Commonly referred to as Negritos, Agtas do belong to the Negrito ethnolinguistic group. There are many Agta tribes, scattered over Regions I to V in the island of Luzon. The Mt. Iraya Agtas reside east of Lake Buhi in southern Camarines Sur, Bicol Region. One of four endangered Negrito populations, whose numbers are dwindling at a very rapid pace, the tribe faces extinction in the near future unless drastic steps are taken to preserve their language and culture.
Agtas are characteristically small, dark-skinned, curly-haired, and small-nosed. Their traditional clothing is tapis (skirt) for women and bahag (breechcloth) for men. Breastfeeding mothers wear uban, a piece of fabric slung from the shoulders. Most men scar their bodies, using various designs that have been passed down to them by their ancestors. Today, most Agtas have abandoned their tribal attire for “civilized” clothes.
Traditional Agta houses are built in clusters and made from indigenous materials such as bamboo, wood, talahib (cogon), coconut leaves, and abaca bark. Agtas as young as 14 marry the partner chosen by their parents. Hunting is their main means of subsistence. They use pointed sticks called galud to kill birds, wild deer, monkeys, and wild pigs. Agtas exchange part of the meat and some forest products for starchy food and other goods with nearby farmers. Their other traditional means of livelihood are farming and fishing. Today, however, many Agtas take on seasonal jobs, such as copra and charcoal making, and gold panning.
The Agtas worship the spirits of their ancestors or Anitos; their rituals include dances and a depiction of hunting movements. They have no formal leaders. The old males in their community only serve as consultants for arbitration purposes.
The spiritual, health, livelihood, education, and literacy needs of the Agtas are a big challenge to the government.
David Levinson. Ethnic Groups Worldwide: A Ready Reference Handbook. The Oryx Press, 1998.
Indigenous People: Negrito, http://library.thinkquest.org/
Runoko Rashidi. Black People in the Philippines, 2000. http://www.cwo.com/
Thomas Headland. Agta Negritos of the Philippines, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/
Philippine Tribes: Agta, http://www.globalpinoy.com/