The Negrito Culture

NegritoLike the Manobo, the Negrito groups of the Philippines constitute one of the most complex populations in terms of dispersal. There are two major branches which made their appearance in the Philippine archipelago between 30,000 to 20,000 years ago: one moving on the eastern flank of the Philippines going up to the north to the Pacific side of the Sierra Madre Mountains constituting the Alta, Arta, and Agta groups; the second branch moved along the western side, similarly going up northern Luzon which now includes the Pinatubo Negrito. Other corresponding major subgroupings are the Dumagat, Ata, Ati, Atta, Sinauna, and Batak. The people are characterized by shortness of stature, darkness of pigmentation, and kinky hair. All of the Negrito groups speak languages that are dialects of the major adjacent peoples.

They are now widely distributed and found in highland areas or places that are difficult to access: the Pacific side of northern Luzon to the Bicol peninsula, the northern tip of the Cordillera mountains, the Zambales ranges and the Bataan peninsula, Bondoc peninsula, and the islands of Negros, Panay, and Palawan. There are at least 25 groupings, with a highly tentative national population count of 766 (NM 1994).

Although basically hunters and gatherers, being the most proficient in the use of the bow and arrow, they also practice minimal horticulture in small patches. They are known to have developed patron-client relationships with adjacent groups for trade and food procurement. The social groupings are small bands that have fluid membership based on bilateral kinship.

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