ng aming ninuno

lalamunin na ng tubig ng dam na itatayo


(On Potok, our land created by Makidepet (4x)

Gak mukati Agta, for the Dumagat

in the middle of the Sierra Madre our life

was peaceful


Until the greedy came and brought chaos.


On Potok, our land created by Makidepet

Is disturbed by the sound of chainsaw.

The riches of nature they claim as their own.

Listen to the lament of our mother, the Sierra Madre.


On potok our land created by Makidepet (3x)


On potok our land created by Makidepet

On potok our land where our ancestors were buried

will be swallowed by a dam which will rise soon.)


The Agta of Quezon dance to occasions like wedding celebrations, tribal festivities, or funeral rites. One example is a dance imitating the movements of a monkey called ewes n adew. This is a male dance requiring skillful coordination. It has continuous footwork using slightly flexed knees, with the movement of the torso, arms, and hands, suggesting the funny movements of a monkey ambling along, sometimes scratching its body parts. An example of an occupational dance is pamumuhag, which portrays how to search for and gather honey. The courtship dance called puray is performed by men and women dressed in traditional costumes. Puray is also the name of the traditional song that may accompany this dance. Resting is another type of courtship dance made more exciting by the rivalry between two men. The woman dances in the middle while two suitors perform a skill dance using bladed weapons. The rivals compete for the affection of the woman by outsmarting each other in simulated knife combat. Resting exhibits swift footwork and agile body movements (Conchada 2013; Calzado 2013).


Agta elder performing a native dance
Agta elder performing a native dance, 2000 (Jean Navea)

The Central Cagayan Agta play brass gongs as musical accompaniment to dancing. The gongs measure about 10 to 15 inches in diameter, with a lip of 1/2 to 2 inches. These gongs are heirloom pieces purported to be of Kalinga origin. Women are often the instrumentalists, normally playing two gongs of different sizes for higher and lower tones. During weddings, gong playing accompanies the dancing that lasts about 10 to 12 hours. The duration of one musical number is about five minutes. Percussive sound is produced by slapping the palms on the surface of the gong, with one hand playing constant rhythm while the other hand is doing a variation (Simplicio 1987, 17).


Nagtalip or magtalip is a dance performed mostly by Agta men during wedding celebrations, although sometimes women join in the dancing. It is danced on a platform raised about 1 to 3 feet above the ground, with flooring made of tuldug or whole bamboo poles spread about six inches apart. Another layer of flooring made of split bamboo, called dallat, is laid crosswise over the tuldug. The two-layered flooring is important because the footwork of magtalip creates a unique clacking sound when the dallat slaps against the tuldug. The sound produced by the vigorous footwork is synchronized with the rhythm of the gongs. The footwork begins with small movements, then slowly gaining speed and power as the dancer moves from mild to vigorous spinning of the whole body, using various postures like swaying and stooping, depending on the style of the dancer.


Group of Agta performing the mangayaw in General Nakar, Quezon
Group of Agta performing the mangayaw in General Nakar, Quezon, 2008 (CCP Collections)

Mangayaw is the dance of Agta women that complement the magtalip. It is more graceful than the magtalip and utilizes hand movements rather than footwork. The woman faces the man dancing the magtalip, a distance of 5 feet away from him, swaying slightly and bending knees alternately. Hands are held slightly upward, moving rhythmically with the beating of the gongs. The man may circle the woman or may just dance in front of her. When danced in tandem, the magtalip and mangayaw suggest the mating of birds and chickens (Simplicio 1987, 18).


The Agta of Central Cagayan perform a ritual with sacred songs to appease an angry anitu or spirit, or to neutralize malicious ghosts called datay. These are usually performed by Agta men at night. Appeasement is through the offering of boiled glutinous rice, betel nut, lime, chewing tobacco, and wine. The ritual is completed when the offerings are completely cold, an indication that the offended anitu or datay already consumed them. The officiating priest then starts to sing the sacred songs called dalluk, which is a rare opportunity for the younger men to learn the melodies and to memorize the lyrics. The Agta who sings the dalluk becomes a medium of an anitu. To learn the dalluk, the anitu dwells within the person in order to teach the music and lyrics, and to inculcate the spiritual significance and power of the sacred songs. Dalluk melodies, with finely divided musical scale, are more complex than common Agta songs. The dalluk is done only for the purpose of spiritual offering and is limited to men. Practicing the sacred songs is allowed only during actual ritual offerings (“Appendix B” 1987, 102).




Documentaries, Films and Videos Featuring the Agta People



There are many short and full-length expository narratives on the Agta. Laweg on Laye (In Search of Freedom), 2003, directed by Malu Maniquis and produced by Archipelago Productions, is about the life and struggle of the Dumagat for land security in Southern Tagalog region (Espada 2003). The documentary, Rise Dumagat, 2012, directed by Cedric A. Banjawan with Godfrey Migue, is a product of the Franco-German-Filipino film workshop conducted by Goethe Institute and the Embassy of France with local institutions. The documentary tells the story of the Dumagat through men and women recounting details about their marginalized lives. A Dumagat girl, representing the youth, expresses her wish to become both a chef and a lawyer to prove her culinary skills and to fight for Agta rights (“Rise Dumagat” 2013). Viewfinder, on the other hand, produced by Al Jazeera for cable television, presented The March to Philippine Progress in the Philippines, 2014, directed by Ditsi Carolino. It tackled the protest of 120 Dumagat against a government development plan that would destroy fertile lands and fisheries and displace 3,000 families.


Tribal Journeys: The Agta at the Edge of the World, 1998, written and directed by Jean-Pierre Dutilleux and produced by Alexandra Films, is an exotic portrayal of the Agta in Palanan, Isabela. The glossy film, while articulating modern threats to Agta existence, captures their pristine lifeway. This includes how they easily build lean-tos from leaves and branches, train for archery, hunt for wild boar, scar their bodies for ornamentation, weave baskets, and gather herbs for medicines (“Tribal Journeys” 2016).


Keepers of the Forest: The Agta of the Sierra Madre Mountains, 2012, produced by Fauna and Flora International and Non-Timber Forest Products–Exchange Program, shows images of the ancestral domain of the Agta in General Nakar, Quezon. It depicts how their rights under IPRA are being upheld through the support of national and international agencies cooperating on stopping forest destruction (“Keepers” 2012).






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