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The Agta


*Displayed in First World Exhibition*

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This isolated tribe has inhabited the mountains of the Sierra Madre on the island of Luzon for 30,000 years.We know very little about the origins of the Agta. Did they arrive from the West passing through Sumatra, Borneo and Palawan or from the East from Taiwan, or perhaps from what is now Australia or New Guinea or Oceania ? They are one of the last tribes still living by the sea. The coral reefs, the great waves and regular typhoons have long protected the Agta from invasion. But for 30 years now, the tribal lands of the Agta have been coveted by the outside world.

The diet of the Agta consists of game, fish, crustaceans, honey, wild fruits, roots and other products of the jungle. Their cosmology divides the world into two distinct parts: Agta, the world of the living and Anito, the world of the dead. For the Agta, plants and animals can have souls.

The soul leaves the body at the time of death and joins the eternal spirits that inhabit Anito. Sometimes the spirits are visible, they can be malevolent, bring sickness to the tribe, or scare off game. When an Agta dies, his body and the entire encampment is burned.

Faced with the invasion of their territory, the Agta prefer to flee rather than get involved in violent resistance. The Philippines has scorned them but the government has promised to reserve a large protected forest for them. Unfortunately, a reservation is not an appropriate solution but a necessary evil for this free-spirited nomadic tribe. Their numbers have already shrunk by 25% in the last 30 years. Children have only a fifty-fifty chance of reaching puberty.