Aeta (Ayta /ˈaɪtə/ EYE-tə), or Agta, are an indigenous people
who live in scattered, isolated mountainous parts of the island of
Luzon, the Philippines.
These people are considered to be Negritos, whose skin ranges from
dark to very dark brown, and possessing features such as a small
stature and frame; hair of a curly to kinky texture and a higher
frequency of naturally lighter colour (blondism) relative to the
general population; small nose; and dark brown eyes. They are thought
to be among the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines, preceding the
Aeta were included in the group of people "Negrito" during Spanish
Aeta groups in northern
Luzon are known as Pugut or
Pugot, an Ilocano term that also means "goblin" or "forest spirit",
and is the colloquial term for people with darker complexions. These
names are mostly considered inappropriate or derogatory by fellow
Negritos of northern Luzon.
10 See also
See also: History of the
Aeta boy from Iriga City, Camarines Sur, in 2015.
Aeta people in the
Philippines are Australo-Melanesians, which
includes other groups such as Aborigines in Australia; Papuans; and
Melanesians of the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the French
overseas special collectivity of New Caledonia.
The history of the Aetas continues to confound anthropologists and
archaeologists. One theory suggests that the
Aeta are the descendants
of the original inhabitants of the Philippines, who, contrary to their
seafaring Austronesian neighbors, arrived through land bridges that
linked the islands with the Asian mainland. Unlike many of their
Austronesian counterparts, the Aetas have shown resistance to change.
Aetas had little interaction with the Spaniards as they remained in
the mountains during the Spanish rule. Even the attempts of the
Spaniards to settle them in reducciones or reservations all throughout
Spanish rule failed.
According to Spanish observers like Miguel López de Legazpi, Negritos
possessed iron tools and weapons. Their speed and accuracy with a bow
and arrow were proverbial and they were fearsome warriors. Unwary
travelers or field workers were often easy targets. Despite their
martial prowess, however, the Aeta's small numbers, primitive economy
and lack of organization often made them easy prey for
Zambals seeking slaves would often take
advantage of their internal feuding. They were often sold as slaves to
Borneo and China, and, unlike the serf feudal system imposed on other
Filipinos, there was little chance of manumission.
An artist's illustration of Aetas in 1885.
Aeta are an indigenous people who live in scattered, isolated
mountainous parts of the Philippines. They are nomadic and build only
temporary shelters made of sticks driven to the ground and covered
with the palm of banana leaves. The well-situated and more modernized
Aetas have moved to villages and areas of cleared mountains. They live
in houses made of bamboo and cogon grass. Aetas are found in Zambales,
Tarlac, Pampanga, Panay,
Bataan and Nueva Ecija, but were forced to
move to resettlement areas in Pampanga and Tarlac following the
Mount Pinatubo eruption in June 1991.
Mining, deforestation, illegal logging, and slash-and-burn farming has
caused the indigenous population in the country to steadily decrease
to the point where they number only in the thousands today. The
Philippine government affords them little or no protection, and the
Aeta have become extremely nomadic due to social and economic strain
on their culture and way of life that had previously remained
unchanged for thousands of years.
The most thorough longitudinal study done of any
needed] (or any ethnic community) is available on the Web.
Aeta communities have adopted the language of their Austronesian
Filipino neighbors, which have sometimes diverged over time to become
different languages. These include, in order of number of speakers,
Mag-indi, Mag-antsi, Abellen, Ambala, and Mariveleño.
Aetas performing on stage at a shopping center.
There are different views on the dominant character of the Aeta
religion. Those who believe they are monotheistic argue that various
Aeta tribes believe in a supreme being who rules over lesser spirits
or deities, with the
Aeta of Mt. Pinatubo worshipping "Apo Na". The
Aetas are also animists. For example, the Pinatubo
Aeta believe in
environmental spirits. They believe that good and evil spirits inhabit
the environment, such as the spirits of the river, sea, sky, mountain,
hill, valley and other places.
No special occasion is needed for the
Aeta to pray, but there is a
clear link between prayer and economic activities. The
before and after a pig hunt. The night before
Aeta women gather
shellfish, they perform a dance which is partly an apology to the fish
and partly a charm to ensure the catch. Similarly, the men hold a bee
dance before and after the expeditions for honey.
In the mid-1960s, missionaries of the American-based Evangelical
Protestant mission group New Tribes Mission, in their effort to reach
every Philippine tribal group with the
Christian Gospel, reached out
to the Agtas/Aetas. The mission agency provided education, including
pastoral training for natives to reach members of their own tribe.
Today, a large percentage of Agtas/Aetas of Zambales and Pampanga are
Jehovah's Witnesses also have members of the Aeta
people. (See 1993 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses)
Their traditional clothing is very plain. The young women wear wrap
around skirts. Elder women wear bark cloth, while elder men wear loin
cloths. The old women of the Agta wear a bark cloth strip which passes
between the legs, and is attached to a string around the waist. Today,
Aeta who have been in contact with lowlanders have adopted the
T-shirts, pants and rubber sandals commonly used by the latter.
Varanus bitatawa stew being prepared by
The Aetas are skillful in weaving and plaiting. Women exclusively
weave winnows and mats. Only men make armlets. They also produce
raincoats made of palm leaves whose bases surround the neck of the
wearer, and whose topmost part spreads like a fan all around the body.
According to one study, "About 85% of Philippine
Aeta women hunt, and
they hunt the same quarry as men.
Aeta women hunt in groups and with
dogs, and have a 31% success rate as opposed to 17% for men. Their
rates are even better when they combine forces with men: mixed hunting
groups have a full 41% success rate among the Aeta."
Aeta women are known around the country as experts of the herbal
A traditional form of visual art is body scarification. The Aetas
intentionally wound the skin on their back, arms, breast, legs, hands,
calves and abdomen, and then they irritate the wounds with fire, lime
and other means to form scars.
Other "decorative disfigurements" include the chipping of the teeth.
With the use of a file, the Dumagat modify their teeth during late
puberty. The teeth are dyed black a few years afterwards.
The Aetas generally use ornaments typical of people living in
subsistence economies. Flowers and leaves are used as earplugs for
certain occasions. Girdles, necklaces, and neckbands of braided rattan
incorporated with wild pig bristles are frequently worn.
Aeta have a musical heritage consisting of various types of agung
ensembles, ensembles composed of large hanging, suspended or held,
bossed/knobbed gongs, which act as drone, without any accompanying
^ "The Aeta". peoplesoftheworld.org.
^ Thomas N. Headland; John D. Early (Mar 1, 1998). Population Dynamics
of a Philippine Rain Forest People: The San Ildefonso Agta. University
Press of Florida. p. 208.
^ Scott, William (1994). Barangay. Manila, Philippines: Ateneo de
Manila. pp. 252–256.
Aeta demographic database "Archived copy". Archived from the
original on January 12, 2012. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
^ Reid, Lawrence. 1987. "The early switch hypothesis". Man and Culture
in Oceania, 3
Special Issue: 41-59.
^ "37 NEW AETA BELIEVERS BAPTIZED IN THE PHILIPPINES". Asia Harvest.
11 November 2008.
^ Dahlberg, Frances (1975). Woman the Gatherer. London: Yale
University Press. ISBN 0-300-02989-6.
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Ethnic groups in the Philippines
Indigenous peoples of the Philippines
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines
Italics indicate extinct groups