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Headl?nd, Thomas Neil



University of Hawaii Ph.D. 1986

International 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, Ml 48106

Copyright 1986
Headland, Thomas Neil
All Rights Reserved

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MAY 1986


Thomas N. Headland

Dissertation Committee:

P. Bion Griffin, Chairman

Alice G. Dewey
Richard W. Lieban
Leslie E. Sponsel
Lawrence A. Reid

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We certify that we have read this dissertation and that in our

opinion it is satisfactory in scope and quality as a dissertation for

the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology.





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c Copyright by Thomas Neil Headland 1986

All Rights Reserved


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It is impossible for me to adequately thank all those whose help

and support made this research possible. Appreciation must be

expressed first to my home institute, the Summer Institute of

Linguistics, which first asked me to do a doctoral program in

anthropology in 1979, and which allowed me complete freedom from other

assignments for the following seven years until the project was

completed. They provided major financial support during those years.

I also gratefully acknowledge funding from the Lowell Berry Foundation

during my period of field work and the writing of the present

dissertation. The Philippine Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports

which provided my affiliation while in the Philippines is also to be


The following persons read parts of dissertation drafts and sent me

comments: James Eder, on Chapter I; Murray Chapman, Arthur Gilmore and

James Yost, on Chapter II; Alan Howard, on. Chapter III; Bruce

Cruikshank, Karl Hutterer and William Henry Scott, on Chapters VI and

VII; and Harold Conklin, on Chapter XI. Janet Headland, Rachel

Headland, Kristy Nickell, Charles Peck, and the members of my doctoral

committee at the University of Hawaii read and commented on drafts of

all or most of the dissertation. Howard McKaughan helped me with

revision and editorial problems. Wayne Dye and Lou Hohulin gave me

helpful comments on my research proposal in 1983. I am indebted to all

of these. They cannot be blamed for the remaining deficiencies, but

there are fewer because of their wise advice.


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Several people assisted me in archival research. Pedro Gil Munoz,

archivest at the Archivo Franciscano Ibero-Oriental, in Madrid, located

and sent me photocopies of many documents and letters pertaining to

Casiguran. David Bain sent me photocopies of various historical

records on Casiguran and Palanan. Rudolf Rahmann sent me photographs

taken of Casiguran Agta in 1936, which he located in the Anthropos

Institute in West Germany. Ronald Edgerton sent me an important

document he chanced upon at the Dean C. Worcester Collection, at the

University of Michigan. John Slonaker, Chief of the Historical

Reference Branch of the U.S. Army Military History Institute,

Pennsylvania, located, photocopied, and sent to me documents concerning

U.S. Army operations in the Casiguran area at the end of WWII. Thercial

Curitana of Casiguran also supplied me with information on U.S. military

units in that area in 1945.

The following persons from the National Archives and Records

Service in Washington, D.C., corresponded with me, answering my various

questions: Richard Crawford, W.M. Getchell, and Michael Musick.

Bernardo Agaloos, Regional Director of the Philippine Bureau of Forest

Development for Region IV, kindly compiled for me data on the various

forest types in Casiguran fordifferent years. Hermes Gutierrez of the

National Museum of the Philippines identified for me plant specimens I

brought to him from Casiguran. Santiago Pena and Ruben Valencia, of

the Pagasa Weather Bureau Station in Casiguran, have for many years

patiently supplied me with monthly rainfall measurements. Tomas Casala,

former Representative for the Commission on National Integration,

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graciously loaned me his CNI records for the years 1960-1964, and

granted me permission to photocopy them and to quote from them. I

acknowledge with deep appreciation the assistance of all these persons.

A number of individuals assisted me in the translation of various

documents. Flora Lasaro Switzer translated for me certain Ilokano

manuscripts. Takashi Fukuda, an SIL colleague, located for me archival

information in Japan on the movement of Japanese troops in Casiguran

during the War, and translated those documents for me. The following

persons translated various German documents for me: Hella Goschnick,

Marianne Finkbeiner, and Hartmut Wiens, all SIL colleagues. I owe a

special word of thanks to my colleague Charles Peck, who spent several

days reading through some 300 pages of Spanish letters written by

Franciscan priests in Casiguran during the 18th century, and translating

for me those parts referring to the Agta, and to William Henry Scott for

helping me to interpret those paragraphs which neither Peck nor I could

decipher. Other Spanish documents were translated for me by Martha


In 1984 I advertised in both Current Anthropology and Anthropology

Newsletter for information on swidden studies from other SE Asian

areas. The following persons responded and supplied me with swidden

data from their areas: Rowe Cadelina, Thomas Conally, Harold Conklin,

Michael Dove, James Eder, Robert Lawless, Harold Olofson, and Stuart

Schlegel. I acknowledge the contribution of these swidden specialists.

A number of SIL members introduced to me the wonders of the

computer age. Joseph Grimes and Michael Walrod modified their software

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v ii

programs to fit my needs. Carl Dubois and Kenneth Zook developed

programs for arranging and analyzing my data, and patiently supplied me

with data printouts and statistical figures as I needed them. John

Wimbish introduced to me the dBase II program, which I used for most of

my data analyses. Reg Giesbrecht never tired of helping me with my

computer problems. Robart French assisted me with the final printing.

T <*-1 u .11
X uiioiiCN. uiicm a ix •

John Bailey lent his expertise to the project by taking my maps of

the 48 Agta agricultural fields and calculating the number of square

meters in each field. I thank him.

My family and I owe a special thanks to Iris Harrison and Anne

Kueffer, missionaries of the New Tribes Mission, who graciously gave us

the use of their house and motor boat in Casiguran in 1983, while they

were away on furlough in the United States.

I feel a deep sense of gratitude to the five members of my doctoral

committee at the University of Hawaii. Each of them contributed with

keen interest in my research, from their various areas of expertise.

These include Professors P. Bion Griffin, my chairman, Alice Dewey,

Richard Lieban, Leslie Sponsel, and Lawrence Reid. Without them, the

completion of this dissertation would have remained a dream.

Most of all, I thank the Agta people themselves for allowing my

wife and I to live with them for so manyyears, and to raise our three

children in their camps. One must wonder what they thought about all

the strange questions we have asked of them over the years, which they

so patiently tried to answer. Those Agta who were especially helpful to

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v iii

us in 1983-84 were Didog Aduanan, Eleden Aduanan, Lito Aduanan, Erning

Moral, Nateng Prado, and Pompoek Saguned.

Last of all, I want to thank my wife, Janet Headland, and my

children, Rachel, Stephen, and Jennifer, who not only patiently

tolerated my long hours at the desk, but who served as my research

assistants in the field. My wife worked with me throughout the 19

months of field work, gathering much of the data herself. Our children

lived with us in the field during both summers, assisting me in the

measuring, observing, and counting of various data. Rachel typed much

of the data into the computer in 1984, after Stephen and Jennifer coded

it from my notebooks onto cards. My wife read and reread drafts of

chapters as they were completed, and her criticisms were invaluable.

All five of us spent many boring but necessary hours reading back and

forth to each other literally thousands of data figures, checking for

typing errors on computer printouts. The field study was a Headland

family project, and I am grateful to my wife and children, who have

given me immense support and hope, for their gifts of love and

understanding. Without them I could never have completed my studies. I

dedicate this dissertation to them with love and gratitude.

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The Casiguran Agta, a Philippine Negrito hunter-gatherer society,

are today undergoing traumatic socioeconomic change as a result of game

decline and intrusion by outsiders. These hunters have reached a point

where they can no longer live by hunting, and are thus modifying their

traditional economic strategy in an effort to survive.

The present study, based on 13 years of field work among the Agta

between 1962 and 1984, attempts to describe this change and to test how

well the Agta are adapting to it. The two basic questions of the study

are, What are these Agta doing for a living in the 1980s, and Why do

they resist taking up agriculture as an alternative way of life, in

spite of repeated government efforts to encourage them to do so.

Special attention is given to finding out why this population has

declined over the last 50 years.

The study is based on theories developed in cultural ecology.

Three ecological concepts are used as heuristic devices for explaining

the present-day Agta culture, and for showing why they are not

successful at agriculture.

A model is proposed here for explaining most of today's foraging

societies as belonging to a single, unique basic production type, called

here "commercial hunter-gatherers." Theoretical arguments are developed

for explaining why this type has persisted into the late twentieth


The data used for testing the hypotheses are heavily quantitative,

and include a time allocation study, hunting success rates, input/output


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analyses of swidden cultivation activities and of the gathering of

forest products, and a breakdown of food types consumed. An analysis of

the population's vital statistics is also presented, based on the data

of Agta demographic events recorded over a 20 year period.

The study shows the Agta to be living in a degraded environment,

suffering from deculturation, alcoholism, nutritional stress, and an

extremely high death rate. If human populations were to be put on the

list of "endangered species," this group would appear near the top. The

data show that the Agta did little hunting in 1983-84, while at the same

time only 24 percent of the men did any cultivation during the same

period, producing enough rice to feed the population for only 15 days.

Instead, these people are moving into a niche manifested by casual labor

for immigrants. Evidence is provided showing that a main reason they

avoid farming is because the dominant lowland population hinders any

attempts Agta make to change from patron-client servanthood to

independent agriculture.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS........................................... iv

ABSTRACT.................................................. ix

LIST OFTABLES.............................. xv

LIST OFF I G U R E S ............................................ xviii

LIST OFM A P S ............................................... xix

P R E F A C E .................................................. xx

The Major Propositions ........................ xxiii

The Six Bodies of D a t a ........................ xxiv
General Contents .............................. xxv
A Note on Orthography........................ xxx
A Note on Units of Measure.................... xxx


AND THE CASIGURAN AGTA P E O P L E ................. 1

The Casiguran Ecosystem ...................... 3

The Philippine Forest Situation ............... 4
Casiguran Land Types .......................... 6
The Human Populations in Casiguran ............. 8
The Language Situation ........................ 17
The Research Problem.......................... 19
The Theoretical Approach ...................... 22
The Data Presentation........................ 23
Previous Studies on the A g t a ................... 24
Major Propositions and Hypothesesof the Study . . 26


A Multiple-Working Hypotheses Approach ......... 34

Collecting the "Time Allocation" D a t a ......... 35
Recording the Daily Activities ofOne Man . . . . 46
Taking an Agta C e n s u s ........................ 47
Collecting Information- on Agta Fields ......... 53
Finding Out What Agta E a t ..................... 55
Library Research .............................. 57


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THE S T U D Y ................................... 61

Defining Cultural Ecology ..................... 61

Economics and Ecosystem Theory ................. 67
The Agta as "Economic M e n " ..................... 70
Adaptive Strategies Among the Agta ............. 73
The Equilibrium Concept in Cultural Ecology . . . 74
The Agta as Commercial Hunter-Gatherers....... 77
Three Ecological Principles ................... 83
Using Ecological Concepts to Explain Agta Society. 96


The C l i m a t e ................................. 101

Land T y p e s ................................... 105
Important Casiguran Fauna ..................... 118
Casiguran: fast-Changing Ecosystem ............. 133



Kinship Terminology .......................... i37

Kinship and Social Behavior ................... 139
Household and Camp Membership................. 141
Marriage, Divorce, and Widowhood ............... 146
Orphans, Half-Siblings, and In-Laws ........... 158


Two Models of Agta Prehistory.......... 166

The Linguistic Evidence for Model T w o ......... 174
The Wild Yam Q u e s t i o n ........................ 178
Other Model Two Arg um en t s..................... 184


1609 TO 1 9 1 1 ................................. 194

The Spanish Documents ........................ 195

Agta-Farmer Relations in the Spanish Period . . . 201
References to Agta Practicing Agriculture . . . . 216
Early 20th Century Records..................... 218

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IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.................. 227

The Agta Reservation at Calabgan........... 229

Effect of the Philippine Population Explosion .. 237
World War T w o ........................... 242
Logging and Mining Operations ................. 250
Government Agencies in Charge of the Agta . . . . 256
Firearms, Hunting Pressure, and Game Decline . .. 259
The Importance of A l c o h o l ................ 265
The Use of Agta Girls as Housemaids....... 266
The Out-Karriages of Agta W o m e n ........... 269


SINCE 1970 ................................... 275

Introduced Diseases, Medicines, & the Hospital .. 276

The Foreign Missionaries ...................... 281
The Martial Law E r a ...................... 284
The Guerrilla War of 1974-1975 ................. 285
Effects of the Aquino Assassination ........... 288
The R o a d ................................. 290
Coconuts and the Copra Market . . . . . ....... 293
The Influence of the Market Demand for Rattan .. 297
Other New Influences...................... 302



General Activity No. 1: "No W o r k " ............. 311

General Activity No. 2: Hunting ............... 316
General Activity No. 3: Fishing ............... 323
General Activity No. 4: Own Agriculture........ 324
General Activity No. 5: Rattan W o r k ........... 326
General Activity No. 6: Non-Agri W o r k ......... 328
General Activity No. 7: Agricultural Labor . . . . 329
Other PWD Activities...................... 330



The Agta Swidden Cycle-.................... 335

A Description of Agta Swidden Characteristics .. 338
Agta Wet Rice Fields ...................... 345
Per Capita Cultivated Land and Rice Yields . . . . 347
Comparing Agta Swiddens with Other Groups . . . . 349
Was 1983 a "Typical" Agta Y e a r ? ........... 354
Why Agta Cannot Be Called F a r m e r s ......... 356

x iii

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AN UNSTABLE POPULATION ............. 359

The Casiguran Agta De Jure Population in 1984 . . 360

Some Vital Statistics ........................ 362
Evidence of the Population Decline ............. 374
Looking at the Causes of the Population Decline . 384
The Main Causes of Agta Deaths................. 388


Commercial Hunter-Gatherers as a Production Type . 405

Multilinear Evolution and Commercial Hunters . . . 407
Why Foragers Don't Become Farmers ............. 410
The Competitive Exclusion Principle ........... 426


Contribution of the S t u d y .................... 441

A. DEFINING THE POPULATION...................... 546
C. FOOD TYPES EATEN AT AGTA M E A L S ................ 553
RIVERSHED IN THE 20th C E N T U R Y ................. 575
AGTA LAND PROBLEMS............................ 584

REFERENCES CITED .......................................... 655

x iv

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Table Page

0.1 A Conversion Table of Metric, U.S. and Philippine

Units of Measure............................... 449

1.1 Population Figures for Casiguran for Various Years . . . 450

4.1 Critical Climate Variables at Casiguran............... 451

4.2 Rainfall Data in Casiguran in 1983-1984 ............ 452

4.3 Typhoons Which Passed Through Casiguran,1948-78. . . . 453

4.4 Land Types in the Casiguran E c o s y s t e m ........... 454

4.5 Types of Terrain Where Agta Camps Were Located ........ 455

4.6 Main Starch Food Eaten at Agta M e a l s ............. 456

4.7 Main Side Dish Foods Eaten at Agta M e a l s ......... 457

4.8 Number of Meals Recorded for Each Month, and Percent

of Those in Which Rice Was the Main Starch Food . . . . 458

4.9 Number of Meals Recorded for Each Band Area, and

Number and Percent of Those Which Had R i c e ....... 459

5.1 Average Measurements of Agta H o u s e s ............. 460

5.2 Percentage of Nights Visitors Slept in Agta Camps . . . 461

8.1 Agta Living in Lowland Communities as house

servants in June 1984 462

9.1 Monthly Mean Agta Income in 1983-84 464

9.2 Percent Rise/Decline in Cost of Rice and Daily Wages

in Casiguran 11 Months After the Aquino Assassination . 465

9.3 Yearly Philippine Export of Coconut Products, and

Yearly Market Prices for Copra in Casiguran ......... 466

9.4 Figures on Export of Rattan from the

Philippines from 1970 to 1982 467

10.1 Breakdown of 3,283 PWDs Into 11 Main Activity Categories 468


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10.2 Breakdown of 3,283 PWDs by 37 Different Variables .. . 470

10.3 Breakdown of Number and Percentage of PWDs

Given to Hunting A c t i v i t y .......................... 478

10.4 Number of PWD Activities Gathered Each Month

from the Ten Band A r e a s ............................ 479

10.5 Hunting Success Rates (Based on 198 Hunting Trips) .. . 481

10.6 Hunting Success Rates of Eleven Men ................. 482

10.7 Numbers and Percentages of 168 Agta Men Involved in

Various Types of Agriculture in 1983 ................. 483

10.8 Breakdown of Amounts and Percentages of PWDs

Given to Agricultural Activities .................... 484

10.9 Amount of Time Spent By Agta in Swidden Cultivation . . 485

11.1 Data on 43 Agta Swiddens, Showing Field Sizes

and Crop Y i e l d s ................................... 487

11.2 Percentage of Burned Areas Left Uncropped, of 43Swiddens 489

11.3 Environmental Variables of the 43 Swiddens Made in1983 492

11.4 List of 43 Swiddens, Showing Number of Cultigens

Planted in Each from Early 1983 up to May 1984 ....... 493

11.5 List of the 47 Cultigens Found Growing in the 43

Agta Swiddens in 1983-84 ............................ 496

11.6 Data on Five Agta Wet Rice Fields, Showing Field

Sizes and Crop Y i e l d s .............................. 498

11.7 Estimated Total Amount of Rice Produced by Agta in1983 499

11.8 Estimated No. of Days Rice Produced by Casiguran

Agta in 1983 Would Feed the Population............... 500

11.9 A Comparison of Agta Swidden Data With Other

Groups in Southeast A s i a ............................ 501

11.10 Summary of Data on Casiguran Agta Agriculture in1983 . 505

11.11 Data Showing Per Capita No. of Square Meters

of Cropped Land Cultivated by All Agta in 1983 ....... 508


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12.1 A Comparison of Agta Vital Statistics
With Other Populations .............................. 509

12.2 Mean and Median Ages of the Population in 1977 and 1984 511

12.3 List of the 184 Members of the De Jure Population Born

Alive Between June 16, 1977 and June 15, 1984 512

12.4 List of the 193 Members of the De Jure Population Who

Died Between June 16, 1977 and June 15, 1984 ......... 517

12.5 List of Females Showing Ages at First Marriage........ 522

12.6 Frequency Distribution of Number of Agta Married

From Age 15 to 29 in June 1984 ...................... 524

12.7 Information on Agta Out-Migrants and In-Migrants

in June 1984 ....................................... 525

12.8 Frequency Distribution of Number of Live

Births Per Woman Age 4 5 + ............................ 526

12.9 Number of Offspring Alive in 1984 Per Woman Age 45+ . . 529

12.10 Frequency Distribution of No. of Daughters Produced

by Women Age 45+ Who Live to Age Fifteen............. 532

12.11 Women Listed as Ever-Married in Vanoverbergh's

Census of 1936 (Showing Frequency Distribution of
No. of Female Descendants).......................... 535

12.12 Causes of the 193 Deaths in the Population

from 1977 to to 1984 ............................... 537

12.13 Common Causes of Agta Deaths in the Fifty

Years Before 1977 538

12.14 Agta Homicide V i c t i m s .............................. 540

12.15 Comparisons of Homicide Rates for Several Populations . 542

12.16 A Comparison of Agta Heights and Weights

With Those of Other Populations .................... 544

13.1 List of Hunter-Gatherer Societies with Most of the

Six Characteristics of "Commercial Hunter-Gatherers" . . 545

x v ii

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Figure Page

1. Average and Extreme Monthly Rainfall at Casiguran . . . 598

2. Kinship Chart of Ego's Relatives ..................... 599

3. Agta Population Pyramid for 1977 ..................... 600

4. Agta Population Pyramid for 1984 ..................... 601

x v iii

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Map Page

1. Eastern Luzon, Showing Casiguran Ecosystem Area. . . . 602

2. The Ten Agta "Band" A r e a s .......................... 603

3. Locations of the 43 SwiddensCultivated by

Agta in 1983......................................... 604

4. Locations of the 5 Wet Rice FieldsCultivated

by Agta in 1983

5. Locations of 20th Century Fields on the Koso River . . . 606

6. Maps of the 43 Swiddens (in Appendix E ) ...... 607

7. Maps of the 5 Wet Rice Fields (in Appendix E ) . 650

x ix

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The Agta Negritos of eastern Luzon, Philippines, are among the most

traditional societies found anywhere in Southeast Asia, and are

representative of the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies still

found in this area of the world. The present study focuses on the

socioeconomic change of one of these groups, the Casiguran Agta (or

Casiguran Dumagat), a population of 609 people living in northern

Aurora Province. The Casiguran Agta have undergone traumatic cultural

change in the last decade as a result of game decline and intrusion by

several outside forces. Drawing from recent theories developed in

cultural ecology, the present thesis will attempt to describe this

change and how well the Agta are adapting to it.

The present author lived with the Casiguran Agta discontinuously^

Cor seventeen years, from April 1962 to March 1979, as a missionary

linguist with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). Following

three years of graduate studies in anthropology at the University of

Hawaii, a further 19 months of field work were conducted among the

Agta, from December 1982 to July 1984. Many of the data used for

testing the hypotheses of this thesis were gathered during this latter


The Casiguran Agta may be best characterized as a foraging or

hunting and gathering society living in a tropical rainforest

environment on the eastern side of the Sierra Madre mountain range of

eastern Luzon. Traditionally, these people have pursued a livelihood

based on hunting, fishing, and gathering forest products, much of which


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they trade with non-Agta lowland farmers for starch food. The Agta

have lived for a long time in an intense symbiotic relationship with

the neighboring lowland farming population. This symbiosis is

manifested in an exchange relationship where the most important trade

goods are forest products for rice. Rattan has recently replaced wild

meat as the most important forest product in the Agta trading system.

Up until the decade of the 1960s, the most salient economic

activity of Agta men was that of hunting large game with bow and arrow.

It is a major argument of the present study that these hunters have

reached a point today where they can no longer live by hunting, and

have thus modified their traditional economic strategy in an effort to

survive. The goal of the 1983-84 field research was to find out, and

quantify, just what that modified strategy is. The following pages

will answer that question.

Many people assume that when hunter-gatherers can no longer make a

living by hunting they evolve into farmers. The evidence presented in

this thesis indicates that this is not the case for the Agta. It is, in

fact, a major proposition of this study that the Agta have not and are

not moving in this direction. That is, they are not taking up

agriculture as an economic option for themselves— this in spite of

repeated government efforts to help and encourage them to do so, and

even in face of the fact that they can no longer live by hunting. The

fact that the Agta are not successfully adapting today is witnessed to

mainly by their severe population decline over the last 50 years. Would

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not a move from foraging into farming bring these people back from a

threshold of possible extinction?

The two questions this study focuses on, then, are: One, why

aren't the Agta taking up agriculture for themselves? And two, what

then are they doing for a living today? Most of the discussion in this

thesis will lead the reader to the answer to these two questions.

The second of these two questions will be answered in Chapter 10.

The first question will be dealt with in Chapter 13, where a

hypothetical model will be presented for answering the question, and

for proposing an ecological explanation for Agta economic behavior in

the 1980s. This model will be presented as a general model for

explaining not just the Agta anomaly, but also the economic behavior of

most of today's remaining hunting and gathering societies. The model

proposes that most of today's hunter-gatherer groups belong to a single

unique basic production type, called here "commercial

hunter-gatherers." Multilinear evolutionary theory will be used to

identify this "culture type." Drawing heavily from cultural ecology,

theoretical arguments will be developed here for explaining why this

type has persisted into the present century in so many areas of the


A salient fact which will emerge as one reads through these

chapters is that the Agta, and doubtless other "commercial

hunter-gatherer" societies, worldwide, remain in their unique economic

niches not in spite of but precisely because of their contact with the

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modern world around them. The reason for this will become clear in the

pages to follow.


The present thesis develops itsargument around seven major

propositions, which are listed briefly here. They are presented in more

detail at the end of Chapter 1, in outline form with their corresponding

twelve hypotheses, along with summaries of the data which substantiate

them, and reference to the particular chapters which discuss each

proposition. These propositions and hypotheses were formulated at the

University of Hawaii in 1982, andwere written into my formal research

proposal that year.

The main arguments or propositions of the present thesis are as

follows: (1) The Agta are no longer involved in hunting as their

economic occupation. (2) The Agta are also not taking up independent

agriculture as their economic occupation today. (3) Further, for the

Agta to take up agriculture as a way of life for themselves would be a

maladaptive step for them, under their present circumstances, and would

result in adaptive failure. (4) The Agta today are in a dependent

symbiotic relationship with non-Agta lowland farmers. This is

manifested by serf-like relationships with lowland patrons, and by the

Agta spending their working timeprimarily in service tasks for these

lowlanders, from whom they receive most of their food. (5) The Agta

today are undergoing severe ecological stress. The main evidence of

this stress is seen in their population decline. (6) Because the Agta

are "economic men," their present economic lifestyle is logical and, in

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x x iv

fact, the best option open to them in their present, severely-

restricting, ecosystem. (7) The Agta are not "fossilized" remnants of

some recent group of isolated hunter-gatherers. Rather, they have been

in intense interethnic relationships with farming populations, and have

been acquainted with cultivation and cultivated foods, for at least a

thousand years.

These 7 propositions, all of which are substantiated by data

presented in the following chapters, state in concise form what the

Casiguran Agta culture looks like. Their brief mention here already

gives the reader a clue and basic framework of how these people live.

The task of the following chapters will be to fill in that framework to

the point where we can learn just what the socioeconomic system of these

Agta is really like, and why they behave as they do.


The 7 propositions of this thesis are supported by six sets of

data. These are, first, a large corpus of sample data of the daily

"person- work-days" of Agta adults. A sample of 3,283 such

person-work-days were collected, and an analysis of these is presented

in the thesis. They show how Agta adults allocated their time in

1983-84, and they reveal some interesting aspects of Agta behavior

which might otherwise have passed unnoticed.

A second set of data consists of a record of the main daily

activities of one Agta man. These data comprise the activities of this

couple for 372 consecutive days, and include a detailed input/output

analysis of this family's 1983 swidden.

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The third data set consists of a detailed census of the total

population (Headland and Headland 1985). In the text, this 1984 census

will be compared with the author's earlier census of the 1970s (Headland

and Headland 1982) as a baseline for the demographic analysis presented


The fourth main set of data is comprised of the information

collected on the 43 swiddens and 5 wet rice fields cultivated by Agta

in 1983.

The fifth data set consists of a quantitative sample, taken from

558 meals, of what Agta ate over a 7 month period in 1984, and where

they procured this food.

The final set of data comes from documents found during archival

research. Many documentary records are cited in the following chapters

and appendices, drawn from Philippine, Spanish, American, and Japanese

archives. Many of these are quotes from reports written by Spanish

priests working in Casiguran over 200 years ago. They reveal some

surprising revelations of what Agta culture was like on the eve of the

Spanish contact period, as well as highlight the diachronic perspective

of the study.

Other types of data were collected as well, and these are explained

in detail, with the above six, in Chapter 2.


In this thesis we will first set the scene in Chapter 1 by

outlining the general Agta culture and language, the geographical

environment, some history of the region, and the actual research

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xxv i

problem. This chapter will include a discussion of the non-Agta farming

populations in the area, as well as the ecological changes which have

occurred since WWII. The research problem is outlined here, as well,

and the theoretical approach used for viewing this problem. The final

section of the chapter will outline the 7 formal propositions of the

thesis, and the 12 supporting hypotheses of those propositions which

were tested in the field in 1983-84. The conclusions reached are

outlined with each proposition, and these may serve the reader as a

summary of the basic findings of the total study.

Chapter 2 describes the research design— how the data were gathered

and the total field methodology. This is presented in detail in such a

way that others will be able to replicate the research and confirm the

findings. I discuss here also how I controlled for bias in the sampling

procedures used in data collecting.

Chapter 3 presents a general discussion of some of the theories and

recent developments in cultural ecology, and how these may best explain

the seeming anomaly in the Agta culture. Certain aspects of economic

theory are also discussed here, and how economics relates to ecosystems

and to the Agta as "economic men." This chapter will also discuss

three particular bioecological principles, and how these influence Agta


Chapter 4 is a detailed presentation of the physical environment of

the Agta, including climate, land types, the dipterocarp forest, and the

important flora and fauna, including the Agta themselves, and other

human populations in the area.

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Chapter 5 is on Agta kinship. This chapter focuses on the

relationship between Agta kinship and behavior, and the relationship of

both of these to the ecosystem. Kin terms are also described, with a

componential analysis of these presented in Appendix B.

Chapters 6, 7, and 8 present 3 periods of history and prehistory of

the people and the area. As the reader will come to see, the present

study is not a synchronic, point-in-time study of the Agta. Rather, I

describe the Agta using an intense diachronic perspective. This is one

of the main strengths of the thesis. A serious weakness of many

ethnographic descriptions is their lack of historical depth. As one

anthropologist has stated,

The anthropologist posits a place where natives are authentic,

untouched and aboriginal, and strives to deny the central
historical fact that the people he or she studies are
constituted in the historically significant colonial
situation, affirming instead that they are somehow out of
time and history (Cohn 1980:199, cited in Wilmsen 1983:17).

The present thesis avoids this shortcoming. Chapter 6 proposes a model

of Agta prehistory, showing these prehispanic hunters as involved then

in cultivation and in intenseinterethnic trading relationships with

other populations, andlinked to international trade. Chapter 7 reviews

early Spanish documents describing the 18th century Agta as living in

symbiosis with lowland farmers then, as well as practicing agriculture.

A review of hostile interethnic relationships in Casiguran during the

Spanish period shows the Agta to have then been in control of most of

the Casiguran valley. Chapter 8 reviews Agta 20th century history,

including government efforts to "civilize" them, and the effects of

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x x v iii

several new forces which entered their ecosystem (e.g. logging and

mining companies, World War II, firearms, commercial alcohol, etc.).

Chapter 9 reviews recent current events— new ecological changes

since 1970— and how these have affected the Agta culture. These include

such factors as introduced diseases, the declaration of Martial Law in

1972, the local guerrilla war of 1974-75, the road built into Casiguran

in 1977, loggers, the effects of the international demand for copra and

rattan, transistor radios, foreign missionaries, insecticides, etc. As

the reader will see, these new "ecological" influences, working

together, have introduced profound change into the Agta culture and

ecosystem, and brought the Agta to the verge of serious deculturation,

if not extinction.

Chapter 10 presents the analytical results of a time allocation

study of Agta daily activities in 1983-84. Agta hunting activity in

1983-84 is discussed here in some detail.

Chapter 11 is on Agta agriculture. Though it is a major

proposition of this thesis that the Agta are not "agriculturalists,"

many Agta families do make small swiddens, and a few Agta cultivated

wet rice paddies in 1983. This chapter presents dataon fieldsizes,

crops grown, and percent of Agta who planted in 1983, and then analyzes

these data. Discussion is given to the quantitatively insignificant,

but qualitatively important contribution Agta gardens make,

ecologically, to Agta adaptation. A cross-cultural comparison is

presented here between Agta swiddens and those of other swidden

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x x ix

societies in Southeast Asia. A concluding section discusses why Agta

cannot be called farmers.

Chapter 12 discusses Agta demography. This chapter presents an

analysis of the vital statistics of the Casiguran Agta population.

Focus is placed on the population decline, the reasons for the decline,

and the main causes of the high Agta death rate.

Chapter 13 attempts to answer the question posed in the title of

the thesis; that is, why the Agta, and other 20th century foragers, do

not take up farming. The reader who reaches this chapter will see by

then that Agta occupy their unique economic foraging niche not in spite

of but because of the modern world around them. As we shall see, this

'niche,' here called "commercial hunting and gathering," is found in

near identical form in many parts of the world. Multilinear

evolutionary theory is used to help explain this interesting phenomenon.

Several reasons are given in this chapter as to why foragers do not

become farmers. One major reason is that the more powerful farming

populations surrounding such foragers raise insurmountable obstacles

whenever these foragers attempt to take up independent agriculture. One

particular ecological concept is used here to best explain this problem,

called the "competitive exclusion principle." This principle is defined

in Chapter 3, and illustrated with case studies in Chapter 13, and in

Appendix G.

Finally, Chapter 14 presents a summary of the findings and

conclusions of the study, and proposes a model of the Agta future.

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As the title of this thesis implies, this study attempts to explain

why so many of the world's hunting and gathering societies fail to make

a successful adaptation from a foraging to a farming way of life. As a

survey of the literature plainly shows, throughout the world, and

certainly repeatedly among the Agta (Headland 1985), governments

continually make efforts to "settle the nomads," aiding them, imploring

them, pushing them to become farmers. The success of such efforts, on

every continent of our globe, is practically zero. Why? This thesis

attempts to answer that question.


Vernacular words, written in bold face, refer to terms in the Agta

language unless indicated otherwise by the context. All Agta terms are

written phonemically. Glottal stop, which is predictable before initial

vowels and after final vowels of utterances, and between certain vowel

sequences, is not symbolized. The mid close central vowel (the so-called

Austronesian "pepet" vowel) is written as e, and the velar nasal is

written as ng. (For a full description of Agta phonology, see Headland

and Headland 1974:xii-xxvii, Headland and Healey 1974:4-19, and

Headland and Wolfenden 1967.)


The metric system is used for all units of measure discussed in

this thesis, except for money units which are stated in U.S. dollar

equivalents. In a few cases metric figures are followed in parentheses

by common U.S. or traditional Philippine equivalents. A conversion

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table (Table 0.1) lists the metric units used in the thesis, showing

their U.S. and Philippine equivalents.

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1. Some readers will want to know just how much time I actually
spent "in the field" over the years. My wife and I first came to the
Philippines in February 1962. From then up to the time of this writing
(December 1985), we have lived in the Philippines for 18 years, where
all three of our children were born. This period excludes three
furloughs we had in the United States (for 15 months in 1967-68, for 16
months in 1973-74, and for 43 months in 1979-82). Our actual periods of
time spent residing and working with Agta sums to 13 years. This does
not include vacations, business trips to Manila, etc. Our diaries show
we spent a total of 2,482 days (83 months, or 7 years) of this time
living with Agta in their own camps. These months are the sum of
numerous field periods in the Casiguran area over a 24 year period,
usually ranging from 3 to4 months at a time.During these periods we
resided in five different areas, and always inside an Agta camp.
Periods we spent working with Agta outside of their own areas— and these
totaled another 70 months— were spent either in the town of Casiguran
or, most frequently, at the SIL Workshop Center at Bagabag, Nueva
Vizcaya. Here various Agta families lived withus, wherethey assisted
us in linguistic analysis and Bible translation in Agta, and where we
helped them in the preparation of primers, folk stories, and other
reading booklets in the Agta language.

x xxii

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The 7,100 islands comprising the Philippine archipelago contain

today, 1985, a total population of some 54 million people. The total

land area is approximately 300,000 km . The population density is 180

per km2 (462 per mi 2 ). Especially significant in the present study is

the annual population increase in the Philippines, 2.7 percent. At

this rate, the national population is predicted to reach 76.5 million

by the year 2000, and to double in just 26 years (PRB 1983). As will be

seen in the pages to follow, this particular ecological variable poses

grave future implications for the subjects of this study. It is

probably the critical independent variable triggering a whole series of

secondary dependent variables which are, in turn, causing most of the

environmental and cultural change today in the particular area upon

which the present thesis focuses. This thesis will attempt to describe

that change.

Sprinkled throughout the Philippines are a number of groups of

small, dark-skinned, kinky-haired peoples which number in total around

15,000 individuals. These people, generally referred to as "Negritos,"

comprise at least 25 distinct ethnolinguistic groups, from northern

Luzon through the Visayas and Palawan, to Mindanao in the south. (For

locations of most of these groups, see Fox and Flory 1974). Depending on

the group, these Negritos refer to themselves by terms such as Aeta,

Agta, Alta, Arta, Ata, Ati, Atta, Batak, or Mamanwa. In northeastern

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Luzon they refer to themselves, as well as the languages they speak, by

the term agta. This word does not mean 'black' in the Agta language, as

some have supposed, but is a term of reference foranyone with

Negrito-like characteristics (including Africans or American blacks).

All other humans are called pute. (In Tagalog the cognate term, puti,

means 'white', but in the Casiguran Agta language pute refers to any

'non-Negrito human'.)

The Agta aregenerally called "Dumagats" by the lowland peoples in

' Aurora Province. This is a verbalized form of the Tagalog word dagat

'ocean', and the term may have originally meant 'people of the sea,'

since the Agta often live along the seacoast. The Agta have never

been, however, a sea-oriented people. In some areas of eastern Luzon

the Agta are referred to by the Ilokano people aspugut (which means

'black' in Ilokano), but this latter term is not used in Aurora


The presentstudy focuses on one particular Agta population, a

group of 609 people who live in or near an area called Casiguran, in

the northern part of Aurora Province on the eastern coast of Luzon.

The present chapter will present a general introduction to these

people, and their local setting. This includes a brief outline of the

main components of the Casiguran ecosystem, emphasizing its delicate

tropical forests and the human populations in the area, as well as the

local language situation. The chapter concludes with a description of

the general research problem uDon which this study focuses, the

theoretical approach taken in the study, and a review of the literature

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of previous studies on the Agta. At the end of the chapter the formal

propositions and hypotheses of the thesis are outlined.


The town ofCasiguran is located at 16° 17' north latitude and

122° 8' east longitude. For purposes of this study, the Casiguran

ecosystem will be defined as the eastern watershed area in the northern

half of Aurora Province, excluding the western side of the Sierra Madre

mountain range. This includes areas in the northern edge of the

municipal district of Dipaculao, and the areas of the coastal towns of

Dinalongan, Casiguran, and Dilasag which are east of the Sierra Madre

ridge. It ends at the municipality of Dinapigui which lies on the

southern border of Isabela Province.This corresponds with the home

areas of the Casiguran Agta (see Map 1).

This ecosystem thus covers a land area of approximately 700 km
(273 mi ), consisting of a long narrow stretch of land along the

seacoast. The area is generally mountainous with an elevation ranging

from sea level to a maximum height of 1,841 meters at the summit of

Mt. Anacuao, in the municipality of Dinalongan. The length of the area,

which extends in a northeast-southwest direction, is approximately 85 km

(53 mi). The maximum width of the area is 25 km, but the width in most

places is from 10 to 15 km. The length of the coastal shoreline is 200

km (124 mi), with about a third of this protected by coral reefs. The

mean population density, including the non-Agta lowlanders, is 51

2 2
persons per km (130 per mi ). The lowland populations tend to

aggregate in or near the three municipal towns or, increasingly since

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WWII, in outlying barrios, while the Agta are widely dispersed in the

forested foothills throughout the area. (There are also some Casiguran

Agta living outside the confines of the present study area. This

subject is outlined in my definition of the Agta population in Appendix


In this thesis, when I refer to'Casiguran' or to the 'Casiguran

ecosystem,' I mean the traditional area of the municipality of Casiguran

east of the Sierra Madre ridge before it was divided up into three

municipal districts in 1959 and 1966. This definition thus excludes the

extreme western border areas of northern Aurora Province, which are on

the western side of the Sierra Madre. It includes only the area where

the Casiguran Agta are commonly found. None of the Casiguran Agta bands

normally live anywhere on the western side of the Sierra Madre, though

some individuals who have married into other Agta population groups on

that side may be found living there.


A visitor to the Philippinestoday would find it hard to believe

that the whole archipelago was once completely covered with unbroken

forest of one type or another (Dickerson 1928:127, Jocano 1975, Mendoza

1977:44). It was probably still 90 percent forested at the time of

Spanish contact, when the human population in the islands was estimated

to be still only half a million (Phil. Yearbook 1983:93). Even just a

few years ago, at the end of WWII, when the population was only 19

million (Phil. Yearbook 1977:59), the country was still about 75

percent forested (Myers 1980:95).

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Today, the story is far different. With an exploding population

of some 54 million persons, there does not appear to be much time left

for the Philippine forests. During the last two decades the country's

forests have been cut down at the rate of about one hectare every three

minutes (Phil. Yearbook 1977:413, Rocero 1982:110, Segura-de Los Angeles

1982:14; see esp. Myers 1980:96-99). Some authors have suggested a

cutback rate even higher, one hectare per minute (Lynch 1982:299, Scott

1979:59, Salcedo 1970:6). This is primarily the result of the logging

industry, and the increasing thousands of landless lowland farmers who

follow the loggers into the forests to try their hand at slash-and-burn


This present rate of forest destruction is rapidly reducing the

area of Philippine forests. The results of the 1976 Landsat

measurements (i.e., satellite photographs) showed that only 38 percent

of the nation was still forested then (Myers 1980:98, 100); and one

agency, PREPF is cited in Myers (1980:99) as reporting that only 27

percent of the country was covered with densely stocked forests in


Predictions are that, at present rates, the Philippine forests will

be gone by about the year 2000 (ibid.). One simulation model projects

that all primary forests will have been sawn off by 1993 (PREPF

1977:373). Revilla (1981:281), gives a slightly later date of 2005, at

present deforestation rates.

Only the most optimistic, then, would deny that the Philippines

today looms at the edge of ecological degradation which, when it comes,

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will bring widespread hunger and hardship. In a study such as' this,

which tries to predict the present direction and future of a small

tribal group, the Agta Negritos, the above picture looms large in the

prediction. Though 71 percent of the Casiguran ecosystem is still

covered with forest of one type or another, only 44 percent is still

covered with primary dipterocarp forest(see Table 4.4), and both loggers

and immigrant homesteaders are lowering this figure at an increasingly

rapid rate, as I will show in Chapter 8. When and if the Casiguran

forests are destroyed, it will certainly bring to an end the present

lifeways of the Agta. Whether the Agta population can survivesuch a

change is an open question.


The Casiguran ecosystem is comprised of eight land types, as

defined by the national government, as well as various types of ocean

areas. Five of these land types are different types of forest, while

three are of types of non-forest land areas.

Perhaps the most outstanding ecological characteristic of northern

Aurora is its large expanse of tropical rainforest. There are still wide

areas of forest in the Casiguran ecosystem. Most of these forests are

characterized by high closed canopies of broad-leaf evergreen tree

species, climbing vines, and epiphytes. Of the six formal types of

Philippine forests, five are found in Casiguran. Each of these will be

defined in Chapter 4. Here I will make some general remarks about

these forests.

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All of the five forest types found in Casiguran come under the

general class of forest called 'tropical moist forest' (or IMF). Myers

defines this class of forest as:

Evergreen or partly evergreen forests, in areas receiving not

less than 100 mm of precipitation in any month for 2 out of 3
years, with mean annual temperature of 24+ degrees C and
essentially frost free (1980:11).

In Myers' definition, he considers TMF as synonymous with the term

'rainforest' (ibid.:15, 95). Such forests are quite different from the

seasonal 'monsoon forests' of western Luzon and western Mindanao, where

there is a marked dry season. Monsoon forests fall outside the limits

of TMF, as defined above.

Tropical moist forests .are the most complex and diverse biome on

earth. Casiguran is no exception; many of the estimated 12,000 plant

species in the Philippines are found in Casiguran. I have discussed

elsewhere the richness of the Casiguran plant world, how the Agta

interact with it, and the 603 Agta plant names I have gathered to date

(Headland 1981, 1983, 1985b). This ecosystem is also rich in fauna,

including hundreds of species of fish, and thousands of species of


In areas such as Casiguran, then, there is a far greater abundance

and variety of species, both quantitatively and qualitatively, than is

to be found in any other ecological zone. The biomass of lowland

rainforests ranges from 350 to 600 metric tons per ha. Another

conspicuous feature of such forests is the high number of tree species,

along with the low number of individuals of each species in a given

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area. Dipterocarp forests are estimated to typically have from 40 to 100

tree species within an average hectare. (Contrast this with a similar

size plot in a New England forest with 10 species, and another in

Tennessee with 25 species [Richard 1973]).

One final point should be made concerning the delicate equilibrium

of tropical forest ecosystems. It would be a mistake to assume that the

high diversity of rainforests means high stability. As Myers' (1980)

study emphasizes, rainforest ecosystems are much more fragile than are

temperate forest ecosystems, with many of the species in the former

(including faunal species) being much more susceptible to extinction.

This is a critical point to keep in mind as we contemplate in this

thesis the possible future for the Agta. It is my argument in this study

that Casiguran is already well into the beginning of what will prove to

become a fast accelerating pace of ecological degradation. This

degradation will bring with it serious consequences for the present

growing population of 35,000 lowlanders, and the dwindling population of

600 Agta (not to mention many of the other biological populations of

flora and fauna in the area).


The people in Casiguran today may be divided into two main

population groups. These are the small population of 609 Agta, and the

much more dominant population of 35,000 non-Agta lowland peasants.

Here I will present a general introduction to both of these groups.

Many more details on both of these populations, but especially the

Agta, will be presented in the following chapters.

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The Agta. Since early historic times, if not long before, the

Casiguran Agta Negritos have pursued a livelihood emphasizing one major

occupation: hunting large game with bow and arrow. They also secured

carbohydrate food from the gathering of wild tubers, the processing of

starch from the wild caryota palm and, to a lesser extent, from

occasional swidden agriculture. Since at least the turn of this century

the Agta have exchanged wild pig and deer meat, or fish, for most of

their starch foods by trading with lowland farmers, with whom they have

an institutionalized symbiotic relationship. They have always

supplemented their diet, as well, with marine and riverine resources.

In the years since WWII major environmental changes have crept over

the Casiguran area. These include rapid immigration of non-Agta lowland

homesteaders, and severe depletion of important Agta resources,

especially large game, fish, and primary forest. In the decade of the

1970s these changes became so precipitous that most Agta were forced to

give up their traditional economic lifestyle based on the hunting of

large game. What we actually have here is a case of a hunter-gatherer

society which within less than a decade finds itself no longer able to

live by hunting. Chapters 8 and 9 describe in some detail the historical

processes causing these changes.

Today the Casiguran Agta number 609 people (as of June 1984), down

from an estimated 1,000 people in 1936. The population declined in

number from 618 to 609 in the seven year period from 1977 to 1984. (The

causes of this decline will be discussed in Chapter 12). The Agta are a

band society, but not in the strict sense of the term as defined by

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Steward (1936) or revised by Service (1971). In fact, I have despaired

of trying to isolate Agta bands, or to define what they might be. Most

Agta will claim to be from a particular rivershed, and they certainly

know who their kinsmen are, but these are not synonymous with 'band.'

Nor is there any word in their language meaning 'band.' In some of my

earlier papers I stated that there are 13 band areas in Casiguran. While

there is evidence that there may have once been more or less that many

band areas, there are too many loose ends to force such a typology

today, and too many Agta who, even though I may know their life

histories and their genealogies, I cannot be sure what band they belong

to (if indeed there is even such a thing as band membership).

Agta residence patterns. While no one would argue that the Agta

are not a band society, a term which has been recently revived by

Leacock and Lee (1982), it is not so easy to define what a 'band' is. In

this thesis, I will use the term, but only loosely, and in an etic

sense, to refer to related groups of Agta who tend to aggregate in

various riversheds. On the other hand, I refer to small family groups

living together as 'camp groups,' and to their residence sites as

'camps.' And Iconsider the term 'band society' here in the same way

that Leacock and Lee do, as something more or less synonymous with

small-scale foragers, or hunter-gatherers (1982:8). I shall define what

I mean by hunter-gatherers, and why. the Agta fit that category, in

Chapter 3.

Whatever a 'band' might be, Agta do reside in small camp groups,

and these are easy to measure, map,and census (if one can find them, a

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task not so easy). I have personally been doing this for many years,

mostly as a hobby in the 1960s, and later to test hypotheses. Briefly,

camp groups are typically composed of from three to seven nuclear

households, all of which are kinship related. At any particular time,

the Casiguran Agta may be found living in from 25 to 40 of these widely

scattered camp groups. Agta camps may fuse and split. Most camp groups

move often, some as often as every 18 days on the average (Rai

1982:105), while a few may remain stationary for as long as ayear.

Furthermore, all camps have a high degree of ‘’flux' (i.e., individuals

and families frequently moving in and out of the camp). It is rare,

however, for a family tomove into a camp unless they have close blood

relatives there.

I should explain that though I describe Agta as living in a

tropical rainforest ecosystem, it is actually seldom that Agta camps

are situated inside the forest. That is, even though Agta camps may be

within forest areas, their houses are seldom situated under the shaded

areas of the primary forest canopy. Agta residence sites are more often

located, in fact, in ecotones, or edges, (the 'gray' areas between two

biomes), or completely outside of any of the five forest types found in

Casiguran. The favored residence locations of most Agta camp sites is

either on the open beaches, or in beach forest. The inland band groups,

however, almost neverlive on the beaches. They instead place their

houses on dry river beds, or on land fronting the rivers. (See Table

4.5 for the types of terrain where Agta camps were located in 1983-84.)

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Most Agta houses are placed where they receive direct sunlight (on

clear days) for most of the day. Even when they are camped inside the

forests, their houses are usually found in open areas, such as on dry

riverbeds or in swiddens (often a lowlander's swidden, sometimes their


So, while during daylight hours Agta may be found in the forest,

either hunting, fishing or gathering wild plant products, or just

spending the day in leisure, they do not normally live in dense forests.

The main reasons for not residing deep in the forest are four. The most

immediate reason is the mosquitos. Agta try to avoid mosquitos because

of their irritating bite. In the cooler damp forests mosquitos are more

prevalent, and are much more active during daylight hours, especially

during rainy periods. In many forest areas they are so thick that if

one stops to rest on the trail he is driven to his feet by tormenting

mosquitos within a minute or two.

A second reason why the forest is uncomfortable to live in is the

dampness. I have learned, over the years, to predict the movements of

Agta camp groups I know of which are situated deep in the forest (as

families are prone to be when they are making swiddens, or gathering

rattan). They tend to be there, away from the beaches, when there has

been little or no rain for a week or two. Then, when two or three days

of steady rain come, most of them can be expected to move out

immediately to the beaches to live until a dry spell returns.

A third reason Agta are not usually found residing under tall trees

is because of what they see as extreme danger from large falling

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branches, especially during storms. Agta are very cognizant of this

danger, and have been quick to scold me and my family when we have

camped at times under big trees. They speak from experience. We know

of three Agta who were killed by falling tree limbs during our tenure,

all in separate incidents during storms.

The fourth reason Agta tend not to live in the deep forest is

because they have some fear of the many classes of supernatural spirit

beings which are said to live there. Though Agta do not share the

extreme dread of forest spirits that lowlanders have, they do still

fear them, and this has a significant influence on their residence

patterns. These supernatural beings are an important component in the

Casiguran ecosystem, and they will be described briefly in Chapter 4.

In the past, another nuisance in the forest, especially on rainy

days, were the leeches. There are very few leeches today, but in the

1960s it was the custom, when traveling in the forest on rainy days, to

stop every 10 or 15 minutes to spend a minute or so picking leeches off

of one's bare skin. And I can personally remember in my early years in

Casiguran picking off of my own body some two to three hundred leeches a

day on a typical rainy day's hike.

Hutterer (1982:141) suggests another reason why forager settlements

tend to be located elsewhere than in the deep forest; that is, because

the forest 'edges' have more foods available in them. I reject this as

a reason, in the Agta case, as I find no empirical evidence for it.

J. Peterson has argued, in her "merits of margins" hypothesis, that Agta

hunt in ecotones, not in the forest (1977, 1981). I am not in

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disagreement with the "edge effect" concept (Odum 1971:157-59). I only

know that Agta believe the best hunting areas are in deep primary

forest, that they do most of their hunting in such forest, and that

their success rate in forest biomes is much higher than in 'edges.'

(See Rhoads 1978 for a critique of anthropologists' misuse of the

ecotone concept. I am presently co-authoring a paper criticizing

Peterson's hypothesis [Griffin et al. n.d.].)

Agta body size. Agta are small in size, and theyhave sometimes

been referred to as pygmies. They are taller, however, than the African

Mbuti pygmies. They are shorter than the south African Bushmen, and 10

cm shorter than the average Filipino. On the average, Agta men are 153

cm in height and weigh 46 kg. Women are 144 cm tall and weigh 38 kg

(see Table 12.16). More interesting is to compare the mean weight/height

ratios of the Agta with those of other populations, which show that the

Agta are, on the average, among the thinnest people in the world (see

Table 12.16).

Some anthropologists argue that lean body size is adaptive in

certain primitive human populations. While this may be true, I believe

that in the Agta case their thin body condition is the result of

nutritional deficiencies. There are a number of evidences that the

Agta are not a healthy people, and I will discuss these more in Chapter

12. Briefly, there are a number of demographic statistics which

indicate that the Agta population is not doing well. Their crude death

rate is 45/1,000. Their child mortality rate is 508/1,000, and life

expectancy at birth is age 21.2.Most alarming is the overall

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population decline of minus 0.2 percent per year since 1977. These

demographic parameters will be presented in detail in Chapter 12.

The lowland farming populations. The Agta in Casiguran do not

live alone. Non-Agta lowland farmers have lived in Casiguran at least

since the Franciscans first founded their mission there in 1588, and
possibly long before. The town population was listed as numbering

1,560 in the year 1649, 2,067 at the turn of thiscentury, and 9,381 at

the time of my first field work there in 1962. Today, the lowland

population of the area, including the three municipalities, is 35,000

(see Table l.'l). I will discuss in Chapter 8 the profound effect this

population explosion, most of it since 1960, has had on the Agta and

their ecosystem.

Up to the time of WWII, the majority of the lowlanders were native

Casiguranin, a population of wet rice farmers who lived aggregated in or

very near the town proper. Today, the Casiguranin people are a minority

in their own area. Literally thousands of landless homestead farmers

have migrated into Casiguran since WWII, most of them since my arrival.

Most of these immigrants are Ilokanos or Bikolanos, though there are

also Tagalogs and Visayans, and even a good number of Igorots (mostly

Ibaloi tribal people from Benguet Province). All these lowlanders,

including the Casiguranin people, are no longer confined to the town,

but have spread out throughout the lowlands of the Casiguran area.

The Agta have long interacted with the Casiguranin lowlanders in an

institutional’zed symbiotic patron-client relationship. But it must

have been different before WWII when wild game was plentiful, the

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lowlander/Agta ratio was just two or three to one, and most of the

lowlanders lived in town. At that time, the early 1940s, the Agta had

roughly 90 percent of the area to themselves, with a population density

of about 1.4 people per km . Today the Agta find themselves viewed as

landless squatters on their own ancestral lands, crowded in by a

population density of 51 people per km2 and increasing daily, as more

and more lowlanders move up the river valleys to clear farms in areas

where Agta have lived and hunted for thousands of years. I will have

more to say about these issues in the chapters to follow.

The Ilongot tribespeople. Mention should be made of the Ilongot,

a tribal swidden group of some 3,500 who live on the west side of the

Sierra Madre. A few also live in southern Aurora near Dipaculao and

Baler. The Ilongot are mentioned here for two reasons. First, they

live just across the southwestern border of the Casiguran Agta area, and

second, Peterson makes a claim that "Agta have quite disruptive

relations . . . with Ilongot" (1978a:92). This is a logical

assumption, since the Ilongot are widely known as intense raiders and

headhunters. It is a "fact that headhunting was a central aspect of

Ilongot social practice until at least the early 1970s" (M. Rosaldo

1980:ix-x; see also R. Rosaldo 1980).

As a matter of fact, however, Casiguran Agta have almost no contact

with Ilongot, and in my interviewing of many Agta concerning past raids

or killings, only twice did I find people who knew of Ilongot killing

Agta. An old Agta man named Tikiman told me in 1977 (when he was

about age 76) that his mother, whose name he could not remember, was

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killed by Ilongot at Dibet, Casiguran, around 1910. (Dibet is between

Areas 8 and 9, in Map 2.) And Agta Doyeg (age 65) told me in an

interview in January 1984 that when he was a small child Ilongot

raiders killed three older Agta women, also at Dibet, whose names were

Pukeng, Boyan, and Sinayda. Doyeg did not himself remember the time

of the incident, but said, "My father used to tell us about it." I

suspect that both men were probably referring to the same incident.

It is inconceivable to anyone who knows the terrain of the Sierra

Madre to imagine the Ilongot having any kind of relations, disruptive or

otherwise, with the Palanan Agta, as Peterson claims, since the two

groups are separated by 90 km of rugged rainforest. Today there are two

Casiguran Agta men married to Ilongot women, with both families living

in Ilongot areas.

There may have been more interaction between the two groups in the

distant past. There is evidence that some Ilongot were attempting- to

migrate into Casiguran 250 years ago. A letter written by a Spanish

priest in Casiguran, in 1720, mentions how some Agta killed "a lot from

this town," and then went and threatened some Ilongot with their arrows

who were wanting to settle on the Calabgan River (in Area 9 of Map 2).

The letter says the Agta would not let the Ilongot settle there (AFIO

1720). Whatever the case was then, there are no Ilongot today in

Casiguran, and I am unaware of any interaction between the two groups.


The Casiguran Agta speak an Austronesian language of the subfamily

called Northern Cordilleran (Tharp 1974). This language, referred to

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henceforth in this study as Casiguran Agta, or simply Agta, is closely

related to four other sister languages spoken in northeastern Luzon.

These four languages are Palanan Agta, Agta of Southeastern Cagayan,

Paranan, and Casiguranin. The latter two languages are spoken by non-

Negrito populations. Casiguranin is the language of the indigenous non-

Negrito people of Casiguran. (For details, see Headland 1975a.)

A recent study (ibid.), based on Reid's 372 word list (Reid 1971),

shows that Casiguran Agta and Casiguranin have a shared vocabulary of 77

percent. Casiguran Agta shares 46 percent of its basic vocabulary with

Tagalog, and 43 percent with Ilokano. The respective figures for the

Casiguranin language are 52 percent for both Tagalog and Ilokano. These

latter two languages are the two main trade languages of the Casiguran

area, and of most of Luzon.

These figures should not be interpreted to mean that Agta and

Casiguranin have this high a percentage of shared cognates with

Tagalog and Ilokano. In fact, Agta and Casiguranin are both more

closely related to Ilokano, which is also a Cordilleran language

(Tagalog is not). The high number of shared vocabulary items between

the two indigenous languages, and with Tagalog, is due to the

considerable number of lexical borrowings from Tagalog in those

languages. They have also borrowed from Ilokano, but less heavily.

With respect to the local people's understanding of these two trade

languages, the results of intelligibility tests I conducted in 1975

showed the Agta then as measuring slightly below competence in their

understanding of Tagalog, while the Casiguranin people showed almost

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perfect understanding of that language.' Neither group understood

Ilokano. Agta testees received almost perfect scores in their

understanding of Casiguranin, while the Casiguranin testees received low

but passing scores in their comprehension of Agta. For details on the

testing procedure and an analysis of the results, see Headland (1975a).


The anomaly of the Agta culture. In spite of the progress and

westernization which has come to the Casiguran area since WWII, the Agta

continue to roam nomadically through the jungles, seemingly without

adequate food, clothing or shelter, refusing to send their children to

the public schools, and resisting repeated government efforts to settle

them on their own land and help them take up farming. This occurs in

spite of the apparent poverty under which the Agta live— a way of life

which appears pathetic to outside observers, and which Agta themselves

are quick to tell you is mehirap ('hardship').

Why do the Agta continually refuse, then, to "better" themselves?

Is it because they are bound by tradition? Or is there some hidden

logical rationale behind the anomalous Agta behavior? It is a goal of

the present thesis to argue that it is for this second reason that the

Agta remain in their marginal foraging niche.

Though the culture of the Agta is changing fast, it is obvious that

they, in contrast to most tribal groups in the world, are not turning to

western modernization, or moving into the national lifestyle of their

country. Though anthropologists rightfully question the value of

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westernization for traditional peoples, still, many such peoples are

moving fast in this direction, by force or by choice.

The Agta are an exception.

One argument of this thesis is that the Agta are not resisting

"modernization" for themselves (including the assumed "advancement"

from foraging to agriculture) because they are ignorant, lazy, or

irrationally clinging to an out-moded way of life. Rather, this study

presents data which support the hypothesis that the Agta are intelligent

economic maximizers and that they have made a unique and sensible

adaptation to their changed environment. One contribution to this study

is its development and explanation of this argument, using ecological

and economic concepts to clarify the logic behind Agta behavior in the


The two basic questions of the research. This thesis focuses on

answering two central questions. First, what are the Agta doing for a

living today? That is, what is their present economic strategy? And

second, why do they persist in their present economic strategy instead

of switching to something else, namely agriculture?

In short, the present thesis will describe the "coping mechanisms

that [Agta] humans display in obtaining their wants or adjusting their

lives to [their] changing milieu" (Bennett 1976:246). This is a

question which Bennett feels anthropologists need to answer, if they are

to study the kind of practical anthropology which will help humankind to

avoid the predicted disaster to which the "ecological transition" is

said to be leading us.

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Besides Bennett, other anthropologists have asked questions similar

to the two basic questions of this thesis. The first of these two

questions was raised by Richard Lee in 1966, whenhe asked just what do

hunters do for a living? (Lee 1968:30). This thesis will provide an

answer to his question for a hunting society in Southeast Asia, and take

the question a step further by explaining what they do for a living when

they are suddenly— within a decade— deprived of their game resources.

As Cadelina has phrased the question in his study of a Negrito group in

the central Philippines, how do people at this technological level

"make a living when their basic source of food is drastically altered?"


At the same 1966 symposium where Lee read his paper, Sol Tax made

the appeal that "we should study the reasonsfor the persistence of

these peoples all over the world in light of all the conditions

militating against their persistence" (1968:345-46). He argued that

there was surely something for us to learn concerning the determination

of such hunter-gatherers today to preserve their way of life at all

costs (ibid.). Later, Martin Wobst posed two important questions on

this same issue: How do band societies maintain themselves in a

changing environment? And what niches are filled by band societies in

an environment with dominant populations which could easily push them

out? (Wobst 1974:x). Recently, the question was raised again when

Vierich (1982:213) asked, "What accounts for [the] durability [of the

hunting and gathering way of life today]?"

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It is my hope that my answers in this thesis to the. two central

questions of my research, and my explanation of how I sought those

answers in the field, will provide partial— if not complete— answers to

the above questions asked by Bennett, Cadelina, Lee, Tax, Wobst, and

Vierich. These are all questions which seek to understand the

persistence and unique strategy of adaptation which is followed by the

Agta, and so many of the world's remaining hunter-gatherer societies



A major contribution of the present study is its description and

analysis of the new economic strategy of a hunter-gatherer society which

is no longer able to live by hunting. In this study I will draw heavily

from certain ideas developed within the tradition of cultural ecology.

These ideas and concepts will be used as a basic framework to describe

the unique problems of the Agta, and how they are trying to adapt to

their fast changing ecosystem in the 1980s.

Cultural ecology is today one of the major areas of specialization

in anthropology. A growing number of anthropologists have come to

recognize that humans, like other animals, are a part of ecosystems.

Many such anthropologists are thus attempting to use the goals of

general biological ecology to better understand the problems of human

groups. The expected result of this approach is that a more inclusive

and more powerful framework for interpreting and explaining the behavior

of humans will be gained (Vayda and Rappaport 1968:476).

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The perspective taken in this thesis, then, is that the ecological

approach is the best model for explaining the sociocultural systems of,

especially, so-called primitive groups such as the Agta. While other

theoretical approaches are useful as well for interpreting cultural

phenomena, this study takes the view that cultural ecology will carry us

farther than any other single theory in gaining an understanding of the

intricate problems of marginal small-scale societies like the Agta

(Ellen 1982:29-30).


I am one of those who shares the view of Richard Feinberg, that

"the bottom line of anthropology— that against which all theoretical

propositions must ultimately be measured— is ethnographic data"

(1985:667). As Feinberg argues, if anthropology is to be made worthy

of the title Social Science, we must make our data available in a high

quality manner such that it can be systematically scrutinized by

interested critics. Illustrative anecdotes are not sufficient.

I know what Feinberg is talking about when he says, "Typically, in

anthropological writings, assertions are made without thorough,

systematic presentation of the evidence on which they are based . . .

Thus, readers are left with little more than the elegance of the

argument by which to judge a work's insight or accuracy" (ibid.).

I have experienced both the frustration of looking in vain for data

support for ethnographic arguments on Negritos (e.g., in the writings of

Jean Peterson [which I critique in Headland 1978 and Griffin et al.

n.d.l), and the help one can gain when such data is made public (e.g.,

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Vanoverbergh's published Agta data [1937, 1937/38, Wastl 1957], which I

build on in this thesis). As the reader will see, then, I have

endeavored to present my data herein in such a way that it may be used

for judging the basis of my arguments.

Along with my opinion that data should be made available in

readable form, it is my conviction that the method of gathering the

data must also be made clear so that the research could be replicated

and the findings confirmed.

In this thesis, then, the reader will find a great deal of data

displayed in the appendices and tables. I make no apology for this.

These data displays, used to test my hypotheses, will now be permanently

archived in the back of my dissertation, for future scrutiny, and the

whole of Chapter 2 is given to my research design— how the data were

collected— described in a way such that it can be replicated.


A number of earlier studies have appeared on the Agta Negritos of

eastern Luzon. For Casiguran, Vanoverbergh provides important

linguistic and ethnographic notes on the Agta for the year 1936 (1937,

1937-38), showing how the people were living then. Nicolaisen (1974-75)

provides a brief description of the same group from his visit in 1972,

and the Headlands have produced a series of works based on their years

of residence in Casiguran (see the bibliography).

The most significant body of materials on the Palanan Agta come

from the Petersons, who began their field work there in 1969. Jean

Peterson has written primarily on the interethnic symbiosis in Palanan

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(1978a, 1978b, 1981, 1985, etc.), while Warren Peterson recently

published a paper on Agta culture change there (1981). Bennagen wrote

his 1976 Master's thesis on the Palanan Agta, and more recently a paper

on Agta change there (1977). Three other Master's theses were done, as

well, on the Palanan Agta (Simangan 1956, Zipagang 1970, and Simon

1975). The latter author has more recently completed a doctoral

dissertation on this same group, at St. Paul University in Tuguegarao,

Cagayan, which draws heavily from Peterson's 1978 book (Simon 1982).

The Griffins have begun publishing what should prove to be a

continuing series of writings on the eastern Cagayan Agta

(Estioko-Griffin and Griffin 1975, 1981a, 1981b, Griffin 1984a and

1984b, Griffin and Estioko-Griffin 1978, 1985, Estioko-Griffin 1984, and

Goodman et al. 1985). A most significant contribution of their work so

far is their documentation and description of the involvement of Agta

women in hunting pig and deer, using bow and arrow, and often without

male companions. (This is a custom not found among the Casiguran Agta

or the Palanan Agta.)

One study has been done on the Agta in San Mariano, Isabela, by

Rai (1981, 1982, 1985). Rai describes a band group from this area

which was still heavily involved in intense hunting and meat trading

during his period of residence with them in 1979-80. One of his

important findings, which speaks to the hypotheses of my thesis, is

that though the San Mariano Agta do practice some cultivation, only

four percent of their total food intake came from their own gardens

that year.

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The single most important work to date on the Agta, composed of

papers on most of the Agta groups, is a book edited by the Griffins,

titled The Agta of Northeastern Luzon: Recent Studies (Griffin and

Estioko-Griffin 1985). It serves as a report of all Agta research to

date, and includes a complete bibliography of all published or archived

materials to date on Negritos of eastern Luzon (Griffin and Headland


There is a wealth of literature on other Negrito groups in the

Philippines and Southeast Asia, which cannot be reviewed here.

Reference should be made, however, to two recent studies of such non-

Agta Negrito groups, both of which are ecological. First, Cadelina

(1982) has recently completed a study on inter-household food sharing

practices among the Batak Negritos of Palawan, Philippines; and second,

James Eder also completed in 1981 his second period of field study on

this same group, and is now preparing a series of papers and a book on

them. Eder's most significant paper so far, for the purposes of my own

hypotheses, is his description of the Batak population decline (1977a).

He has also written a paper on their culture change (1977b) and on the

caloric returns of their alternative economic strategies (1978).


The seven propositions and twelve hypotheses of this study are

outlined in this section, along with brief conclusions of their

veracity, based on the data collected • in 1983-84. These data are

presented in detail in various chapters below.

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'Proposition' is here defined as a statement to be proved or

explained. It should made clear here that there are two basic meanings

of 'hypothesis.' In the strict classic form, it means "a statement of

covariation between two variables." A second meaning is a metaphorical

extension of that, and refers to "an idea to check out" (Agar 1980:171-

72). The hypotheses outlined here tend towards the latter definition.



Hypothesis wild game in the Casiguran ecosystem has

declined significantly in the last 20 years (including wild
pig, deer, and monkey). (Null hypothesis: The game
populations have not declined.)

Hypothesis 2 : The wild game has declined to the point where

most Agta men no longer bother to hunt because their success
rate is too low. (Null hypothesis: Most Agta men secure 3
or more large game per month.)

Hypothesis 3 : Agta men today spend less than 10 percent of

their economic production time in hunting activities. (Null
hypothesis: Men spend over 10 percent of their production
time in hunting.)

Conclusion: The data directly support this proposition and

Hypothesis 3, and indirectly support Hypotheses 1 and 2. Agta
men spent only 6 percent of their days in hunting activity
during the study period, and an estimated half of the men
never hunted at all during the period. The reason for their
declined emphasis on hunting is obvious: Their hunting
success rate of commercial game (pig and deer) was only 14
percent. Evidence for this proposition, and the amount of
time Agta gave to hunting, is discussed in Chapter 10. Game
decline is discussed in Chapter 8.



Hypothesis 4^ Agta adults spend less than 10 percent of their

time in agriculture (in their own swiddens, gardens, or wet
rice fields). (Null hypothesis: Many Agta do practice
independent agriculture during a significant portion of the

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Conclusion: Chapter 11 is given to explaining why I argue

that the Agta are not farmers, in spite of the fact that they
cultivate fields every year. Data presented in Chapter 10
show that adults gave only 6 percent of their days to
agricultural pursuits in 1983-84, and that 76 percent of the
families did not plant fields of their own in 1983. Looking
only at the 40 men who actually cultivated a field in 1983 (24
percent of the men in the area in 1983 [see Table 10.7]),
these 40 men gave only 12.9 percent of their PWDs to
agriculture in 1983-84. Furthermore, as we see in Chapter
11, Agta swiddens are small, the smallest on record, to my
knowledge, with the average swidden measuring less than a
fifth of a hectare. The per capita area of cropped land was
only 128 m . While rice is the main Agta food (eaten at 92
percent of their meals), the total rice grown in the 48
fields cultivated in 1983 totaled only 9 metric tons, enough
to feed the total population for only 15 days. (It should be
noted that 1983 was considered by the Agta as a successful
agricultural year. These figures are not the result of a
crop failure.) Thus, the data presented in Chapter 11 and in
Appendix E substantiate Proposition 2 and Hypothesis 4.



Hypothesis 5^: Whenever an Agta cultivates or clears a piece

of land, or claims ownership of land, he loses possession of
that land, voluntarily or involuntarily, within a few years.
(Null hypothesis: There are a significant number of Agta who
own farmland today, which they have possessed for more than 3
or 4 years.)

Hypothesis 6_: The Agta have not become agriculturalists

because of ecological constraints, and especially because the
"competitive exclusion principle" has precluded their
successful adaptation to this alternative economic lifestyle
in the 20th century.

Conclusion: Hypotheses 5 and 6 are indirectly supported by

the arguments in Chapter 13, and directly by the data
presented in Appendices F and G. As Chapter 13 shows, there
are a number of reasons Agta do not take up farming. One of
the main ones is that the dominant lowland population in the
area, mostly recent immigrants who now outnumber the Agta 57
to one, simply will not allow Agta to change from
patron-client servanthood under them to becoming independent
farmers. There are a number of other reasons, mostly
economic which preclude these people's success at

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agriculture. These are discussed in detail in Chapter 13 and




Hypothesis _7: An insignificant percentage of Agta starch food

comes from wild flora, less than 5 percent. (Null
hypothesis: A high percentage of Agta starch food comes from
wild flora, more than 5 percent.)

Hypothesis j3: An insignificant percentage of Agta food comes

from their own gardens and fields, less than 10 percent.
(Null hypothesis: Over 10 percent of their starch food comes
from their own fields.)

Hypothesis 9: Agta today are completely dependent on

lowlanders for their living. Over 90 percent of their starch
food comes from lowlanders, and over three-fourths of their
production work time is done as service for lowlanders.

Conclusion: Hypothesis 7 is directly supported by data in

Appendix C, which show that in a sample of 558 meals, wild
tubers were eaten at only 1.6 percent of those meals.
Hypotheses 8 and 9 are supported by data presented in Chapter
11 and Appendix E. Specifically, we see that though the Agta
ate rice at 92 percent of their meals in 1984, they grew
enough rice in 1983 to feed themselves for only 15 days (see
Table 11.8). The data presented in Chapter 10 do not quite
support the latter statement of Hypothesis 9. As the summary
statements ofthat chapter show, Agta gave 64 percent (not
quite 75 percent) of their work time to serving lowlanders.



Hypothesis 10: The Casiguran Agta population is declining,

and this declineis caused by a high death rate, not by a low
birth rate or emigration. . (Null hypothesis: The Agta
population is not declining.)

Conclusion: Hypothesis 10 is directly supported by data

presented in Chapter 12. Specifically, there were 184 live
births in the population, and 193 deaths, in the 7 years
following June 1977. Evidence based on a census taken in
1936 shows the population may have declined by as much as 40

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percent in the last 50 years, from an estimated 1,000 to only

609 in June 1984. Other data indirectly support Proposition
5, including infant death rates, homicide rates, morbidity
statistics, daily income, dietary intake, loss of ancestral
lands, harassment from lowlanders, and the general ecological
degradation of their environment. These topics are discussed
in various chapters.



Conclusion: This proposition is not tested with hypotheses,

but is argued as true on logical grounds, in Chapter 3, and
by describing actual economic behavior in other chapters.
The argument is that Agta behavior comes from rational
economic calculations of individuals, and not from an
irrational following of tradition, or because they are



Hypothesis 11: The ancestors of today's Agta were involved in

intense interethnic symbiosis with non-Negrito peoples for
many hundreds of years. This was usually manifested by their
exchange of wild forest products for starch foods and other
trade goods. It also included periods when these proto-Agta
actually lived with other farming peoples. They were also
involved in trade links with mainland Asia before 1500 A.D.

Hypothesis 12:: The Agta are not incipient cultivators.

Rather they have been involved in at least part time
agriculture for many hundreds of years.

Conclusion: The veracity of Hypothesis 11 is fairly well

established on the basis of linguistic evidence presented in
Chapter 6, and early historical evidence, presented in
Chapters 7 and 8. Hypothesis 12 is supported by early
Spanish documents, showing the Casiguran Agta were doing
agriculture, both for themselves andwith lowlanders, at
least by the time of Spanish contact. This is discussed in
Chapter 7.

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1. PREPF (Population, Resources, Environment and Philippines'

Future) is a consortium of the Development Academy of the Philippines,
the UP School of Economics, and the UP Population Institute. The
reader must understand that when other offices report that 56 percent of
the country in 1980 is made up of 'forest lands' (e.g., BFD 1982:iii)
that the term 'forest lands' includes all lands which are under the
Bureau of Forest Development, much of which is deforested or grassland
(Hyman 1983:520, Scott 1979:65). Fifty-six percent of the land may
have been 'forest lands' in 1980, but only 27 percent of the country was
forested. (Scott's [ibid.] estimate is 25 percent, while the estimate of
the NKMC [1981:32; cited in Hyman 1983:512] for 1980 is 37 percent.
Aguilar [1982:1] gives a 1976 estimate that only 30 percent of the
country was covered then by "densely stocked forests.")

2. The term "lowlander" is used here in a general sense to refer

to all non-Negrito people in the local area. A few of these people,
e.g. recent Igorot tribal immigrants from Mountain Province, are
technically not "lowlanders."

3. By "ecological transition," Bennett is referring to the

increasing tendency of humans or nations to seek ever-larger quantities
of energy in order to satisfy their demands of existence, comfort, and
wealth (1976:5). Bennett is especially thinking of the transition of
nations from a pre-industrial to an industrial state.


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One can scarcely expect other social scientists to accept

nonreplicable findings (Gross 1984:523).

A major aspect of any properly designed research plan is to provide

sufficient information on how the data were gathered and analyzed so

that others can replicate the research and confirm the findings. With

that goal in view, I attempt in this chapter to describe my field

methodology, and especially how I gathered the data for testing the

hypotheses outlined in Chapter 1.

The field research method followed the usual anthropological

techniques: participant observation, formal and informal interviews and,

especially, measuring— of people, houses, camps, activities, swiddens,

food, wild game secured, etc. My wife, Janet Headland, assisted me

throughout the data gathering period. We are both fluent speakers of

the Agta language, and all interviewing was done in that language.

During most of the 1983-84 study period my wife and I resided in an

Agta camp in Area 4 (See Map 2). During the summers our three children

lived with us. We had never lived in Area 4 before, nor with any of the

regular members of this group. Throughout this period the group lived

in two camps about 200 m apart. Our camp was more stable, with

membership size usually ranging from 4 to 8 households (excluding the

many overnight visitors). The other camp was very unstable. Their

"normal" camp size ranged from 3 to 5 households (excluding visitors),


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but often the camp was empty, as this half of the group would go away

frequently for days at a time.

Using this camp as our home base, we tried to visit every Agta camp

in the Casiguran area monthly. Our mode of transportation was by hiking

and by motorboat. We also made four survey trips of the Casiguran area

in 1983-84 by chartered helicopter, each of which were of two to three

days duration. We were absent from Casiguran for two extended periods

during the 19 months. These were from April 5 to June 6, 1983, and from

February 2 to March 25, 1984. Thus, no PWD data were collected for the

months of April and May 1983, nor for February and March 1984.

Some of the field data discussed in this thesis were collected

during our years of residence in Casiguran in the 1960s and 1970s. I

make clear in the thesis where I make use of those data.

There were five main bodies of data collected in Casiguran in 1983-

1984. The majority of my time was spent doing a "time allocation"

study— the collecting of major daily activities of Agta adults

throughout the period. A second set of data consisted of a time

allocation schedule kept on one man for372 days. A third data corpus

was the taking of a census of the total Casiguran Agta population, and a

fourth data set consisted of a body of information on the 43 swiddens

and 5 wet rice fields cultivated by Agta in 1983. Finally, we also

collected sample data on food eaten at Agta meals in 1984.

These six data sets wereall processed by computer using a program

called dBASE II (or Data BaseTwo). It was this program which helped me

in the analyses presented throughout this thesis.

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There was a sixth major data source upon which I drew in my

building of the models presented in this thesis. This consisted of

information on Casiguran gleaned from archival research. This chapter

will outline how the five sets of field data were gathered, compiled,

and computer processed, and then- conclude with a statement on my use of

archival sources.


Before we look at the actual techniques I used for gathering my

data, I should explain that when I returned to the Agta field in 1982 I

carried with me a set of formal hypotheses to be tested. Those

hypotheses were outlined in my research proposal, and they are also

listed herein, at the end of Chapter 1. My research design, as it was

laid out in my proposal, was for the purpose of getting the specific

data needed to test those hypotheses.

I went to the field with what may best be called a "multiple

working hypotheses" approach (Chamberlin 1890; cf. Hunt 1978). That

is, I began my field research with alternative hypotheses already in

mind, and with the view that other new and opposing hypotheses might

emerge during the course of my field work as possible alternative

explanations of phenomena which might come to my attention. This does

not mean that I did not have dominant hypotheses, but that I also had

alternative, or null, hypotheses to be tested as well.

Alternative hypotheses, for example, were that the Agta were moving

into economic niches different from those I was hypothesizing in my

proposal, or that their degrees of adaptation were better, or worse,

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than what I had suggested in my proposal. A main substitute hypothesis

was that the Agta are working successfully towards an emphasis on

farming. Another alternative hypothesis was that the Agta are not as

homogeneous as my model was suggesting, but that some are already

successful farmers, while others are living in abject serfdom, or are

degenerating into some other destitute condition. Or perhaps some bands

were still achieving high success at hunting.

A multiple working hypotheses approach implies that every possible

alternative will be pursued in the field. This was my goal. Whether or

not neat patterns of change emerge, the goal of the study, and this

thesis, is to discover and describe what the data show.


During the period of field work, 3,283 "person-work-days"

(hereafter, PWDs) were collected on 331 adult Agta. On the day the

data were collected each PWD was recorded in longhand in a notebook and

later (usually the next day) transferred to index cards. In late 1984

the cards were coded for transfer to computer. Each card was coded

with twelve categories, indicating the individual's name, census

number, age, sex, civil status, whether he did agriculture and (on the

day of data collection) the weather, person's location, date, day of

week, person's activity, and person's payment for work (when

applicable). The data from each of the 3,283 cards were then

computerized using the dBASE II program.

A total of 159 different types of PWD activities were recorded

during the period of field work. These are listed in Appendix D, with

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the number of recorded PWDs of each activity noted in parentheses. These

159 "sub-categories" of activities have been clumped into several

"categories" of manageable size in Appendix D; and these were in turn

assigned into eleven clumps of "super-categories." These eleven are

displayed in Table 10.2, where they are broken down by sex, month, age,

and band area.

This section will describe how I collected the 3,283 PWDs of data

displayed in the above-mentioned tables, the analyses of which are

presented in Chapter 10.

Since the basic question of the study was to find out just what the

Agta were doing for a living in the 1980s, the present research design

was developed for getting the data needed to answer that question. The

plan was that a major part of the research would bespent in collecting

and recording the main daily activities of as many individuals as


My recording of daily Agta activities was inspired by field

methodologies outlined by Johnson (1975; 1978:86-91) and Epstein (1967).

Constraints of the Agta field situation, however, made it impossible to

collect the time allocation sample of PWDs on a strict random basis, in

the statistical sense, as Johnson attempted for his Machiguenga study.*

The Casiguran Agta are scattered over 700 square kilometers of mostly

dense rainforest. Most Agta reside in small temporary camps, some of

which required several hours of hard hiking to reach, including

overnight trips. We were also restricted in our travels by vagaries in

the weather. Coastal camps could only be visited in our motor boat when

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the sea was calm and the tide rising (because of coral reefs), while

inland camps were inaccessible when rivers were flooded by heavy rains.

It was obviously impractical to rely on a table of random numbers to

tell me what households to visit on certain days.

My goal was for my wife or me to try to visit every Agta residence

site once a month. Whenever either of us entered an Agta camp (often

together, sometimes separately) we spent from one to four hours there.

Ideally, we interviewed every adult (over age 14) "concerning their

activities the preceding day and the day of the interview" (Yost and

Kelley 1983:207-09; these authors used the same technique for their

study of a group in Ecuador). If any adults were absent from the camp

at our time of arrival, if they had slept there the previous night we

either waited for their return, hiked to where they were, or interviewed

their family or neighbors concerning their activity. If none of these

three options were feasible, we did not record data for those absent


Basically, that was the method. Agta do not always give candid

answers, of course, so we were careful to double check responses with

other nearby adults who did not hear what their neighbors had told us

earlier. In this way I believe we caught most of the errors which could

otherwise have crept into the data corpus from those few Agta who failed

to give truthful answers. We also made it a point to stay long enough

in an Agta camp to see what people were actually doing that day. Still,

we had to rely on our interviewees' word for their activities for the

previous day.

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It should be clear to the reader, then, that the data on PWDs were

based partly on what respondents told us they were doing, and not always

on what we saw them doing. Daniel Gross reports that it is typical for

time allocation studies based on direct observation to have to "make

some use of informants' reports of what they or other people were

doing" (1984:543). Johnson also admits he had to resort to this

indirect method at times during his Machiguenga time allocation study

(1978:89). For a recent review of the problems of informant accuracy,

see Bernard et al. 1984. I discuss elsewhere (Headland 1978:133) the

potential pitfalls in interviewing Agta.

In order to avoid one type of bias, we were committed ahead of time

to always recording the activities of any and all adult Agta in a

particular camp, whenever we visited that camp, regardless of what they

were doing when we got there. The only exceptions were if an individual

was unwilling to be interviewed (which was seldom), was absent and no

one was sure what he or she was doing, or if we went to a camp on some

other business, in which case we purposely did not record the PWDs of

anyone. We never entered a camp on some other business and then said,

"Hey, these people are doing something interesting today; let's record

their PWDs." Likewise, we never entered a camp for the purpose of

recording PWDs and decided after we got there not to, say because no one

was doing anything significant that day. If we went to a residence

area to record PWDs, we followed through with that, no matter what was

going on that day.

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It should be noted that, because we recorded the PWDs of every

adult in the camp, this meant that some individuals had their

activities recorded more than once in a given month. This was because

we would record the activity of a particular individual in one camp on

one day. Then, when we visited another camp a few days later, that

same individual would be present there and would have his PWDs recorded

again. For this reason, as well as others, some individuals had more

PWDs recorded for them than did others.

Now, the question arises, what kinds of activities did my wife and

I record? Agta do many things in a day, everything from major economic

activity to minor activities such as pounding rice, fletching an arrow,

picking a coconut, or mashing a medicinal plant to rub on a sick child.

In this study, however, I was not trying to find out how many times

Agta chew betel in a day, how long they nap at noon, or the amount of

time women spend nursing babies (all interesting questions, but beyond

the scope of this study). Rather, the focus was on how Agta make a

living, and how much time they spend in major activities such as

agriculture, hunting, wage labor, etc. Though Agta may do many

activities in a single day, I found that they almost always gave a

single activity answer to my question, "What did you do

today/yesterday?" Though I often did ask the secondary questions,

"What else did you do?" I soon found I was running into too many

details, taking too much time in interviewing, getting more data than I

could handle, and that the secondary data were not speaking directly to

my hypotheses.

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I soon decided to limit our recording of PWD activities, then, to

the following:

1. We recorded only what respondents told us was their major

activity or activities of that day.

2. If respondents listed two or more items of activity, we

excluded from the analysis any activity which seemed to have been of
less than one hour's duration.

3. If respondents listed two items of activity, we chose the

activity which they considered the major one, and excluded from analysis
the secondary activity (even if the secondary activity took more time).
(For exceptions, see points 4 and 5 immediately below.)

4. If respondents listed two items of activity, if one was either

'hunting' or 'agriculture (for themselves)', then that was the activity
we recorded, even if the other activity that day was of longer duration.
Only if the hunting or agricultural activity was of less than one hour's
duration did we not record it.

5. If the respondents listed two items of activity, if the longer

activity was leisure, that is, "no work," we ignored that and always
listed the secondary activity, if it was of one hour's duration or more.
For example, fishing or shellfishing were the most frequent secondary
activities mentioned in an otherwise leisured day. Thus, if a woman was
out collecting mollusks on a coral reef at low tide for two hours, but
did not work the rest of the day, we recorded her activity as
"shellfishing," not as "no work."

6. We did not record minor household chores. Thus, if respondents

said the only activity they did that day was cooking, gathering
firewood, or sweeping the ground, etc., we did not record those, but
just recorded "no work."

7. There were some minor chores Agta did, other than housework,
which took more than one hour of time, but less than two (such as women
washing clothes, or drying unhusked rice in the sun, or guarding a
grazing water buffalo). These were always recorded in the "no work"
category, but given a different one-hundred number and modified with the
statement, " . . . just washed clothes," or whatever. (See the E100
numbers in Appendix D for examples.)

8. We recorded an individual's activity as "no work— drunk"

(activity no. E108 in Appendix D), only if that person was obviously
intoxicated at or before twelve noon. Agta who got drunk in the
afternoon were not so recorded.

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9. Throughout most of the year my wife and I lived in an Agta camp

on the Pasarubuy River (Area 4 in Map 2), with a core of six Agta
families. I decided ahead of time that we would only record the PWDs of
the Agta in this camp twice a month, and I choose the two dates for
doing this before the first of each month, so as not to bias those data.

It should be noted that even though we limited ourselves to only

the main activities of our respondents, we recorded a total of 159

different "activity" categories, all of which are listed in Appendix D.

A larger corpus of categories would have made analysis difficult, and

would not have spoken to the questions of the present thesis.

Finally, a question arises which must be asked of any study based

on quantitative data: How representative is the sample of the universe

it claims to represent? In the strict statistical sense, of course,

the present sample of 3,283 PWDs cannot be "representative," since it

was not random and is thus not a probability sample. We know, however,
that very few samples in ethnographic field work are random. Most

anthropological samples are, in fact, nonprobability samples, and "many

situations simply do not require probability sampling" (Thomas


An anthropologically oriented fieldworker selects samples to

define or diagnose a pattern. This does not mean that
representativeness . . . is of no interest, but that
representativeness is defined differently.
Representativeness is achieved through careful selection of a
sample based upon preliminary knowledge obtained through
background and foundational research. From a holistic
perspective, representation is a relative phenomenon (Dobbert

Though my sample was a nonprobability one, it was not a mere

"opportunistic" or "accidental" sample. Rather, the technique I used,

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described above, is a type of stratified sample. It is what Glaser and

Strauss call "theoretical sampling" (discussed in Agar 1980:124), or

what Dobbert (1982:218) calls "status sampling." Done carefully, such

a sample can be representative of the population.

It should be clear from the above that I took care to avoid bias

as much as possible, and I believe that the sample of 3,283 PWDs is a

fairly representative reflection of Agta economic behavior. There were

many variables, however, and it was impossible to control for all of

these. I was not just sampling PWD activity. I also had to try to get

representative samples for each month of the year, for each of the ten

main "band" areas, for rainy days, for Sundays, and for age and sex

ratios. And there are probably other variables as well of which I am

not aware.

Fortunately, since we are dealing with a fairly homogenous

population, the relevant variables are few. Still, my post-field

research analysis suggests that some variables are underrepresented to

some degree. For example, I was absent from the Agta area from April 5

to June 6, 1983, when I had to fulfill a teaching commitment in Baguio

City. Thus, no PWDs were collected for the months of April and May, and

this is reflected in the tables presented with Chapter 10. (We did,

however, collect data for those months in 1984.) Also, the PWD data for

activities on days of heavy rain are underrepresented because I was

hindered from going out and collecting data in the pouring rain. More

serious, two band areas, 8 and 10, are underrepresented. There are

three reasons for this latter bias. One, since in the early weeks of my

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field work I did not yet know the locations of these camp groups, I did

not sample them. Two, since the Agta are nomadic, I would often hike to

a distant camp only to find them gone; and three, these two band areas

are underrepresented because, in part, they are the most distant from

where we were residing. They were harder to reach. (See Table 10.4 for

a monthly breakdown of the PWDs collected in each band area.)

I had two choices when this bias became apparent after the field

work was nearly completed: either to remove completely from my data

bank the PWD samples I took of those two areas, which seemed like a

risky manipulating of the data, or to leave the data in and warn the

readers of its underrepresentativeness. The later choice was decided


Note that I concentrated on getting a representative sample of the

ten band areas, not of individuals. It would be unrealistic to try to

get an evenly spread out sample of individuals, because of their nomadic

nature. Though the sample of many individuals is evenly spread out

throughout the year, many others were sampled very sporadically, or only

three or four times. This was because of their back-and-forth migration

patterns. (In one case, for example, a whole band group moved into Area

10 from the province of Quirino after one of their men killed an Agta

in that area in April 1984.)^

So, although there were a number of variables which should ideally

have all been sampled, I chose to concentrate only on what I considered

the two most important variables. These were the 12 calendar months and

the ten general band areas where the Casiguran Agta tend to aggregate.

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That is, I tried to get PWDs for every month of the year for each of the

ten areas where most of the Agta were living. I achieved this with

satisfactory, but not perfect, success.

This means that I did not concentrate on sampling individuals, but

rather aggregates. The result is that though I was fairly successful

in collecting PWDs from seven of the ten areas for every month, there is

wide variation on the number of times I collected PWDs from different


One example of potential bias was suggested to me by a statistician

when he read a draft of this chapter. This was after the data had been

collected and computerized. This statistician, Arthur Gilmour, was

critical of my method of collecting PWDs from individuals for two days

in a row. He had two hypotheses. First, he hypothesized that my

"paired" PWDs (two PWDs of an individual for two days in a row) would be

the same more often than would be a sample of non-paired PWD dyads

chosen at random from the same individuals. He was right. There were a

total of 964 "paired" PWD dyads in our data. Forty-eight percent of

these dyads were of identical activities. Of the non-paired dyads I

paired together at random, only 23 percent were of the same activity.

His second hypothesis was that, if I removed from my data the first

PWD of each "paired" dyad (and there are 964 of those), thus making the

remaining 2,319 PWDs all non-paired, that there would be a statistically

significant difference between the original set of 3,283 PWDs and the

revised set of 2,319 PWDs. He was wrong. We tested this second

hypothesis with chi square tests, comparing 25 general PWD categories

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with both sets of data. There was no significant difference at the one

percent level for any of the 25. Since there were no differences, and

thus no bias introduced by using paired PWDs, I have used the total

3,283 PWDs for the analyses in this thesis.

There are certain ways for testing for the veracity of the claimed

representativeness of a sample, whether it is a probability or a

nonprobability one. One test is to look at what Agar (1980:125) calls

"slices of data." This means that you try to gather other data which

might fit or contradict the conclusions you make based on your sample.

The main questions in the present thesis are how much time the Agta

spend in agriculture and in hunting. The sample of PWDs indicates that

time spent in both of these is extremely low. As it turns out, there

are three very strong "slices of data" which lend unquestionable

support to what the sample of PWDs indicates. These are my measurements

of the total land cultivated by Agta during the year, complete daily

records of one particular man for the entire year, and records of

hunting activity for several weeks of all the men in one camp during the

hunting season. These three "slices of data" are presented in detail

in subsequent chapters.

The two major arguments of this thesis are that the members of this

so-called hunter-gatherer population are no longer making their living

by hunting, nor are they living by agriculture (see Propositions 1 and 2

in Chapter 1). These two hypotheses are not difficult to test in the

Agta field, by myself or a future independent researcher. The PWD data

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support them, and they are quickly confirmed by qualitative observations

and other quantitative "slices of data." *

There is nothing particularly difficult about finding out what Agta

are doing on a daily basis, provided one is able to visit the area for a

period of time. As Pelto and Pelto state in their discussion of the

sampling problems of anthropologists in the field,

Our commonsense experience in field work . . . tells us that

certain kinds of cultural data are so publicly available,
homogeneous in patterning, or otherwise apparent that random
sample of informants . . . are quite unnecessary for
establishing their veracity (1978:138).

I believe that the PWD activity of the Casiguran Agta collected in

1983-84 may be included in this statement.


From January 24, 1983 to July 16, 1984 my wife and I recorded the

main daily activities of one Agta man, Nateng Prado. The main

activities of this man were collected on 372 different days. These data

were collected just as we did the regular PWDs of other Agta, as

described above, except that for Nateng we recorded his two main

activities for each day, what he did in the morning, and then what he

did in the afternoon. Discussions of Nateng's main activities over

this 19 month period come up later, where they are used as "slices of

data" for supporting various arguments.

I also studied in some detail the main economic projects of this

man and his family, calculating especially certain input/output data.

These family projects included work in Nateng's father-in-law's coconut

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grove, his hunting activity, their swidden and wet rice field, their

borrowed fishnet, and the domestic pigs they raised. I did not have

the nerve to try to record their food intake, a task just a little too

hard to explain to the Agta. Nor did I attempt to record the

activities of the six children of this man and his wife, though I was

aware that most of their protein was coming from the fishing activities

of their two oldest children, then aged 9 and 11.

Nateng is not a "typical" Agta man (if there is such a thing). I

chose him for our case study because he was more than willing to allow

us to observe him, and to question him about his daily activities, and

because he was our closest neighbor. His house, open sided throughout

most of the 19 months, was only 7 meters from our open window. When we

and they were at home, we were able to see them at anytime throughout

the day. I did not pay Nateng for this. He preferred to develop an

utang na loob 'debt of gratitude' relationship with us, and we became

close friends. His real name is used in this thesis, at his request,

since he is rightly proud of his work and his family.


My wife and I have been collecting census data on the Agta since

the 1960s. After several years of informal record keeping of births,

deaths, etc., we began formal interviewing with census schedules in

1976, which continued until we left Casiguran for Hawaii in 1979. We

had by that time collected census data on all Casiguran Agta, as well as

many Agta in Palanan and Madella, resulting in hundreds of pages of

kinship maps and family genealogies. Most of those data were analyzed

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and incorporated into a formal Agta census of 361 pages (Headland and

Headland 1982). The data in that typescript are all dated to June 15,

1977. That is, even though the data may have been gathered before or

after that date, the vital statistics drawn from it are for that 1977

date. The typescript includes facial photographs of 499 Agta. We used

this census as our basic working tool in the retaking of a new Casiguran

Agta census in 1983-84. Data from both of these censuses will be

presented in detail in Chapter 12.

"Census" in this thesis means more than just a simple counting of

people with a resulting list of names. The two Agta censuses include

much more than that. They include, in fact, all the data needed for a

demographic analysis of a population: vital statistics (births,

marriages, deaths, migrations), places of birth, ages, female

reproductive histories, divorce rates, and causes of deaths.

For both of our periods of census taking (in the 1970s and in

1983-84) we used mimeographed schedules based on the "sociological

interview method" to gather the data. This was a modified use of

Rivers' (1900) genealogical method, asking interviewees the names of

their kinsmen, marriage and reproductive histories, etc.

We had two major advantages over many census takers. One was that

we did not have to do a rush job (since we spent several years

collecting the census data), and two, we were not handicapped by

language or culture (since we were familiar with both). We did, of

course, still have to deal with another problem common to field workers

when they use the interview method— that of interviewees who may give

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less than candid answers (see Appell 1969). Three factors helped us to

overcome this problem of informant unreliability, at least to a degree.

One, we had, by now, actually lived with the Agta longer than most

present day Agta themselves— long enough for us to have some knowledge

of many of our interviewees' personal vital statistics.^ Many women

could not hide from us, for example, their divorce histories, even if

they had so desired. Secondly, we had, over the years, developed a

close rapport with the Agta, to the point where they knew us, trusted

us, and were usually relaxed about answering our seemingly endless

questions. Finally, we had several "key informants," leaders in their

own society, one or two of whom always accompanied us when we did our

interviewing. These Agta "research assistants" understood what we

were doing, and would often tactfully correct interviewees who gave

incorrect answers, or tell us later of incorrect data we had been


All this does not mean, of course, that our census taking

methodology was free of problems. I will mention five specific

difficulties here, and how we more-or-less overcame them:

Getting names of ancestors. Casiguran Agta were usually willing

to give us the names of deceased relatives. But we did have problems

eliciting names of interviewees' grandparents. Thirty-four percent of

the Agta do not know the names of.any of their grandparents (though 29

percent knew the names of all four grandparents), and no Agta knew the

names of any of their 8 great-grandparents. We overcame this problem

to a fair extent because there were often older people around who did

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know the names of an interviewee's grandparents, and many of our

genealogies go back into the 19th century.

Eliciting the 'correct' names of Agta. Many Agta have two first

names (sometimes 3), as well as pseudo names used as address terms by

certain affinal relatives (who are forbidden by cultural norm from

speaking some in-laws' real names). Infants usually have no names at

all, or temporary nicknames which may be changed 2 or more times before

they gain a permanent name. Some Agta have formal names used only in

dealings with outsiders. And, finally, though roughly two-thirds of the

Agta claim to have surnames, many are unsure of what they are, or gave

us different surnames at different interviews over the years.

All this creates confusion for the census taker, of course, and it

took a good deal of repetitive work for my wife and I to get everyone

properly identified in our censuses. Our problems, however, were mild

compared to Nancy Howell's problem among the !Kung Bushmen, where there

are only 82 names shared among 1,000 people (Howell 1979:229), or

Chagnon's problems among the Yanomamo, where the interviewer may be

physically attacked for attempting to elicit a taboo name (Chagnon


Eliciting females' reproductive histories. It was difficult for

us to elicit accurate data from mothers on their birth histories, and

especially past infant mortalities. Older women who had had several

pregnancies (and women who reach menopause have 6 live births apiece, on

the average), sometimes could not recall all of the neo-natal deaths of

their offspring. More frustrating was the failure of some mothers to

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differentiate between live births of infants who died within a day or

two. and full term fetal deaths. We tried to overcome this problem by

asking mothers of perinatal dead offspring, "Did the baby ever cry or

move after it came out?" This helped, but some women persisted in

giving what I felt were rather sloppy answers to this question. My

infant death rate figures in Chapter 12 must be read keeping this

problem in mind. The perinatal rates are accurate. The infant death

rates are accurate within 3 or 4 percent.

Age estimation. Like other hunter-gatherer societies, the Agta

have no notion of their absolute age or year of birth. Nor do they have

any cultural system of reckoning relative age (such as age-grade

sodalities, etc.). One of our most difficult and time consuming tasks,

then, was trying to calculate the ages of everyone in the population.

This is no minor problem, since accurate age estimation is essential to

the demographic analysis of any society. We used three basic tools for

figuring the ages of Agta. These were, first, recording ages based on

our own visual estimation. This, used alone, is an extremely

unreliable method, of course. Secondly, we used a method called rank-

ordering, which involved the calculation of relative ages of

individuals. We did this by rank-ordering sibling-cousin sets by order

of birth from youngest to oldest. There were some problems here

because, though most everyone could give the order of births of the

sibling set to which they belonged, many Agta were vague about where

their first cousins fit in the birth order. It was usually impossible

to trust their ranking of second cousins. This method has been

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described in detail by Rose 1960:42, and has been popularized for

anthropologists by Howell (1979:24-46).

The third method we used is called social triangulation, best

defined by Eder as, "Counting backwards and forwards in annual cycles

from events of known date, such as the outbreak of World War Two, the

arrival of a particular missionary, or other births or marriages already

fixed in this fashion" (1977a:146n). This method was the most useful

for us, and we had special mimeographed schedules for using it to

interview people. The method is described in detail in Scott and Sabagh

(1970), and in Scanland (1976). These three tools were greatly

facilitated by our own records of births, recorded in our journals over

the last 20 years, by the census taken of part of this population by

Vanoverbergh in 1936, listing 476 names (Vanoverbergh 1937-38:139-147),

and by an unpublished census list of 427 Agta names compiled by a local

agent of the Commission of National Integration in 1960 (Casala 1960).

Using these methods of calculation, every member of the population is

given an age in our 1984 census (Headland and Headland 1985).

Defining our population. We ran into the typical problem of

trying to decide who to include and who to exclude from the "Casiguran

Agta population" (and thus from our census). In the beginning, our

question seemed simple, since it is easy to distinguish a Negrito from a

lowland Filipino. But we eventually encountered three types of

individuals who were questionable as to category. These were

individuals of mixed blood, Agta immigrants who spoke a different

language, and Casiguran Agta individuals who had been adopted by

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lowlanders in infancy, and who did not know the Agta culture or

language, and who resided in iowlander communities. We finally worked

out a definition of the "population," which is presented in Appendix A.

(Important discussions on the problem of the field worker defining his

"population" boundaries are discussed in Howell 1979:17 and in Carroll



One of the propositions of my research proposal is that the Agta

are not agriculturalists. A major goal of the field research was,

therefore, to test my hypotheses numbered 4 and 8 (at the end of Chapter

1) that the Agta spent very little time in agriculture for themselves,

and that very little of their food comes from their own fields.

One way to test these two hypotheses was to find and take

measurements of all Agta fields. This is what I did. A good part of

the field time was spent in locating every Agta swidden and wet rice

field, and then measuring both the fields and the crops in them. It

turned out the Agta cultivated 43 swiddens and 5 wet rice fields in

1983. I visited all of these repeatedly throughout the 19 month period

of field study to measure them and to observe their changes as crops

were planted and harvested, and as fields were either replanted or left

to fallow. Maps of these 48 fields are displayed in Appendix E, along

with descriptions of those fields (including names of owners, area

sizes, crops planted, yields, etc.). Map 3 shows the locations of the

43 swiddens, and Map 4 shows the locations of the 5 wet rice fields.

The tables in Chapter 11 display data collected on all these fields. A

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thorough discussion of the data from these fields is presented in that


My method when visiting each field was to first measure the whole

area with a measuring tape, then to measure different parts of the

fields, such as areas cropped in rice, root crops, sugar cane, uncropped

areas, etc. I used a simple protractor for estimating the degrees of

slopes, and I recorded only the general slope of the whole field (not

all the ups and downs of each part of the field).^ The owners took

pride in their fields, and all were glad to show me their fields, and to

answer my questions.

My recorded observations included the biotopes where each swidden

was cleared, types and amounts of cultigens planted before and after

the rice harvest, degree of intercropping, what biotopes the field was

adjacent to, percentage of area planted in rice, whether field had been

weeded, whether rice straw was weeded after the rice harvest, whether

field was replanted in root crops after the rice harvest, what crops

were planted, when and how much, etc.

Using a prepared interview schedule, I elicited information on the

number of members of the swidden work group, whether a Iowlander owned

the land or supervised the work, number of rice varieties planted,

amount of seed of each variety, amount of rice the owner claimed was

harvested, etc. The significant data are presented in Appendix E, and

are discussed in Chapter 11.

My wife and I were able to measure the input/output ratio of one

swidden, swidden no. 17 of Nateng. This was the field closest to our

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house (a 70 minute hike upriver). We recorded the number of

work-man-days put into this swidden, and we measured both by weight and

volume all of the rice as it was harvested. We did this three times,

before drying, after drying and right after it was milled. The history

of this particular swidden is discussed in Chapter 11, and in particular

detail in Appendix E.

One note of caution for future researchers who may want to

replicate this study in the future among this or another Agta

population: I found Agta interviewees less than candid when I tried

interviewing them about their agricultural activities in 1983-84. Many

Agta claimed they had swiddens in 1983 or 1984. But when I followed up

by visiting the sites I found they had either lied outright, or they

were referring to a swidden someone else had made (which they may have

done some labor in), or that they had begun swidden clearing but had

quit before the burning or planting stage. For whatever reason, Agta

chronically exaggerate their involvement in cultivation. Anyone,

therefore, wishing to collect data comparable to mine must himself

visit repeatedly every swidden through the annual cycle, and question

several people, including lowlanders, to be sure who actually made the

field. Reliance on interviews alone will badly skew this sort of data.


One indirect way to test the hypotheses of this study (in Chapter

1) was to find out and record what Agta were eating at their meals, and

where they procured the food they were eating. For example, if we could

know what percent of their starch food was coming from their own fields,

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this would help us to evaluate the importance of agriculture in the Agta

culture. Likewise, we could see indirectly how important wild plant

foods are to the Agta diet, as well as wild game and fish. Such data

should also give us some clues as to the nutritional status of the Agta

diet, something we would like to know as we search for the reasons for

their high death rate and low life expectancy.

Between January and July 1984, my wife and I recorded the food

eaten at 558 Agta meals. No data were taken in February and June.

Our method was to ask Agta, when we visited their camps, what they had

eaten for their previous three meals. It should be noted that we were

recording here what Agta told us they had eaten, not what we saw them

eating. Also, we only recorded their main starch food eaten, and their

main side dish eaten (i.e., their protein or vegetable food eaten with

rice or tubers). I felt this was all we could trust our respondents to

remember. To have asked for more details would have introduced errors

in responses.

The data on Agta meals were coded and computerized using the

dBASEII program. The results of these data are presented in Appendix

C. As the reader may see in that appendix, these data provide another

source of support for my Hypotheses 4 and 8. Only an estimated 4

percent of the Agta starch food came from their own agricultural

fields. There is some bias in my sample, of course, since none of

these data were collected for the months of October and November, when

the Agta were harvesting their swidden rice. Fortunately, we do not

have to depend on this data source to substantiate Hypotheses 4 and 8,

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since we have much stronger data sources for that. We will use these

data on meals merely to lend indirect support to what has already been

proven by the PWD data and the data on Agta fields in Appendix E.


There is one other important data source I must mention here, since

I leaned heavily on this source for the development of my

interpretation and prediction of the past and future evolutionary

trajectory of the Agta population. The three historical chapters in

this thesis drew mainly from this data source. This concerns the

information gleaned from library and archival research.

My search for information on the history of Casiguran began in the

1970s, and expanded in the early '80s as I became convinced that a

proper ecological study of the Agta could not be done without knowing

their past. Most cultural ecological studies of so-called primitive

peoples have been synchronic. This in fact has been a major weakness in

the methodology of cultural ecology. I was determined that my study of

the Agta would be diachronic— a study of the past as well as the present

of the Casiguran ecosystem. Such a study would be mandatory if I were

to attempt to interpret the behavior of the Agta in this ecosystem

today, and to predict their evolutionary trajectory into the 21st


There were two authors who showed me how much one can learn from a

search of obscure archival resources. These are William H. Scott, and

Alex Haley. Haley is famous worldwide for his historical reconstruction

of his own ancestors. It was his methodology, described in Chapter 120

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of his Roots (1976), that inspired me. Scott, a leading historian on

the Philippines, needs no introduction to Philippine specialists. It

was primarily from reading his Discovery of the Igorots (1974), that I

started on my own archival research. As the reader will see from

reading the three historical chapters in this thesis, we can learn a

great deal about the Agta past, and why they live as they do today, from

a search of such library resources.

It is tragic that so much valuable information on Philippine

history was lost during the Second World War. I have searched for

years, for example, for early 20th century Philippine Constabulary

reports on Casiguran. But, as one historian says, all prewar P.C.

reports "are exceedingly rare," most having been lost or destroyed

during WWII (Coats 1968:223). In Casiguran itself, most of the old

town records were destroyed when the municipal hall was leveled by

Typhoon Pitang on September 11, 1970. I spent much time searching for

the records of the now defunct CNI (Commission on National

Integration). Most of these were also "lost," although I was able to

secure copies of most of the CNI records for Casiguran from 1959 to

1962. (Significant quotes from these are presented in Appendices G and

H.) These particular records alone provide strong support for the

"competitive exclusion principle" atwork in the Agta ecosystem, as we

shall see in Chapter 13.

* * *

I have presented in this chapter my six main sources of data, and

how these data were gathered. These included the time allocationdata

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of Agta adults, the recording of main daily activities of one Agta man,

the taking of a census, the measuring of Agta fields, the recording of

food eaten at Agta meals, and data from archival research. There were

of course other sets of data collected during the 19 month study period,

which need not be described here. These included village mapping,

measuring of houses, measuring people's height and weight, counting

rattan poles, weighing wild game, weighingcopra, recording hunting

success rates, recording what Agta were being paid for various work

activities, aerial surveys, and the mapping of old swidden sites on one

river. They included as well data gathered through interviews (eliciting

information on such matters of causes of deaths, histories of homicides,

how/why Agta lost their land, etc.). I also interviewed local

lowlanders, including farmers, rattan buyers, and various town


Presentations of these data, and how I interpret them, will emerge

as one reads through this thesis. Before we get into the data,

however, I present in the next chapter the theoretical foundation upon

which this study builds.

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1. The sampled members of the Machiguenga population Johnson

studied all lived within a 45 minute walk of his field residence.
Johnson was therefore able to use a table of random numbers not only to
choose which individuals would be recorded for each day, buteven the
time of day for which he was to record each person's activity, ideally
"at the instant before they became aware ofthe ethnographers'
presence" (Johnson 1975:303). Johnson was not, however, able to keep
to the ideal of his sampling design, either (1978:89).

2. The difficulties of random sampling by ethnographers, and why

they seldom get truly random samples, are discussed in Honigmann(1970),
Brim and Spain (1974:16-17, 81), Agar (1980:120-26, 132), and Dobbert
1982:220). See also Selltiz et al. (1971:537ff).

3. Of the total Casiguran adult population of 398, we recorded PWD

data at least once from 331. The breakdown of the number of PWDs
collected on each of these 331 adults is as follows:
1 to 5 PWDs: 125 adults
6 to 10 PWDs: 73 adults
11 to 15 PWDs: 54 adults
16 to 20 PWDs: 43 adults
21 to 26 PWDs: 37 adults

4. As of June 1984, the majority of the 609 members of the

Casiguran Agta population, 50.5 percent to be exact (308/609), were born
after we began living with them in March 1962.

5. In commenting on a draft of Chapter 11, Harold Conklin was

critical of my data on swidden slopes (column 3 of Table 11.3), pointing
out how exceedingly difficult it is to estimate degree of slope by "eye"
and a protractor (Conklin, personal correspondence). I concede his
point here, and warn the reader that the data in column 3 should be
taken only as a rough estimate.


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As nature changes under people's influence, people must change

their ways of adapting, resulting in a chain reaction of
change and response. Often before a balance is reached
between nature and a particular form of human culture, new
technological innovations are introduced which again
radically change the picture. Human adaptation is thus a
dynamic process of maintaining a viable relationship to
nature, often culminating in changing environments and
cultures. Whether humankind can maintain its successful
adaptation to nature is not certain. The study of this
interaction between people and the environment [is] sometimes
referred to as cultural ecology (Hiebert 1983:90).

This statement sums up what this study is all about. Most of the

chapters in this thesis will, in fact, focus on the many changes now

occurring in the Casiguran environment, and how the Agta are modifying

their culture in response to these changes. We will see in this thesis

how technological innovations recently introduced into Casiguran are

radically changing the Agta way of life, and how the Agta are attempting

to adjust to these changes. And we will look particularly at the

question of whether the Agta are maintaining a successful adaptation to

the now fast-changing nature in their valley.

Cultural ecology is the termwe will use for the theoretical

framework upon which the arguments in this thesis are built.


Cultural ecology is today firmly established as a major theoretical

school in anthropology. It draws heavily for its theories fromgeneral

biological ecology (which is the study of the interactions between


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living organisms and their environment). Its area of focus is, of

course, much narrower than that of general ecology, since it centers on

human populations in their ecosystems, and especially on how culture

articulates human populations with their environments.

In using the term "cultural ecology" in this thesis, I mean it in

the broader sense as more-or-less synonymous with what some call

"ecological anthropology." Many writers use the terms this way, while

some prefer one term over the other, even when talking about the same

thing. Some anthropologists (e.g., Ellen 1982:281) equate "cultural

ecology" solely with the work of Steward and his immediate followers,

with everything since then being "ecological anthropology" (see Vayda

and McCay 1975:294). Other ecologically oriented anthropologists,

however, argue that everything we are doing today is still "cultural

ecology," because we have not yet reached a point of having a unified

discipline containing a holistic view of the totality of human ecology.

It would be presumptuous, some say, for us to call our discipline, at

this early stage, "ecological anthropology."

A study claiming to be "ecological anthropology" means that the

research has drawn much more heavily from the biological sciences than I

do here. The term implies the inclusion of physiological, not just

cultural, adaptation to human stresses, as well as in-depth analyses of

population genetics, human morphology, nutrition and epidemiology.

Though I touch on some of these aspects in this thesis, my focus is

limited mostly to cultural change, and I make no attempt here to handle

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all the biological variables in the Casiguran ecosystem which may affect

the humans in it.

Cultural ecology, then, refers to the analyses of the relationships

between four components in a human ecosystem. Orlove (1980) best

defines these as population dynamics, social organization, culture, and

environment, with systems of production often providing the important

links between these. In this subfield of anthropology, certain basic

premises are taken as givens, such as that humans are a part of nature,

not separate from it, and are integrated into ecosystems just as are

other animals. Further, humans are seen as influenced by their

environment, and in turn influence it. All this is especially obvious

in small-scale societies like the Agta. Thus, groups like the Agta

cannot be fully understood without looking at them through ecological

models. Finally, cultural behavior is seen in cultural ecology models

as the major device humans use to survive in, adapt to, and exploit

successfully their environment.

I argue here, then, that if the Agta are ever to be understood, one

must include ecological models in his analysis. As Keesing has stated,

"To understand change . . . we must see cultures as elements in complex

cybernetic systems of humans-in-environments" (1974:91). Using

cultural ecology as a springboard, then, the present thesis will focus

on an analysis of the intersystemic change going on today in the Agta

culture and environment, and the present strategy the Agta themselves

are using to try to adapt to these changes.

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If one wants to come to an understanding of a culture such as that

of the Agta, one must investigate Orlove's four components, as well as

the systems of production which link them. It is also important, since

humans are a part of their ecosystems, to look at the general processes

of bioecology. Finally, it is necessary to look for adaptive behavior

in human groups, since at least some of a people's behavior is an

adaptive response to environment, and especially to environmental

change.^ We will take a look at all of these aspects in this thesis,

and we will especially see just how the Agta's behavior in the 1980s is

in response to the changes in their environment.

Now, this is not to say that cultural ecology provides a complete

explanation for human culture. Since cultures are not merely

adaptations to ecological pressures, other structuralist models may also

explain certain aspects of culture. Culture is more than just

utilitarian activity (Sahlins 1976), and humans do manifest behavior for

ideological as well as material reasons (Keesing 1981:168). Thus,

technoenvironmental influences, viewed apart from cultural ideology and

structural prescriptions, are insufficient to account for all the

complex varieties found in human societies (Netting 1977:94). Symbolic

traditions also play a role in the development of the cultures we see

around the world today. Nevertheless, to attempt to explain human

culture without taking account of the inter-systemic interplay between

man and his ecosystem is to take a shortsighted view.

I am not, then, attempting in this thesis to provide purely

reductionistic explanations for Agta culture. That is, I am not

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proposing that Agta behavior could or should be explained as merely the

result of ecological restraints, or infracultural biological processes

(cf. Johnson 1982:18). The Agta way of life cannot be satisfactorily

explained with a materialist framework alone. Idealistic aspects of

culture must be recognized, as well, in explaining Agta behavior. As

Meighan (1982:92-93) has suggested for the native populations of

southern California during the late prehistoric period, the reason they

did not adopt agriculture may have been because of their world view and

value system. Meighan rightly questions the unicausal materialist

explanations often given for the rejection of agriculture by these

Indians. For him the reasons are as much spiritual and psychological as

they are environmental.

At the same time, however, my own personal bias, based largely on a

22 year period of intense personal interaction with the Agta, is that

ecological constraints have a heavy influence on Agta behavior. For

this reason, I have chosen cultural ecology as the best theoretical

model for viewing and interpreting the Agta. As my early mentor Kenneth

Pike has recently pointed out, theory is like a window. It provides us

with a particular view of the phenomena we are trying to understand.

Pike argues that the same phenomena can be viewed through two or more

different windows (or theories), showing different aspects of a pattern.


A theory must be simpler than reality if it is to be helpful.

It attempts to strip away from attention those items which are
not important to the observer ^t the moment. In this way it
helps obtain answers to particular questions on a narrow
front by simplifying the task of investigation . . . A

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scientific theory is good only if it leaves out wisely those

materials which are relevant to other questions but not to
those immediately being answered (Pike 1982:5-6, emphases

It should be further noted, as well, that ecological models do not

work equally well for analyses of all cultures. Such models are not

easily applied to complex societies. A few cultural ecology studies

have been done on such societies (e.g. Steward 1955:210ff, Geertz 1963,

Bennett 1969, and Gmelch 1977), and Britan and Denich (1976) argue that

it can be done. But most such studies have been done on small-scale

groups, where the conditional forces are fewer and more easily seen.

In macroscopic structures, such forces as stratification, market

systems, and international politics intervene between people and

resource allocations, and the systems approach has had difficulties

handling all the forces in such societies, and especially industrial

societies (Britan and Denich 1976:57, Thompson 1977:298; see also

arguments in Winterhalder and Smith 1981:ix-x, and Lee 1969a:49-50). As

Makridakis points out (1977:8, cited in Bargatzky 1984:402-03), the

direction of the ecological transition (i.e., the increasing use of

energy by humans) also leads towards increasing independence of

environmental fluctuations. For small groups, however, and especially

for very small groups like Agta foragers, who live immersed in and

dependent on their immediate environment, cultural ecology is a powerful

tool of analysis.

For this reason, the present research sought to investigate the

Agta system through a study of the four above-mentioned components;

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that is, by looking at the Agta culture, social organization, population

dynamics, and environment, and especially at the economic links between

these. The study also uses three principles taken from general

bioecology as heuristic devices for helping to explain Agta behavior in

the 1980s. These are symbiosis, niche, and competitive exclusion.


This study accepts, then, the premise of cultural ecology, that

there is a direct relationship between environment and culture. It is

especially true that, for small-scale societies like the Agta, much of

the culture revolves around food acquisition. "Food . . . is the focus

of economic life among primitive bands . . . Food is the major

enterprise . . . it is a direct confrontation of man with nature”

(Service 1966:9).

In the 1960s I formed an opinion from my readings in anthropology

that the heart of a people's culture was to be found in their religion.

Religion was said to have a causal influence on all other parts of

culture, a popular idea in the anthropology of the 1950s. I have

since rejected that view. I now, like Steward and Murphy, "see the key

to much of human culture in food-getting activities" (Murphy 1981:175;

see also Steward 1977). In short, it is economics which helps to

explain so much of the motivating force of human sociocultural


A focus on economics, therefore, can clarify a good portion of the

motivating force of human sociocultural behavior among groups such as

the Agta. It is for this reason that the field research concentrated so

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heavily on the investigation of Agta subsistence production; such

behavior is seen as the key for understanding Agta culture. The

economic focus in this thesis allows interconnection and investigation

of the four components of cultural ecological theory, as outlined by

Orlove. From this structure the actual means of Agta subsistence change

may be characterized, quantified, and evaluated.

This study follows Cook's working definition of economy as

" a human population's activity in which its members interact

with their physical and social environment in the calculated attempt to

acquire, directly or indirectly, a living" (1973:810). This thesis

will focus both on the substantivist's sense of 'economics' as patterns

of production, exchange and consumption of goods and services in a

society, and on the formalist's sense of maximization, or rational


The difference between the substantivist and formalist meanings of

economics are crystallized in Polanyi (1968:139-40). Firth gives a good

formalist definition which is workable outside of a market economy,

something we need if we are to look at Agta economy through formalist

models: "... the allocation of scarce, available resources between

realizable human wants, with the recognition that alternatives are

possible in each sphere" (1951:125). This helps us to understand how

the Agta are, indeed, "economic men," practicing maximization just as

much as any industrialist (though not with the goal of capital

accumulation), as they live in and exploit their ecosystem.

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Turning to the concept of ecosystem, in this study we will follow

Hardesty's definition of the term, where he defines it as "an

interacting group of plants and animals, along with their nonliving

environment" (1977:289). I want to emphasize that in my concept of a

human occupied ecosystem, the interdependent components include not only

such factors as demography, epidemiology, food, climate, etc., but also

religion, ideology, history, politics and, especially, economics, all

interacting together with the biotic and abiotic environment. I hope I

have made clear here that in my definition of 'ecosystem' that these

latter components in the Agta culture are, on the broader level,


Economics, then, is an important component of the Casiguran

ecosystem. In human populations, economic activity has much to do with

the movement of energy; and in Orlove's model of cultural ecology it is

systems of production which often provide the important links between

other components in ecosystems occupied and manipulated by humans. In

Cook's above definition of economics, one important semantic component

includes the way humans interact with their environment in their

attempt to make a living. That is why economics is viewed in this

study as a subsystem of the ecosystem. (Cook has elsewhere discussed

the problems in relating economics and ecology [1973:810, 846ff].)

Using, then, concepts developed in both cultural ecology and

economic anthropology, I will attempt in this thesis to answer the two

basic questions proposed in the introductory chapter: What are the Agta

doing for a living today? and Why don't they switch to better economic

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alternatives, such as agriculture? I will also provide my answers to

the series of questions posed by several anthropologists, already

mentioned in the Introduction: Just what do hunters do for a living?

How do they maintain themselves in a changing environment? How do they

make a living when their basic food source is depleted? Why do these

people persist in a 'primitive' foraging life style? What niches do

they fill in an environment with dominant populations which could easily

push them out?


The model I will build in this thesis to explain Agta culture rests

squarely on the view that the Agta, and all humans, "primitive" or

otherwise, are what Schneider (1974) calls Economic Men. That is, the

Agta, as much as any people in the industrialized world, are maximizing

individuals— people who make rational decisions in such a way as to

receive maximum satisfaction with minimum expenditure. This is the key

to understanding present-day Agta behavior, which appears to so many

outsiders as irrational.

In this thesis, 'maximization' is used in the broader sense used by

Burling (1968:180) as referring to the seeking of satisfaction (e.g.,

leisure or good human relations, which are Agta goals), not merely in

the narrow sense of seeking cash, output, or utility.

It is a basic presupposition of this thesis that the Agta are not

ignorant, lazy, or roaming around the jungles without rhyme or reason.

Neither are they at some earlier, less advanced stage of evolutionary

development. It is necessary that I emphasize this point, because there

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is a very popular myth, a myth even held by some anthropologists, and

especially adhered to by almost everyone who is acquainted with

Negritos, that these foraging types of people are irrational primitives,

stubbornly clinging to an outmoded way of life. This stereotyped view

of Philippine Negritos is typically held to by Filipinos and foreigners

alike, including many school teachers, missionaries, change agents, and

government officials. I agree with Alland's statement, that "for too

long some anthropologists, and many laymen, particularly those involved

in planned change, have been overly willing to assume that major aspects

of indigenous behavior are somehow maladaptive if not queer" (1975:67).

Vayda et al. summarize this view as follows:

A common but possibly now waning view portrays rural and

tribal people as unquestioning traditionalists, lacking in
initiative and decision-making capabilities, kept from modern
technology either by superstition and ignorance or by
cultural barriers, docile prisoners of age-old customs and
magical or mystical ideas that make them use their land
irrationally and inefficiently . . . many policy-makers,
developers, and researchers still subscribe to [this view]

My view of the Agta as economic maximizers is a major proposition

of the present thesis (see Proposition 6 in Chapter 1). Humans in all

societies are constantly making decisions which involve judging a number

of elements. These elements must be balanced one against another in such

a way as to choose one or more goals and to rank these goals in terms of

some scheme of priorities. It can be a matter of choosing the morally

proper course of action, judging the aesthetic value of objects, or

picking the functionally best arrowhead. When the commitment of

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resources (either material resources, energy, labor, capital, or time)

is involved--which occurs, for example, when a moral judgment is being

put into action— then decisions must be made as to how to allocate the

resources in order to achieve the goals. There may be moral judgments

involved in the process of choosing resources to commit and how to

commit them (for example, should I bribe an official), as well as

practical considerations of using the resources most effectively.

Economic behavior in the Formalist view is then simply that portion

of decision making which deals with how to allocate resources to

minimize expense (including moral costs, etc.), and to maximize

satisfaction in terms of the chosen goals.

This mini-max hypothesis in economics assumes that people

everywhere are capable of using rationality in making decisions. This

does not assume that the outcome is "the most rational" by some

objective criteria, however, since lack of information and various

other constraints, and simple mistakes, prevent human action from being

"perfect." This hypothesis would assume this to always be true.

"Economizing," then, is a hypothesis about human decision making.

It can be used as a heuristic device as an assumption which can help us

understand decisions and actions. In this form, it does not need to be

"proven." Rather, economic analysis takes the goals to be achieved as

givens. It is not concerned with why they are valued, simply with how

they are ranked.

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Adaptation is one of the major foci of interest in cultural

ecology (Aliand 1975, Moran 1979, Frisancho 1979, Jochim 1981:12-20,

Bennett 1969). My interest in this study is limited to cultural

adaptation and, specifically, Agta cultural adaptive strategies, not on

genetic or physiological adaptations.

I hope to show in this thesis, then, how the Agta are using their

culture to attempt to adapt to their fast-changing environment. I will

also argue that the Agta reject agriculture not because they are too

'primitive' or 'backward,' but for sound economic reasons, as well as

because of certain obstacles in theirecosystem which preclude their

chance of succeeding in that mode of subsistence.

Adaptation may be defined here as ecological success. This

"success," or lack thereof, may be determined for any one group by the

measurement of three criteria: demographic, energetic, and nutritional.

But the final, firm measure of adaptation— the bottom line— would be

fitness (i.e., reproductive success). The other three criteria, of

course, are the intermediate components which lead to fitness, or lack

of it. (See Hardesty 1977:21-22, and Moran 1979:9 for details.)

The data on Agta nutrition is weak; Appendix C on Agta food, and

Table 12.16 on Agta body weights provide indirect circumstantial

evidence that the Agta are chronically undernourished. My data on Agta

energy capture show it to be minimal, at best (see Table 9.2). My

demographic data, presented in Chapter 12, provide the strongest

evidence that the Agta are not presently adapting to their changing

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ecosystem: The "bottom line" shows lack of reproductive success:

though the Agta have a very high birth rate, their death rate is

higher, and the population is neither stable nor stationary. The

evidence is obvious: the Casiguran Agta are today not coping

successfully with the new problems imposed on them by their changed

ecosystem. They are not, at present, "ecologically successful." It is

my goal in this thesis to show why this is so.

This does not mean the Agta do not have an adaptive strategy today.

Being "economic men," they of course do. The problem is that,with the

present rush of change in their ecosystem, their best economic options

are not quite efficient enough to keep them above the threshold of what

we may call "adaptation." We may define that threshold here as having a

birth rate which is higher than their death rate. This they do not

have. (There were 184 live births and 193 deaths in the population

during the seven years following June 1977.)


Before we leave the topic of adaptation, I should comment on a

recent criticism of its use in cultural ecology. In a recent paper

titled "Culture, Environment, and the Ills of Adaptationism," Thomas

Bargatzky (1984) attacks the use of the concept in current theory. As

I understand Bargatzky, he is not attacking the idea of adaptation, but

"adaptationism," which is not quite the same thing. This author is

attacking what others have called "neofunctionalism." The followers of

this approach see specific aspects of culture in terms of the functions

they serve in adapting local populations to their environments. There

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is an emphasis in the neofunctionalist view on an assumed equilibrium

for prehistoric populations. (See Orlove [1980:240-45] for a review of

this school.) I am not a follower of this school of thought (though I

use some of its concepts), and I have written critically of it elsewhere

(Headland 1984b). I still find the concept of adaptation a useful

heuristic device. In contrast to Bargatzky, I believe we can refer to

a particular human group, such as a hunter-gatherer population, as

adapted or not adapted. I remind the reader that I am using ecological

concepts here by analogy, not literally.

Neofunctionalist studies tend to be synchronic, and tend to view

small tribal populations as isolated. My study of the Agta is heavily

diachronic, with three chapters of this thesis given to a summary of

their history, and in this chapter, and in Chapter 6, I argue strongly

against the view that prehistoric tribal groups lived in isolation.

Neofunctionalists also argue for static equilibrium models for primitive

peoples, with balance and symmetry between culture and resources (Ellen

1982:186). They see customs which others would call irrational as

having some significant ecological function for keeping people in

balance with nature. "It is not difficult, with a little ingenuity, to

describe the most seemingly pointless, wasteful or exotic cultural

practice as rational or adaptive in some way. . . . But simply because a

system functions it does not make it adaptive" (ibid.:194). The Agta

have customs which are irrational and maladaptive, such as chronic

alcoholism, and one of the highest documented homicide rates in the

world. If the Agta would reject just these two customs this would

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possibly bring their population quickly across the threshold from

maladaptation to adaptation.

I reject the neofunctionalist myth which holds that indigenous or

prehistoric peoples lived in near-perfect equilibrium with their

environments, an almost ideal state with nature. The popularization of

this myth probably can be traced to Rappaport's (1968) classic work

which attempts to demonstrate how the religion and warfare of a tribe of

New Guinea highlanders kept them in ecological balance with their

environment. Rappaport's thesis, based on 11 months of fieldwork, has

been heavily criticized; yet it continues to be taught as ’'truth" in

many undergraduate anthropology courses m the United States. Myths,

whether religious or anthropological, once established seem to

perpetuate themselves. This even when the originator himself of the

myth says, "I [no longer] feel very defensive about the original

interpretation" (Rappaport 1982:303).

The tendency in cultural ecology to describe traditional tribal

systems with negative feedback mechanisms, as if they were static and in

equilibrium, while at the same time neglecting to recognize that there

are often positive feedback mechanisms in such groups which are

dysfunctional, or which precipitate dynamic change, is unfortunate. As

the reader will see, the present thesis does not go in that direction.

Moran (1979:58), as well as others, has suggested that one way to

overcome the weakness caused by the tendency towards static equilibrium

models is to study how populations adapt to stress. This is precisely

the goal of the present study.

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The Agta are fully as "modern" as are other humans. What is

interesting is that they look 'primitive.'’ This is because of the

unique niche they fill in their ecosystem. The Agta practice a basic

production type which may be best called "commercial hunting and


When I talk about a basic production type, I am borrowing a term

from the neofunctionalists, who in turn borrowed the concept from Marx's

concept of "modes of production." Basic production types refer to a

concept different from the neoevolutionists' levels of cultural

evolution, such as Service's (1971) band-tribe-chiefdom-state levels.

Such 'types' refer, rather, to different styles of livelihood, such as

hunter-gatherers, swidden cultivators, pastoralists, wet rice farmers,

etc. The concept is similar to Steward's (1955:89, 91) "culture type,"

where Steward sees groups in historically independent areas with similar

"cores" and at similar "levels of sociocultural integration," as being

of one "culture type." Such groups, he emphasizes, "share similar

structural patterns rather than cultural content" (ibid.:85).

Commercial hunter-gatherers, a term coined by Hayden (1981:346),

belong to one of those types. These groups are, in contrast to

traditional hunter-gatherers, characterized as being heavily dependent

on bartered foods, trading meat, furs, forest products, or labor for

starch foods. In Chapter 13 I will document how general this basic

production type is among hunters all over the world. Many of the groups

practicing this production type of subsistence receive some food from

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governments or missions, or do minimal cultivation or pastoralism.

However, they are easily recognized as different from other basic

production types (e.g., swidden farmers, pastoralists, etc.) in that

"their relationship to their environment continues to be predatory and

opportunistic" (Keesing 1981:512), and they practice a unique "foraging

mode of production" (Lee 1981). Drawing from Lee, I describe here this

unique mode in some detail.

Are the Agta hunter-gatherers? When I refer in this thesis to the

Agta as "hunter-gatherers" or as "foragers," the question arises as to

whether they should be included in this basic production type. After

all, Philippine Negritos were excluded from this category at the Man the

Hunter Conference in Chicago in 1966, because "they practice at least a

modicum of agriculture and thus fall outside the range of our discussion

[sic]" (Murdock 1968:17). I argue here, however, that the Agta indeed

belong in the hunter-gatherer category, even though they nowadays eat

mostly rice, and most of them have planted crops for themselves at one

time or another.

Some people have defined hunter-gatherer peoples as those which eat

no domestic foods (Coon 1971:xvii), or who practice strict "Pleis­

tocene economies— no metal, firearms, dogs, or contact with non-hunting

cultures" (Lee and DeVore 1968:4), or who live in patrilocal bands

(Service 1971), or who practice no agriculture of any kind (Murdock

1968:15). As Lee and DeVore have stressed (op. cit.), such ideal

definitions would effectively eliminate most, if not all, of the

foraging-type peoples described over the last century as "hunter-

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gatherers." It is my view that most of the world's hunter-gatherer

societies have been involved for hundreds of years in elementary types

of food production to a much greater degree than most anthropologists

have allowed for. Campbell (1965) provides suggestive evidence that

even prehistoric Australian Aborigines practiced various types of simple

plant cultivation (including burning, seed planting, replanting of wild

yam tops, fertilization, and irrigation).

Even Lee himself discovered, when he returned for a second trip to

visit the !Kung Bushmen (earlier popularized through Lee's writings as

the classic example of 'real' hunter-gatherers), that "the !Kung were

no strangers to agricultureand pastoralism"(Lee 1979a:409). Lee now

admits, in fact, that the earlier 'pristine nature' view of the !Kung as

full-time hunter-gatherers, with no agriculture or livestock, is

incorrect (ibid.). Lee found that the reason the !Kung were doing no

planting at the time of his first visit in 1963-64 was because of a

drought, not because they were 'pristine.' When he returned for a

second period of field study in 1967-69 he found that 51 percent of the

men planted fields (ibid.; see also Lee 1976:18; 1981:16). This is a

figure much higher than the Agta's, which was 24 percent in 1983 (see

Table 10.7).

Wiessner describes, too, how some extremely acculturated !Kung

groups will move back to what appears to the outsider to be a

completely unacculturated state, which she says is a "common

occurrence" among them (1977:xx). She says, "It was impossible

... to infer anything about degree of acculturation of a family from

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current lifestyle" (ibid.). This potential misinterpretation was the

trap Lee fell into in his earlier fieldwork, and which unfortunately

precipitated a myth, still reoccurring in the anthropological

literature today (e.g., Hayden 1981:418), of the !Kung as the archetype

example of 'real' hunter-gatherers. Gordon states the problem clearly:

"It is not that Lee is wrong in his representation of reality. Indeed

he has shown himself to be quite flexible on the issue of contact and

interaction . . . the problem lies in how others interpret Lee's

statements" (1984:219).

When we read Silberbauer's (1981) description of the neighboring

G/wi Bushmen we are tempted to characterize these people as close to a

true archetype of 'real' hunter-gatherers. Brooks, however, in his

(1982) review of Silberbauer's (1980) book, casts doubt on

Silberbauer's description of the G/wi as extremely isolated and

independent, and living only by hunting and gathering. In a personal

letter, Brooks referred me to a statement made by Tanaka that the

G/wi— the same G/wi only a yearafter the period represented by

Silberbauer's study— "do keep herds of goats and donkeys" (Tanaka

1976:100). Brooks' argument is that the G/wi were not the 'pure'

hunter-gatherers Silberbauer paints them up to be. Other authors also

question Silberbauer's depiction of the G/wi as isolated. Wilmsen

says, for example,

Accumulating evidence overwhelmingly renders obsolete any

thought of San [Bushmen] isolation even before European
colonial intrusions into their native arenas. Early Iron Age
agropastoralist economies were active in all parts of the

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Kalahari and its surroundings at least for the past

millennium. . . . To ignore this is illusion (1983:17).

Schrire (1980), who believes that Bushmen have been practicing

sporadic pastoralism for hundreds of years, reviews a good deal of

evidence which contradicts any myths about pure hunter-gatherers

anywhere in southern Africa. She is supported by an argument by Denbow,

who presents evidence "showing that foragers and food producers have

been enmeshed in networks of interaction and exchange for 1,000 years

longer than was previously suspected. Over 1,200 years ago, these

networks reached into the heartof the Dobe [i.e., !Kung] area"

(1984:178). Finally, the most convincing evidence for long time

symbiotic trade between foragers and food producers in the Kalahari

comes from Gordon (1984). After reading Gordon's startling descriptions

of the intense interactions between African herders and Kalahari Bushmen

in the last hundred years, it is hard for me to believe the groups

described by Silberbauer (or Tanaka) were as isolated and 'untouched' as

they seemed to have thought.

In this thesis, then, the terms 'hunter-gatherers,' or 'foragers,'

are not limited to those peoples who have no acquaintance with

agriculture, or who eat only wild foods. Rather, the terms are meant

here to refer to a category of peoples who practice a basic production

type or, in Marxist terminology, a particular "mode of production."

For this thesis, I prefer to thinkof hunter-gatherers in the sense

defined by Leacock and Lee (1982:4, 7-9). As these authors emphasize,

the salient characteristics which define band-level foragers around the

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world is not their mode of subsistence (i.e., hunting, fishing,

gathering, lack of agriculture). Rather, it is their mode of

production. The latter emphasizes the relationships involved in making

a living.

Drawing from Marxist theory, Lee (1981) has emphasized that there

is a "foraging mode of production." In his description of this mode,

Lee's definition of band foragers is superior to the rather sterile

earlier definitions cited above, because it focuses on the salient

characteristics of these small-scale societies which are found around

the world. These characteristics set these societies, including the

Agta, off from other small groups such as swidden farmers. These salient

characteristics are three: sharing, communal ownership (of land and

resources), and egalitarian political relations. Lee calls these the

'key' to the foraging mode of production (ibid.:17).

Leacock and Lee (1982:8) outline a preliminary list of six core

features that characterize the 'relations of production' among foragers.

These are listed here because all six are prevalent among the Agta, as

well as among other foraging societies with whom the Agta will be

compared in Chapter 13. These features are: collective ownership of

the means of production (i.e., land and resources); the right of

reciprocal access to resources of others through marriage ties and

visiting; little emphasis on accumulation of food or goods; access of

all to the 'forces of production' (e.g., tools, labor, resources,

knowledge, skill, and land); easy lending and borrowing of individually

'owned' tools; and total sharing within the camp and with visitors (what

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Sahlins [1972] calls 'generalized reciprocity'). This last feature means

that among band-level hunter-gatherer societies, and in particular among

the Agta, "No one goes hungry if there is food in the camp" (ibid.).^

Thus, the chief characteristic of such societies is that they

practice what Lee calls a foraging mode of production. It is a political

component in these societies— their relations of production— which make

them distinctive, not their forces of production. The key to the

foraging mode of production, says Lee, is "the fact of sharing and

egalitarianism. . . . Hunting and gathering as productive forces are

important; but they are not the primary factors in themselves [for

defining hunter-gatherers]. The political aspect is the primary

component" (1981:17; see also Meillassoux 1973).


In this thesis I will refer often to three particular ecological

principles. I use these as heuristic devices for better explaining Agta

behavior, and to help us to understand better the ecological

restrictions under which the Agta are forced to operate. I want to

emphasize at the outset here that I use these principles, and other

ecological concepts, by analogy. The reader is warned not to interpret

their use to the more strict literal definitions or limitations of

biology. The use of biological analogies for social phenomena is hardly

a new idea, and I will use them here in that way. (See Bennett

[1976:167-70] for details.) The three principles I will refer to in

other chapters are symbiosis, competitive exclusion, and niche. These

will be used to illustrate how the cultural activity of the Agta is

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quite logical, and not irrational, given the severe restrictive

pressures under which they find themselves in the 1980s. They will be

especially helpful in answering the two central questions of the

thesis, What are the Agta doing for a living today, and Why do they

persist in their present economic mode of production instead of

switching to agriculture?

Symbiosis. There are many small human groups found throughout the

world who follow the particular basic production type I call here

"commercial hunter-gatherers." I will refer to several of these groups,

and show how similar their "mode of production" is to the Agta, in

Chapter 13. All of these groups live in intense symbiotic

relationships with dominant neighboring populations, usually farmers,

sometimes pastoralists. This bioecological principle has proved very

useful for explaining relationships between two such human populations,

since it was first used by Barth (1956) in this way. Jean Peterson

(1978a, 1978b) used the concept to describe the interethnic trade

relationships between the Palanan Agta and their lowland farming

neighbors in the 1960s.

Symbiosis is often, generally defined as referring to beneficial

interdependent interrelationships between two dissimilar organisms or

populations such that one cannot get along without the other (e.g.

Hutchinson 1978). Most ecologists, however, use the term symbiosis to

refer to all types of relationships between organisms, whether

beneficial or not (e.g., Odum 1971:213). Sutton and Harmon (1973:184),

for example, outline seven types of symbiosis, only one of which is

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mutualism. The other six are cooperation, commensalism, amensalism,

competition, predation,and parasitism. Addicott (1984) outlines even

more types of symbiosis,including direct versus indirect. The term

symbiosis is preferred in this thesis, rather than mutualism, as the

Agta/non-Agtainteractions are not always of mutual benefit and, in

fact, as will become clear in subsequent chapters, any of the types may

occur at times.

As wewill see, the Agta have been involved in intense symbiotic

relationships with non-Agta farmers for many hundreds of years. Today

the relationship is usually 'mutualistic', where it has evolved into a

highly institutionalized patron-client relationship between an Agta

family and their, often serial, farmer trading partners. In the Agta

andlowland languages south of Palanan the term forthis relationship

is called ahibay, and in those languages in Palanan and north, ibay.

These symbiotic interactions between the two dissimilar

populations, Agta hunters and lowland farmers, have not always been

mutualistic. In previous centuries, and today, the relationships have

shifted back and forth between different bands and individual families

to degrees of competition, commensalism, amensalism, or even predation.

In prehispanic times 'cooperation', rather than mutualism, may have

been the norm for some bands. That is, the interaction was optional

for both populations. For other bands, there were and are periods of

competitive symbiosis (when both populations suffer), and periods of

predatory symbiosis (when one population benefits at the expense of the

other). Today the Agta are usually the ones to suffer. During the

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Spanish periods it was usually the lowlanders, as we will see in Chapter

7. And as more and more immigrants flood into the Casiguran area, I

sense that the symbiosis is already moving from one which was usually

mutualistic to one of commensalism (where the Agta continue to benefit

from the lowlanders, but the lowlanders are unaffected by the Agta), and

even to a relationship of amensalism (where the Agta are inhibited by

the lowlanders, but the lowlanders are unaffected by the Agta). (See

button and Harmon [1973:184] for definitions of types of symbiosis

followed in this thesis; and compare Odum's definitions [1971:211, 213],

which are similar.)

Both the Agta and the non-Agta lowland farmers who interact with

them are skilled at exploiting this system for their own benefit. The

Agta have come to rely on it moreand more for providing their needs,

as their natural resources have dwindled since WWII. The neighboring

farmers depend on the Agta as well, as a cheap labor resource and for

providing them with forest products and wild meat protein (the later now

increasingly scarce). I argue in this thesis that the Agta have moved

into this dependent, serf-like relationship with the lowland farmers,

rather than becoming farmers themselves, for sound ecological reasons.

The competitive exclusion principle. In attempting to answer the

second major question of this thesis, why the Agta don't take up

sedentary agriculture, I will use a second principle, called

"competitive exclusion." This principle will help us to see how the

Agta are actually locked out of pursuing this alternative life style.

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The competitive exclusion principle (hereafter CEP) is a term first

coined in ecological theory by Hardin (1960), though the concept goes

back to Darwin. The concept is sometimes referred to in biology as

Gause^s principle, after the Russian biologist G. F. Gause (1934), one

of the pioneer investigators of competition. Hardin defines the CEP

simply as, "Complete competitors cannot coexist." Sutton and Harmon

explain it thus: "If two populations compete for some resource that is

necessary for the survival of each and is in short supply, one of the

populations will be eliminated" (1973:280). (See Schoener 1982 for a

most recent summary of the debates on competitive exclusion theory in


Much experimental work has been carried out which substantiates

this principle. One of the most widely cited examples is that of a

series of experiments by Thomas Park (1948) and his associates in the

1940s. Experimenting with two species of the Tribolium flour beetle,

they found that both populations could live indefinitely in a sealed

jar of flour, as long as they were kept in separate jars. But whenever

they were placed together in this homogeneous little universe, one of

the species was always eliminated sooner or later (depending on the

temperature and humidity of the jar), while the other continued to


The ecological literature is filled with many other such

investigations of a variety of animals and plants, both in the

laboratory and in nature, with similar results. In natural ecosystems,

however, in contrast to laboratory experiments, the observed competition

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is much more complex, and in the majority of the examples in the

literature the dominant population denies the weaker population access

to some particular resource. The weaker population is displaced from

its niche (not necessarily its habitat)., but is not usually starved out

of existence. Again, this is a close analogy of what is happening to

the weak Agta population. They are precluded from moving into an

agricultural niche in their ecosystem because the lowlanders will not

allow them access to one scarce resource, arable land.

Biologists usually apply the principle to competition between

different species, rather than within the same species. However, the

principle is applied as well to intraspecific competition (Sutton and

Harmon 1973:189, 199-200), and biologists agree that the stiffest

competition occurs within the same species. For example, a corn plant

competes for nutrients more intensely with a neighboring corn plant than

it does with any weed (Billings 1970:87, cited in Carneiro 1978:209).

Hardin notes, for example, that

As a species becomes increasingly 'successful,' its struggle

for existence ceases to be one of struggle with the physical
environment or with other species and comes to be almost
exclusively competition with its own kind (1961:220, cited in
Carneiro 1978:209).

Ricklefs (1979:247ff) discusses intraspecific competition in some

detail, showing how it leads to the .formation of different social groups

in animals and how it may lead to the evolution of cooperation and

specialization of function. This is, of course, exactly the type of

relationship which evolved between the Agta and non-Agta populations

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after they began pressing on each other's niches at least a thousand

years ago.

Most biologists, however, when they speak of competition within a

species, are talking about competition among individuals within the

same population. Keeping in mind that I am applying these principles by

analogy, I find that the models developed by bioecologists of

interspecies competition are much more analogous to the Agta-lowlander

populations than are those of intraspecific competition. When

ecologists discuss the relationships between two closely related species

of the same genus of chipmunk in the same habitat (Heller and Gates

1971), for example, the resulting competition and niche displacement of

the stronger population by the weaker is more similar to Agta

displacement by lowlanders than are their discussions of intraspecies


Some readers may object to my use of a principle usually used for

describing competition between different species for studying conflict

between two Homo sapiens groups. I remind those readers that the

principle used in biological science, though less often, for

competition within the same species, that it does apply to competing

groups of the same species, and that I am using the concept by analogy,

not directly.

Though biologists apply intraspecific competition models to Homo

sapiens (e.g., Hardin 1961, as cited in Sutton and Harmon 1973:200), as

well as to other organisms, it is curious to note that, in contrast to

the other two principles presented here, the CEP has not been applied

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to the study of humans by cultural anthropologists. (Carneiro, to be

mentioned below, is the only exception I know of to this.) X find this

surprising, since this principle has, for me, been a powerful heuristic

device for helping me tounderstand not only the Agta, but the many

other marginal foraging societies found in our world today.

Several physical anthropologists have invoked the concept in

regard to the question of whether more than one species of

Australopithecus existed at one time, and how these hominids could have

avoided competition fatal to one or the other. (Most of these

discussions are summarized in Winterhalder 1980. See also Birdsell

1972:302-09, and Howells 1973:25.)

Two cultural anthropologists, in a joint paper (Jacobsen and Eighmy

1980), make brief mention of the CEP as a reason horses displaced dogs

as traction animals among the 18th century Plains Indians. These

authors neither define the term nor explain their use of it, nor use it

to explaincompetition between human groups. Barth's classic (1956)

paper describes symbiotic relationships between three human groups in

North Pakistan, in which we see vividly the CEP at work. But Barth does

not explicitly relate his description to any ecological concept of

competition, not even in his 1964 paper which has the term "competition11

in the title, and which makes one vague remark about "processes of

exclusion of persons from their exploitation" in the text (1964:18).

In a recent paper, Berkes claims to analyze recent controversies

between commercial fishermen and sport fishermen in Lake Erie "in terms

of models of interspecific competition used in animal ecology"

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(1984:413). But he fails to apply the concept. He refers to ecological

competition, but does not define what he means. He makes no reference

to the CEP, nor does he cite Gause or Hardin. And he concludes that the

Lake Erie conflict may be of cultural rather than of ecological origin.

Thomas Love (1977) does refer to and define Gause's (1934)

principle in his description of the competition between two farmer

groups in Almond Valley, California in the 1970s, and his case study is

definitely an example of the CEP in action between these two human

populations. But his emphasis is on niche theory in cultural

anthropology, and he does not carry through with the implications of

Gause's principle, nor does he mention the term -CEP in his paper

(though Eighmy and Jacobsen [1980:286] use the term once, in passing,

when referring to Love's paper).

Jochim (1981:45, 46) mentions the term CEP twice in his cultural

ecology text, stating that one advantage of the cultural ecological

approach is "that it allows the utilization of laws developed in

general ecological theory, such as the 'Law of Competitive Exclusion'."

Yet he fails to carry through with this suggestion. The CEP is never

mentioned again in his book. Hardesty's (1977:143-44) textbook in

ecological anthropology devotes only one paragraph to defining the CEP

in general biology, but curiously makes no suggestion for its

application in anthropology. Finally, the most recent text on cultural

ecology (Ellen 1982) never mentions the term, nor does the author cite

Gause or Hardin.

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To my knowledge, Robert Carneiro is the only cultural

anthropologist to both use the term CEP, and to harness its explanatory

power to explain competitive behavior between human populations.

Carneiro first refers to the CEP briefly in a 1970 paper as an

explanation for warfare and the. evolution of chiefdoms and states

(1970:vi, n.7). He develops his use of the CEP in a later

paper (1978), where he argues that during the Neolithic, and up to the

present, neighboring human populations moved into increasing warfare

against each other over one particular scarce resource, arable land.

He calls this "a perfect exemplification in the domain of culture" of

the principle (1978:208). Carneiro refers to many cases of two groups

fighting against each other over the usual scarce resource most

important to humans, arable land. Following the principle of

competitive exclusion, one group eventually kills off, displaces, or

subjugates the other. This is exactly what is occurring today in the

Casiguran ecosystem, as I hope to demonstrate in this thesis.

Note that Carneiro uses the principle to develop his theory of

warfare and the evolution of the state. I use it to develop my theory

that marginal hunter-gatherer groups reject the adoption of agriculture

as an adaptive strategy (perhaps subconsciously), to avoid coming into

competition with a group much stronger than they. My ideas on the use

of the CEP for explaining the behavior of human foragers did not come

from Carneiro, but from my readings in general ecology. I wrote most of

the ideas in this section in my doctoral proposal in 1982. It was not

until November 1984 that I learned that Carneiro was working on the same

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idea. I have received some helpful correspondence from him, and his

writings have refined some of my arguments presented here. He and I

differ, however, in our emphases of the manifestation of the CEP between

two human populations. He sees the natural result as warfare. I see it

more often as resulting in the weaker population avoiding or withdrawing

from a niche the dominant population wants. In the Agta case, this is

agricultural land. As Winterhalder states, "Competition may induce

extinction, but it is more likely to have a generating role in the

evolution and maintenance of intra-community diversity. . . . niche

displacement is more likely than extinction" (1980:59-60).

The Agta, a small and weak population, outnumbered today 57 to 1 by

the fast-growing non-Agta farming population, purposely (though perhaps

not consciously) avoid an occupational 'niche' which would put them in

direct competition with the lowlanders. For the Agta to become farmers

they would have to compete with the dominant Filipino population for one

valuable and scarce resource, land. The Agta sense that there is

little chance that the immigrating agriculturalists are going to allow

them to keep and farm good land. The result is that they simply avoid

that economic niche. They do not reject agriculture because they are

ignorant, lazy, or dislike hard work. Many Agta, rather, would like to

move into agriculture, at least that is what they told me, if the

opportunity was open to them. As we will see in Chapter 13, that

possibility is a door shut hard in the faces of most Agta at the present


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The niche concept. The third ecological principle I will use for

explaining Agta economic behavior, and their rejection of agriculture as

a basic production type for themselves, is that of 'niche.' Niche is

best defined as the role the organism plays in the ecosystem (Odum

1975:46). Hardesty (1977:120) defines it as the lifestyle or feeding

strategy of a human group. The important aspect of niche, then, is what

the plant or animal does in its ecosystem. In this thesis I use the

term more or less synonymously with "basic production type." All human

groups follow a basic production type, or niche role, in their

respective ecosystems. If we were to give a name to the niche the Agta

fill, we may call it by the term defined above, "commercial hunting and

gathering." It is this niche which is their "mode of production."

Barth's (1956) seminal paper was most influential in moving me to

look at ecology to find answers to Agta behavior. Barth's field work

focused on a study of the interethnic relationships of three human

groups in Swat, North Pakistan. The question is raised as to why these

three potentially competitive groups tolerated each other. Barth

answered this question using ecological models and, specifically, the

concepts of niche and symbiosis. These groups were able to coexist

together because they all exploited different niches, and because they

had well established symbiotic economic relationships. Each group,

because of its particular economic and political organization, exploited

different niches not used, or only partially used, by the other two

groups. I was immediately attracted to Barth's model, because the

relationship between the subordinate Gujar population with its dominant

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agricultural lowland neighbors is similar to that of the Agta and their

lowland neighbors.

I do not want to attempt to carry the analogy of niche too far in

this study. Anthropologists have discussed the problem of applying the

concept to human populations (e.g., Bennett 1976:174-75, Love 1977). I

use it here only as an ecological synonym for basic production types, as

a heuristic tool for understanding Agta foraging habits, and as a way

to tie those Agta habits to the CEP. Let us use the concept here as a

practical learning device for the cultural ecological model I am

building, and not in the strict literal sense. Even ecologists cannot

agree on the use and definition of the concept in their own field of

natural science. Much less am I going to attempt such for cultural


Niche differentiation reduces competition among populations over

scarce resources. When one understands the CEP, therefore, it is not

hard to understand why "two similar species scarcely ever occupy

similar niches, but displace each other in such a manner that each takes

possession of certain peculiar kinds of food and modes of life" (Love

1977:28). This is why the Agta avoid trying to move into a niche

already filled by another much stronger human population. In fact, the

Agta may have practiced more agriculture in the past than they have in

this century, when the non-Agta Casiguranin population numbered only 500

and the CEP was not a significant force in their ecosystem. It is for

ecological reasons that the Agta have not taken up agriculture as an

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economic lifestyle for themselves. This is a salient theme in the

present thesis.


I do not claim that ecological models will explain all aspects of

Agta culture. I hope I made this clear at the beginning of this

chapter. But I do believe such models will clarify certain otherwise

"peculiar" aspects of their behavior. In the present century, numerous

change agencies (mission, government, the Panamin Foundation, U.S. Peace

Corps Volunteers, school teachers, social workers, etc.) have attempted

to help Philippine Negritos change to a "better" way of life. I have

reviewed 24 cases of such attempts elsewhere (Headland 1985c), almost

all of which ended in failure.

Filipinos and foreigners alike are prone to stereotype Negritos as

backward, lazy, and unthinking. Most of the community aid projects I

have surveyed had two primary goals in mind, to settle the 'nomadic'

Negritos onto reservations, and to make them into farmers. There are

various "surface structure" reasons why Negritos resist such forced

change (I outlined eleven in the above cited paper). But there are also

three "infrastructural" ecological reasons why these marginal groups,

and specifically the Agta, resist such change. The three bioecological

principles outlined above provide the keys for understanding these

infrastructure patterns of resistance to agriculture as a way of life.

The Agta in Casiguran do not live alone. Their small population of

609 is surrounded by a peasant farming population of 35,000. If we look

at the Casiguran valley as an ecosystem, and consider the principle of

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competitive exclusion, it is not difficult to grasp what would happen to

the Agta if they tried to take up the same "life style or feeding

strategy" as that of their farming neighbors. As a matter of fact, Agta

do practice some marginal desultory cultivation. But, as we shall see

in Chapter 13, and in Appendices F and G, in most of these cases

lowland farmers soon move in and take over the supervision of such

cultivation, and eventually end up taking over for themselves the Agta's

cleared land. Whenever the Agta attempt to practice independent

agriculture, the symbiotic relationship quickly moves from one of

'mutualism' to one of 'competition.'

This brings us back to the concept of niche. This principle helps

to provide an explanation as to why the Agta resist changing to a

sedentary farming lifestyle, a completely different basic production

type. Outsiders consider thisas an obviously better alternative to

"roaming around in the jungle in a primitive state." The Agta

obviously see it differently, however. They have avoided moving into a

niche already occupied by another much stronger population. In fact,

the very reason the Agta have survived as well as they have in their

ecosystem is because they are filling a different niche from that of the

lowland farming population. Furthermore, their niche directly provides

energy to the lowland population which they have come to depend upon, in

the form of meat, fish, forest plant products, and cheap labor. The

lowlanders not only tolerate the Agta in their ecosystem, but actually

need them to provide certain requisites. For the Agta to try to change

to farmers would certainly cause the CEP to come into play, and it is

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not hard to guess which population would lose in such competition. In

the past, when the CEP was not a force in the Agta ecosystem, the Agta

were theoretically free to take up full time agriculture. Though lack

of capital may have been a factor in their not doing so then, a more

logical reason was that game was then very abundant, farmers were

willing to trade starch food for it, and there was no need to go to the

hard work of clearing land to acquire food. It is quite possible that

the pre-20th century Agta were typical of Sahlins' "original affluent


Love (1977) provides a good example of what happens when two human

populations in the same habitat compete for the same niche. As the

"retirement" farmersbegan out-competing the full-time farmers in

Almond Valley, California in the 1960s, the full-time farmers gradually

adjusted their niche so as to avoid being put out of business. This is

a natural result of the CEP. The same principles can be used to explain

why the Cree Indians of Jasper, Saskatchewan, never took up agriculture

or cattle ranching, in spite of government efforts to get them to do so

(Bennett 1969). It would have put them in direct competition with the

three white populations of the area. Instead, the Cree preferred a

dependent symbiosis with those more dominant populations as their best

option for survival. And we have all read recently in the news

magazines of the violent backlash from American commercial fishermen in

Texas as Vietnamese refugee immigrants have tried to take up their

traditionaloccupation, shrimp fishing, in the same area. The

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Vietnamese are having to cope against forces which the CEP helps us to


So, how can the Agta best survive in their delicate position in

their now fast-changing ecosystem? Whatever opinion outsiders may hold

on this question, the Agta have their own ideas. For now, their

solution has been to let themselves evolve along the path of least

resistance. This evolutionary path has led them into a particular

niche which they have found to be their best adaptive strategy, that of

developing mutualistic symbiotic relationships with their lowland

neighbors. This is manifested by their serving them as commercial

hunters and gatherers.

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1. For discussions on this point, human response to change as

adaptive, see Alland 1975, Alland and McCay 1973, Frisancho 1979:3-5,
Hardesty 1977:21-46, Jochim 1981:12-20, and Smith 1979.

2. Burling (1968) gives an excellent critique of the various

definitions of 'economics' used in anthropology, and Cook (1973:808-09)
discusses the problems anthropologists have had in attempting to define
the term.

3. Some of the most powerful criticisms of Rappaport's work are

found in McArthur 1974, Ellen 1982:183-86, Peoples 1982, Samuels 1982,
Clarke 1977, Anderson 1973, Bergman 1975, Friedman 1974, Hallpike 1973,
Salisbury 1975, Bennett 1976:182, and Foin and Davis 1984. Rappaport
has justrecentlypublished his most major response to these critics

4. It should be noted that small-scale farmers share, too. This

is especially the case with tribal swiddeners in the Philippines.
However, as is obvious when one looks into the closed and walled
storerooms in the homes of such farmers, they also save. They have
special rooms, or granaries, where they stock their year's supply of
rice. In these walled rooms, farmers are able to keep their rice out of
sight of neighbors, who might otherwise request some. Agta do not save
food, goods, or money. Nor do they normally have walls on their tiny
houses. The extreme to which Agta share is reflected in their residence
sites, which Wiessner (1982) calls 'open,' in contrast to farmer sites,
which are 'closed.' Farmers also practice reciprocity, but it is
'balanced,' not 'generalized.' (See Lee 1981:16,17; Leacock and Lee


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The significance of the natural environment to our understanding of

the present evolutionary status of the Agta culture cannot be

overemphasized. These physical conditions have asserted and continue to

assert tremendous influence over the kind of adaptation the Agta have

had to make in order to survive.

The ecological forces in Casiguran include not only the natural

flora, fauna, and climate, but other critical components such as the

non-Agta human populations, introduced diseases, logging companies,

roads, money economy, the sudden importance of rattan furniture on the

Euroamerican world market, national politics, etc. Even the

assassination of political Opposition Leader Benigno Aquino at the

Manila Int'l Airport on August 21, 1983, precipitated grave ecological

consequences for the Agta culture and ecosystem, as I will make clear in

Chapter 9.

This chapter will describe the more general components of the

Casiguran ecosystem, the climate, land, and forests, as well as certain

important flora and fauna. Subsequent chapters will discuss other

critical, but less obvious, ecological components which have affected

the Agta.


There are six critical climatic variables in the Casiguran

ecosystem. These are amount of rainfall, number of rainy days per


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year, temperatures, relative humidity, seasonality, and tropical


Climatically, this area of eastern Luzon is classed as 'Type A Wet'

(Phil. Atlas 1975:25; Flores and Balagot 1969:200), which means that

this area has the highest amount and most evenly distributed annual

rainfall of the six climate types in the Philippines. This is based on

the popular Hernandez (1954) classification system. 'Type A Wet' is

defined as rainy throughout the year with at most one and one half dry

months. A'dry month' is defined as a month with less than 60 mm of

rainfall. In fact, during the 23 year tenure of my time in Casiguran

(from 1962 to 1984) there were only 18 months with less than 60 mm of

rainfall, or 6.5 percent of the months (18/276). None of these 23 years

had more than two 'dry months;' four of the years had two 'dry months,'

and ten of the years had one 'dry month' (see Table 4.1). The other

nine years had no 'dry months.'

The Casiguran rainfall fluctuates throughout the year and between

years, as shown in Figure 1, Table 4.2, and Table 4.1. April is the

month with the lightest average rainfall, 154 mm, while November has the

heaviest rainfall, 641 mm. The amount of annual rainfall is highly

varied, with the year of heaviest rainfall on record being 1971, with

6,878 mm (275 in). The year with the least rainfall was 1968, with

1,353 mm (54 in). The 24 hour period with the highest recorded rainfall

was on March 13, 1971, with 401 mm (16 in) (see column 7 of Table 4.1).

The average rainfall for the 34 year period of 1949-83 was 3,448 mm per

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year (138 in). The rainfall in 1983 was 3,119 mm, just slightly below

average, as shown in Figure 1.

As has been stated before (Griffin 1984b:98), what may be more

significant than the amount of rainfall, in terms of Agta economic

behavior, is the number of days of rain per year. As is shown in Table

4.1, Casiguran averages 212 rainy days per year (defined by the national

weather bureau, Pagasa, as days with 0.1+ mm of precipitation). Using

this definition, Casiguran had 184 rainy days in 1983, somewhat below

the average (see Table 4.2).

Temperatures are mild to hot in Casiguran, and do not fluctuate far

from the mean. The annual average temperature is 26°C (79°F).

January is the coldest month, with an average of 23.7°C, while June is

the hottest month with an average of 27.6°C (see column 1 of Table

4.1). The lowest recorded temperature was 13.8°C (56.8°F) on February

3, 1962, and the highest was 36.8°C (98.2°F), on June 12, 1962 (Pagasa


Tropical cyclones. It so happens that Casiguran lies within the

latitude-longitude square which suffers the highest frequency of

tropical cyclones in the world (Flores and Balagot 1969:170; Kintanar et

al. 1979:4).

The area with the highest frequency of occurrence in the

Philippines [and in the world] is the latitude-longitude
square where Casiguran, Aurora, is located, where there is an
average of 6 tropical cyclones per 5 years (Kintanar et al.

The Philippines as a whole experiences an average of 19 cyclones per

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year, with "about 9 of them crossing the country per year" (ibid.rl).

The range varies from a minimum of 13 cyclones (in 1950) to a maximum of

29 (in 1952). Although these cyclones cause enormous losses to life and

property, they benefit the country in that they contribute greatly to

the rainfall from May to December.

Tropical cyclones are of three types: 'tropical depressions,' with

center winds up to 63 kph, 'tropical storms,' with center winds of 64-

118 kph, and 'typhoons,' with center winds of 119+ kph (Pagasa

1978:viii). From 1948 to 1978 there were 611 tropical cyclones in the

Philippines. Of these, 140 were tropical depressions, 146 were tropical

storms, and 325 were typhoons. The main- axis of these cyclones is

oriented ESE to WNW, passing through theupper half of central Luzon.

Extracting data from Pagasa (1978), I calculated that between 1948

and 1978 44 cyclones passed through the latitude-longitude square where

Casiguran is located. Of these, 9 were tropical depressions, 9 were

tropical storms, and 26 were typhoons. My family and I were present in

Casiguran for many of those typhoons, and we remember them well, and how

the Agta reacted to them. The effect of these typhoons on the Agta will

be discussedin Chapter 9. The dates and wind velocities of those 26

typhoons are presented in Table 4.3.

The tropical cyclone season in the Philippines runs from May to

December, although cyclones have occurred in every month of the year.

The only months for which there are no records of typhoons in Casiguran

are February and March. Eighty-nine percent of the cyclones occur'^from

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June to December. "August has the greatest mean frequency with 3.7 and

September is second with 2.9" (Flores and Balagot 1969:171).


The dipterocarp forest. The predominant forest type found in

Casiguran is the 'dipterocarp tropical lowland forest.' Approximately 58

percent of the land area of the Casiguran ecosystem is of this forest

type, including both primary forest (30,487 ha) and secondary forest

(9,853 ha). Though originally all of this type was 'full-closure' forest

(or 'full-canopy'), today, because of extensive logging and shifting

swidden farming, most of the primary forest falls under the category

'partial-canopy.' Of the approximately 30,487 ha of primary dipterocarp

forest in the area, only about 16 percent is still full-closure (see

Table 4.4).

Though this forest type is 'rainforest,' as defined earlier, some,

following Holdridge (1967), would class it as 'lowland moist forest,'

rather than rainforest. This is because the area has less than 4,000 mm

of rainfall per year, and more than two months per year with less than

200 mm of rainfall.^ In this thesis, however, I will refer to the

Casiguran lowland forest as 'rainforest' in its more general meaning of

any tropical woodland with an annual rainfall of at least 2,540 mm (100


The Casiguran dipterocarp forests are dominated by several tree

species of the family Dipterocarpaceae, of which there are at least 9

genera and 50 species in the Philippines. These gregarious species

occur with a mixture of many other tree species of various families. In

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the areas where the canopy is full-closure (that is, where loggers have

not yet reached), canopy height is 30 or more meters. Trees are of

broad-leaf evergreen species that have three crown layers, or stories.

Many of the trees have large buttresses. Thick-stemmed woody climbing

vines, and epiphytes, are common. Up until 2 or 3 years ago the many

species of rattan were very abundant everywhere. Today, they have been

depleted by commercial rattan collectors.

These dipterocarp forests extend to an elevation of about 800 m,

after which they gradually succeed to the mossy type forest described

below. It should be noted that it is impossible to set these forests on

fire in the Casiguran area, even during the driest periods.

Tropical rainforests are typically characterized in the literature

as having little in the way of ground cover. Most of the Casiguran

primary forest floor, however, is thick with underbrush. I am not sure

if this is the result of logging operations in the past, or if the

descriptions of open forest floors really refer only to monsoon forests

with long dry seasons, as Merrill (1945:73) suggests.

The dominant dipterocarp species, all of which are important

commercially as export logs, are Dipterocarpus grandiflorus (apitong),

Shorea polysperma (tangile), negrosensis (red lauan), Pentacme

contorta (white lauan), Parashorea plicata, and Anisoptera thurifera.

There are six plant foods which were important to the Agta in the

recent past, all of which grow wild only in primary forest. All of these

are types of wild yams. Judging from the statements of older informants,

and the frequent mention of these six plants in folktales, these were

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important starch foods of the Agta up until the present century, and

again during certain periods of WWII, when rice and root crops were not

available. These plant foods are, in order of importance to the Agta,

two varieties of ilos 'Dioscorea divaricata' (called gindah and

gilelos), buklog 'Dioscorea sp.', baay 'Pueraria triloba*, agakat 'P.

phaseoloides', and giwat 'Stenomeris dioscoreifolia'. In 1983-84, the

Agta ate these wild tubers at only two percent of their meals (see

Table 4.6). Photographs of specimens of these six plants appear in

Headland (1981:71-76).

Another important wild plant food of the Agta during the past, and

still served today at Agta weddings, is a starch processed from the

inner trunk of the caryota palm (age! 'Caryota cumingii'). This palm

grows wild only in primary forest. Frequent reference is made to this

tree in Agta folktales. It was evidently important in the distant

past. These palms are still prevalent throughout the forests in

Casiguran. I have seen Agta process it perhaps a dozen or so times in

the past, but I did not observe it being processed or eaten during our

1983-84 field study.

The Agta refer to primary dipterocarp forest generally as talon

'forest' or, sometimes, as katalonan 'forest area'. When contrasting

primary forest with secondary forest or "reproduction brushland" (a

land type to be defined below), they refer to the former with the term

gurang or guhang 'primary forest'. When referring to full-closure

forest with a very high canopy and a ground area relatively easy to

walk through, they use the term kapanagen.

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The above description is typical of 'primary' dipterocarp forest.

Another category of dipterocarp forest is 'secondary forest.' This

refers to young growth forest with trees with diameters of at least 15

cm. Such forests are usually the result of regrowth of some 5 to 12

years duration following the abandonment of swidden fields. In

Casiguran, most swiddens (unless they are planted in coconuts) revert

when abandoned not to grassland but to reproduction brush within 12 to

24 months, eventually succeeding to secondary forest after about 5

years. I estimate that it takes 25 to 50 years for such land to return

to primary climax forest again.About 14 percent of the Casiguran

ecosystem was secondary forest in 1983 (7,853 ha). Agta refer to

'reproduction brush' and young secondary forest as elas. Secondary

forest in a late stage of succession they refer to merely as talon


Mention should be made here of a particular genera of palm which

is abundant in dipterocarp forests, and which has recently become the

single most important plant for the Agta in their environment. This is

rattan, a woody climbing vine. Worldwide, there are 13 genera of rattan

palms, with some 600 different species, all belonging to the subfamily

Lepidocaryoideae (Dransfield 1979). In the Philippines, there are 4

genera and some 60 to 70 species. Only 2 genera are used for commercial

purposes, Calamus and Daemonorops (Generalao 1981:4-5, Madulid 1980).

Agta recognize emically at least 21 types of rattan (for names, see

Headland and Headland 1974:215).

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Until the early 1980s, rattan was very abundant in the Casiguran

forests, probably yielding up to 5,000 linear meters per hectare in some

areas (cf. Arnold 1915:6). Rattan gathering was the main economic

activity of the Agta in 1983-84, as we shall see later. By the end of

1983 the mature rattans of commercial quality, and especially Calamus

caesius, had virtually disappeared fromaccessible areas of the

Casiguran forests. The reasons for this, and what it implies for the

future of the Agta, will be discussed in Chapter 9.

Molave forests. A second forest type found in Casiguran is the

molave forest. Several clumps of this forest type are found on the

eastern slopes of the Sierra Madre, and on the steep eastern sides of

the Casiguran San Ildefonso peninsula. These forest patches are found

in drier places where limestone hills are predominant, and the soil is

dry, and shallow or scanty. The forest canopy is not high, and the

trees are much less dense. The main trees are molave (Vitex

parviflora), of the family Verbenaceae. Because the canopy is open,

there is much growth on the forest floor of many kinds of shrubs, vines,

palms, and rattans. It is usually impossible to walk through molave

forests, because of the thick underbrush.

Only about 7 percent of the Casiguran area is covered with this

forest type. My impression is that these forests are not of high

importance to the Agta, except for commercial rattan collecting. The

uninitiated may mistakenly interpret these areas as secondary forests.

Agta refer to this forest type as pinomtaw, although one Agta group

called a patch of molave forest near their camp kagesan.

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Mossy forests. A third forest type is the mossy forest. This

forest type is predominant throughout the highest elevations of the

Sierra Madre, beginning gradually at about 800 m. About 6 percent of

the Casiguran ecosystem is made up of these mossy forests, all ofwhich

are located on the very western border of the area. Some writers refer

to these forests as 'oak' because of "the predominance of oaks

belonging to the genus Lithocarpus of the family Fagaceae" (Mendoza


These forests are uninhabited by humans. Loggers have not

exploited these areas, and there are no farming homesteads there.

These mossy forests occur on the steep sides of high mountains. I have

no knowledge of Agta ever living in or exploiting these distant and

inaccessible mossy forests. I have many times flown over these areas,

and explored both by foot and helicopter the headwaters of several

riversheds closely adjacent to mossyforests on both sides of the

Sierra Madre. Yet I have never actually been in these forests, and I

am unaware of any significant role these forests serve in the Agta

culture. To my knowledge, Agta do not normally climb up to these

heights to enter these forests. Descriptions of this forest type, which

need not be reviewed here, appear in Dickerson 1928:126-27 and Mendoza

1977:45. The Agta refer tothis forest type as pagedped. Philippine

mossy forests seem to resemble something between the two worldwide

forest categories called 'tropical premontane forest formations' and

'tropical lower montane forest formations' (see Holdridge 1967, or NRC


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Beach forests. The fourth forest type found in Casiguran is the

beach or littoral forest. These narrow forest stands (25 to 60 m wide)

are found along dry sandy beaches above the high tide line. About 30

percent of the 200 km of coastline in the Casiguran area is protected by

such forests. They cover about 0.3 percent of the total land area (see

Table 4.4). In 1983-84, 27 percent of the Agta camps were located in

these narrow forests (see Table 4.5).

Mangrove forests. Finally, the fifth forest type in Casiguran is

the mangrove forest. Several of these stands are found on tidal mud

flats along the Casiguran coast, usually atthe mouths of rivers where

water is brackish. Most of the trees are ofthe genus Rhizophora (bekaw

in Agta). The largest mangrove swamp, at the mouth of the Kasalogen

River just 2 km south of Casiguran town, is thick with nipa palm (Nypa

fruticans) along its inner limits. This is a very important plant,

economically, as its leaves are used as roofing material for thousands

of homes in the area. Many lowlanders work seasonally weaving nipa

shingles for sale locally or for export to Baler, the provincial

capital. Nipa wine is also a popular drink in Casiguran, and many

lowlanders work part time distilling nipa liquor for sale. This nipa

liquor is a highly significant component ofthe Agta ecosystem, as we

shall see in Chapter 8.

Although mangrove forests make up only a very small part of the

Casiguran land area, 0.4 percent, they are very important ecologically.

They not onlyprovide income for hundreds of people who manufacture and

sell nipa shingles and nipa wine, but they provide an important food

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source for both the Agta and lowland populations. These foods are

various shellfish, especially bivalves and crabs. These mangrove swamps

are a fairly reliable source of these important protein foods, and women

of both populations may often be found gathering such foods in these

swamps at low tide.

Another ecological function of these mangrove forests is that they

provide important foods in the form of detritus at the bottom of the

food chain. The high volume of mangrove leaf litter has special

importance as the base of a food chain which supports many species of

marine fish. Mangrove forests also serve to prevent shoreline erosion,

and provide important breeding areas for fish. (For details, see NRC

1982:204, Scott 1981, Cortiguerra 1979, and Serrano 1978.) The Agta terra

for this forest type is kabekawan.

Reproduction brushland. There are three other non-forest land

types in Casiguran. The first of these is 'reproduction brush.' This

land type is defined as areas of young trees or brush at least one meter

high but less than 15 cm in diameter. Probably all of these brushlands

are man-made, the result of logging operations or in a stage of

succession between abandoned swiddens and secondary forest. These brush

areas cover some 6 percent of the Casiguran area, all in the lowlands.

The Agta term for this land type (as well as young secondary forest) is

elas. As I explain below, most swiddens in Casiguran succeed to

reproduction brush, not grassland. These reproduction brush areas, if

not recut, last only for 4 to 5 years before succeeding in turn to

secondary forest.

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Agta exploit heavily this land type, not only harvesting fruit from
domesticated trees or feral root crops planted when the land was first

cleared, but also wild plants which are not found in primary forest. An

example of the latter is the important soft-wood tree binonga

'’Macaranga tanarius'’. The trunks of these trees are used extensively

for poles in house construction, because termites will not eat it. The

leaves are used for plates for meals, or as wrapping paper. Another

example is the highly important guava trees (bayabas *Psidium*), which spring up wild in these brushlands, providing a

nutritious snack food. Guava, introduced into the Philippines from the

New World during Spanish times, is, in fact, probably the most

important wild plant food in the Agta diet today. Children, and to a

lesser extent adults, eat the fruit almost daily from March to August,
and sporadically during the rest of the year, when the tree bears less


Grassland. Another land type is grassland. In the Casiguran area

these patches, meadows and fields are characterized by grasses of the

genera Saccharum, Themeda, and especially Imperata. There is

surprisingly little grassland in the Casiguran ecosystem— only an

estimated 5,000 ha (7 percent of the area). This in spite of many years

of intense commercial logging, a substantial population density (44 per

km ), and the clearing by lowlanders of several hundred new swiddens

every year.

In many areas of the Philippines (especially in the monsoon

forests) swiddened and logged-over forest areas tend to succeed to

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grassland rather than returning to secondary forest. This is

definitely not the tendency in at least the upper two-thirds of the

Casiguran ecosystem, where such cleared areas almost always succeed to

reproduction brushland and then to secondary forest (or to coconut

groves). For reasons I do not fully understand, the abandoned swiddens

and logged over areas in the southern part of the area (the area in the

jurisdiction of the municipality of Dinalongan) often succeed to

grassland rather than brushland. Most of the grasslands,in fact, are

in this southern part of the area of this study, where an alarming

amount of previously-forested land area between there and Baler to the

south has reverted to grassland in the last 10 years.

This grass is used for roofing material, and in the Dinalongan area

all lowlander houses (except those with iron roofs) are roofed with

Imperata grass, since it is locally abundant. In the northern two-

thirds of the Casiguran valley, where Imperata is rare, houses are

roofed with nipa leaves.

The single largest grass meadow, an area of some 1,200 ha, lies

just behind and upriver from the town of Dinalongan. This grassland

completely covers an alluvial plain flowing out of the Bungo watershed.

This plain was complete grassland when we lived in upriver Bungo in

1963, when Dinalongan was a small barrio of some 200 people. (It is

today a municipal town of about 5,000 people.) If this meadow was

originally cleared by man, no one I questioned could remember it. Older

Agta men relate how, when they were boys before WWII, they used to help

lowlanders catch wild carabaos (called simahon in Agta, they were

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surely feral) in this wide meadow, by driving them into corral-like

fenced traps. There were no wild carabaos when Iarrived in Casiguran in


In the early 1960s there was a landing strip in this meadow built

andused by one of the logging companies. Today, in the lower eastern

parts of themeadow there are several small farms with dry plowed

fields. And for the last several years a 312 ha area at the upper

western part has been used as a cattle ranch.

Up until the late 1960s some of these grasslands were usedby the

Agta for a particular type of hunting, where they drove game by setting

the grass on fire. There are two Imperata meadows on the steep eastern

side of the San Ildefonso Peninsula which two Agta bands used

periodically for special game drives, called menutod. Both of these

meadows are large (3-5 ha), and both are situated on very steep

slopes— too steep in most places for humans to walk across. My

participant observations on these hunts will be described in a later

section in Chapter 8 on game decline.

Cultivated land areas. Finally, the fifth category of land type in

Casiguran is composed of what are called 'cultivated areas.' About 16

percent of the total land area is composed of this type, with a reported

4,614 ha of this made of wet rice fields, and 6,372 ha planted in fruit

trees, almost all of which are coconut (again, see Table 4.4).

Wet rice cultivation has been the major occupation of thenon-Agta

lowland population for as long as anyone can remember, perhaps even

preceding the founding of the townof Casiguran in 1609. Only two Agta

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families owned and cultivated their own wet rice fields in 1983.

However, many Agta work sporadically as laborers in the fields of

lowlanders, a point I will discuss in detail in Chapter 10.

The Casiguran lowlanders are not 'integral' swidden cultivators (in

Conklin's 1957:3 terminology). This includes both the native

Casiguranin lowlanders, as well as the thousands of immigrant lowland

Filipinos who have migrated into the area since my arrival there in

1962. The Casiguranin population practices a type of part-time swidden

cultivation called 'supplementary partial' (ibid.). The majority of the

immigrant groups, landless farmers from many areas of Luzon, practice

the swidden type called 'incipient partial.' At the most, only 15 to 20

percent of the some 6,000 non-Agta households in the area could be

classed as even 'partial' (i.e., part-time) swiddeners. I estimate about

400 swiddens were made by lowlanders in the area in 1983. The majority

of farmers in both groups make their living by means other than swidden

farming. These means are primarily wet rice farming followed by seasonal

work in copra production, logging (up to 1978) and, today, rattan


Many Agta families also involve themselves in swidden activities

(20 percent of the Agta households made small swiddens of their own in

1983 [34/168, see Table 10.7]). A total of 43 swiddens were made by

Agta in Casiguran in 1983 (average size 0.18 ha) and, as I will explain

in Chapter 10, Agta adults spent an average of 4 percent of their total

daily activities in swidden work in 1983 (see the "E300" numbers in

Appendix D).

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Copra is a major cash crop in Casiguran, and it is usually the

custom for those lowlanders who make swiddens to intercrop their rice,

corn, or sweet potatoes with coconut seedlings. There is an

environmental benefit to this: Instead of the forest succeeding to

grassland, old swiddens succeed quickly to 'forests' of coconut palms

whose leaves, within a very few years, form a canopy which almost

completely shades the ground, thus providing protection to the soil

from sun and rain.

To summarize, we see that there are a total of eight landtypes in

the 70,000 ha area of what I call the 'Casiguran ecosystem.' Most of

the area— 71 percent— is composed of forest, of which there are five

types as defined above and in Table 4.4. Another 6 percent of the area

is made up of 'reproduction brush,' and 7 percent is 'grassland.' The

remaining 16 percent of the land is 'cultivated area,' about half of

which is riceland and half coconut groves.

Although almost three-fourths of the area is still forest, it

should not be assumed that these forests are 'pristine.' In fact,

except forthe remote mossy forests, almost all of the forest areas

have been heavily modified by human activity.

Mention should be made here of another series of 'land' types.

These are the ocean areas in Casiguran. These areas are not uniform.

They include areas of deep and shallow water, coral reefs, sandy

bottoms, calm bays, and rough ocean. The Agta and lowland people use

all of these in different ways, especially for fishing, for hauling

cargo by raft or boat, and for travel.

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Important to note is the fact that Casiguran Bay is the only large

harbor of safety for boats and ships on the eastern coast of Luzon. It

is customary for deep sea vessels in the area to head straight for

Casiguran Bay whenever typhoon warnings are announced in Philippine

waters (and such warnings are announced about 19 times per year).

Whenever typhoon signals are up one can expect to find one or two ships

and a half-dozen or so motor launches anchored in the Bay, waiting for

the seas to calm down.

This may have been the custom for sailors even during the Spanish

era, as well. If it was, it is not hard to imagine the influence these

ships had on the native populations of Casiguran in the past. They

probably exchanged materials and, perhaps, diseases. The shape of this

safe natural harbor is probably what led to the founding of the town of

Casiguran in 1609.


There are thousands of faunal species found in the Casiguran area.

Though all of these play roles in the ecosystem, I can only mention here

those few which are especially important to the Agta, or to our

understanding of Agta cultural ecology. The most significant point to

note is how those fauna mostimportant to theAgta have declined in

number, and how this has affected their culture. These population

declines will be mentioned here, and discussed more fully in Chapter 8.

Aquatic fauna. The mostimportant sourceof protein tor both Agta

and lowlanders alike are the aquatic fauna, especially fish. There are

hundreds of species of fish in the Philippines. My wife and I recorded

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127 Agta lexemes for fish, 28 of which are riverine, in the early 1970s

(Headland and Headland 1974:194-95). The other important aquatic fauna

are river shrimp, octopus, snails, bivalves (44 emic varieties

recorded), marine crabs, and river eels. In 1984, some type of aquatic

fauna was eaten at 53 percent of the Agta meals, and for 37 percent of

the meals that fauna was fish (see Tables 4.7, 4.8, and 4.9). Agta

men spent 6 percent of their person-work-days in fishing or

shellfishing, and women 4 percent (see Table 10.13). This does not mean

that aquatic fauna is abundant in Casiguran today. I will discuss the

reason for the scarcity of these protein resources in Chapter 9. One

obvious evidence of the scarcity is the fact that in 1984 the Agta had

no meat/fish protein of any kind to eat at 34 percent of their meals.

This is a situation which they chronically complain about, and which

they see as one of their major hardship problems.

The large green sea turtle (CheIonia japonica) was formerly an

important food, but these have been almost exterminated in Casiguran. I

remember eating this meat often in the 1960s, but almost never in the

1970s. I did observe turtle tracks and a nest of eggs on an isolated

beach at the northern border of the study area in July 1984, indicating

that there are still a few left. But I do not know of any Agta who

secured turtle meat during my 1983-84 study period.

Three important mammals. There are three species of mammals which

are especially important in the Agta economic system. These are wild pig

(Sus barbatus philippinensis), deer (Cervus philippinensis), and monkey

(Macaca philippinensis). All three of these populations have been

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seriously depleted since WWII, as I will discuss in Chapter 8. Agta men

are characterized by others as primarily hunters, and this is how they

appeared to me in the 1960s. They also see themselves as hunters,

although they do little hunting today.

Both today and in the past, when hunters secure meat, most of the

choice butchered portions of pig and deer are traded to lowlanders,

although small portions are also shared out throughout the Agta camp of

the hunter. There is only one species of monkey in Casiguran, Macacus

philippinensis. Lowlanders do not eat monkey meat, and Agta thus eat

all of this meat themselves. (Table 4.7 shows the percentage of meals

at which meat from these animals were eaten; Chapters 8 and 10 will

discuss Agta hunting in some detail.) Many Agta families keep pet

monkeys, which they capture when they are babies. Adults and,

especially, children immensely enjoy these pet monkeys. These monkeys

become very attached to their owners, sleeping with them, and grooming

their hair (picking out lice). Sometimes Agta women nurse them.

The avifauna. There are over 800 species of birds in the

Philippines, and many of these are foundin Casiguran. The Agta

dictionary (Headland and Headland 1974) lists names for 46 types of

birds, and the Agta recognize many more than that. A favorite pastime of

Agta children is hunting small birds with bow and arrow or, more often

nowadays, with slingshots. Those secured are plucked of their feathers,

roasted, and eaten by the children as a snack food.

The Philippine wild chicken (Gallus gallus) is a favored game

bird, and men sometimes set a type of snare (called balaybay) to trap

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them. They also sometimes shoot them with arrows. Another important

bird is the domestic chicken. Most Agta families have a few chickens,

which are allowed to roam loose. Agta almost never eat these chickens

themselves, or the eggs. Rather, they sell or trade them to lowlanders

when they need cash or rice, or when lowlanders request them.

One of the most important avifauna is the hornbill(Buceros

hydrocorax). Agta men hunt these. They eat the meat, but the more

important contribution of this bird is the excellent feathers used for

fletching arrows. These birds were abundant in the 1960s in the primary

forest where we lived, and we saw and heard them virtually every day.

Then, for the last several years before we moved to Hawaii in 1979, we

almost never saw or heard a hornbill bird. I remember, too, that in the

1970s Agta arrows were usually fletched with soft feathers (not the

stiff feathers of hornbills), which are considered inferior by the Agta.

I had concluded that the hornbill, like so many other fauna in

Casiguran, were going extinct from being overhunted with guns by Agta,

soldiers and loggers, or because of the cutting down by loggers of the

largest forest trees, where the hornbills roost and nest.

I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when I returned to Casiguran

in 1982, to find the hornbills had returned. While not as plentiful as

I remember in the past, we again often saw or heard hornbills in the

forest around us. Both Agta and lowlanders I have questioned about this

seemed as unsure as I am as to the cause of the decline and subsequent

recovery of the hornbill population in Casiguran. Some Agta suggested

that their disappearance was caused by the devastating Typhoon Pitang

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which smashed into Casiguran with winds of 240 kph in September 1970.

While that may be so, the equally destructive Typhoon Aring in November

1980 did not, apparently, decimate the then returning hornbill


Other significant fauna. Also of some importance in the Agta

system are snakes, palm civets, monitor lizards, and fruit bats. There

is one species of snake the Agtasometimes eat. This is the python

(Python reticulatus). I have seen them kill these and not eat them,

however, including very large ones. On the one occasion when I was

present to see them butcher and eat a python, it was mainly the fat

which they wanted. They left most of the meat and ribs behind at the

kill site. (This snake was 6.96 m in length.)

The palm civet (Paradoxurus philippinensis) is sometimes caught

with snares, and eaten. Rarely, pre-adults are kept as pets. Large

tree lizards (Hydrosaurus spp., Lophura sp.) are sometimes eaten, but

Casiguran Agta do not eat the large river lizard (Varanus salvator).

Agta say they eat the large fruit-eating bat (Acerodon jubatos), though

I have never seen them do so, probably because these bats do not live

in the areas of the Agta groups with whom I have resided.

There are just two types of insects which the Agta eat. One is the

larvae of honey bees. There are only two species of honey bee in

Casiguran which the Agta exploit. Honey is a favorite food of the Agta,

but it is not found often in Casiguran, as it is in some other areas of

the country. I have never seen Agta sell or trade honey to lowlanders,
as they do other forest products. Most of the larvae and honey is

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eaten right at the place of procurement by the camp group, with some

taken back to the camp to give to others.

The other insect,eaten only occasionally as a minor snack food by

Agta, is a type of grub which is found inside waterlogged driftwood

lying on tidal mud flats at low tide. These grubs bore holes in the

wood, much like termites. They are about 7 mm wide and 18 mm long. The

wood is split open and they are picked out and eaten raw.

Many other types of insects are important in the Agta ecosystem,

mostly as pests or health hazards. Examples are insects which eat

crops, or carry disease (e.g., the malaria mosquito). These details will

not be discussed in this thesis, except to mention that malaria has been

a serious health problem on and off through the years of my residence in

the area.

The ecological role of dogs. There are certain domestic fauna

which are important to the Agta in one way or another. I have already

mentioned chickens. All Agta families keep dogs, usually 1 or 2 to a

household, though it is not unusual for a household to have up to 4 or 6

adult dogs. Dogs and Agta humans live in an interesting symbiotic

relationship. Both populations benefit the other, yet both also transfer

disease to the other. Dogs serve two beneficial functions in the Agta

ecosystem. First, since they are rarely fed anything but the skimpiest

of scraps, they serve as scavengers: This keeps the camp somewhat clean

of garbage and filth. When children defecate in the camp, for example,

the excreta is immediately consumed by a mad rush of starving dogs. They

also eat leftovers from meals, such as fish bones, or a few grains of

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rice. They also eat carrion. Agta camps would be a lot dirtier without


Though Agta seem hardly aware of the above function of dogs, they

are very well aware of their second function, serving as camp guards,

or watchdogs. In fact, this is a main reason why no Agta household

would be without a dog. Whenever a stranger approaches an Agta camp he

is usually confronted by a pack of furiously barking dogs. Especially

at night, when Agta could be attacked by raiders, it is a comfort to be

able to sleep knowing that it is next to impossible for a stranger to

approach the camp without every dog waking up and barking furiously.

Up to about 1970, dogs served a third important function in the

Agta society, in that some of them served as hunting dogs. Indeed, some

dogs were prized for hunting, and these would be fed small amounts of

rice and special scraps almost daily. Hunting dogs were also fed the

lung tissue of game animals during the butchering process.

There are two specific types of hunts where dogs are used: anop, a

type of hunting when a man goes out alone with two or three dogs, and

tabug, a type of group hunt with both men and women. On these latter

hunts the women guide several dogs in driving game towards the men, who

lie waiting in ambush. Both of these types of hunts were very common in

the 1960s, but are rarely practiced today, at least in the areas where I


What is the ecological factor which caused this change in hunting

habit? I believe it has something to do with the game decline. When I

asked Agta, they said it was because they don't have any dogs nowadays

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which know how to hunt. I find this answer hard to accept. Thedogs

twenty years ago had to be taught to flush out and drive game. The

question is, why don't the Agta bother to teach them today to do this?

I think it is because Agta men do not hunt often enough today to train

their dogs to become proficient in this activity.

Mention should also be made of the probable negative contribution

of dogs to the Agta ecosystem. Namely, they are probably vectors of

disease. The dogs themselves are filthy, sickly, chronically starved to

the point ofskin and bones, and often splattered with dried fecal

matter of small children which drips onto them from the cracks in bamboo

floors above. Both dogs and Agta are chronically infected with

intestinal parasites, the most obvious of which is roundworms. While

dogs are not treated as pets, except when puppies, they are allowed to

sleep with the Agta at night, often on the sleeping mats lying against

the bodies of children for warmth.

It is my assumption that dogs play a role in the epidemiology of

the Agta population. As vectors of disease, e.g. roundworms, they are

surely a factor in the high death rate of the Agta. On the other hand,

there is the possibility that mutualistic symbiotic relationships

between the Agta, their dogs, and certain parasites have evolved over

the centuries into a satisfactory balance. No evidence exists, however,

to support this doubtful idea.

Domestic pigs and carabaos. There are two other domestic mammals

which play a role of some importance in the Agta system. These are

domestic pigs, and carabaos. Agta will not eat the meat of domestic

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animals (including dog meat; although occasionally they do eat chicken).

A good number of Agta families do, however, raise domestic pigs. Thirty

percent of the families claimed this in 1983-84 (11/37). These pigs are

usually owned by a lowlander trading partner, who askshis Agta client

to raise it for him. Later, when the lowlandersells the pig, he and the

Agta will, ideally, split the money earned fifty-fifty. A few Agta own

their own pigs; of the 11 families in the above-mentioned sample who

were raising pigs, 5 said they owned the pig they had, while 6 stated

they were caring for the pig for a lowlander.

In 1984, four Agta families owned carabaos, three of which I

purchased or helped purchase for their owners in the past. All four

families derive substantial economic gain from these animals, but not in

a way one might expect. Instead of using the animals to cultivate their

own fields, the Agta owners usually have theircarabaos leased out to

some lowlander on a long term basis in return for a share of the

harvest. Or, they may loan their carabao to a lowlander as a way to pay

off their own debts. Sometimes they rent their carabao out for the day

to lowland farmers, or use it themselves to drag rattan out of the

forest for sale to commercial buyers.

Unimportant fauna. There are other fauna in the ecosystem, which

today are of little importance to the Agta. Horses, cattle, goats, and

domestic cats . are common, but Agta have no interaction with any of

these, except that a few Agta families own cats. Older Agta tell me that

crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus, C. palustris) were very prevalent

before the 1950s, including very large ones. Today they are gone,

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apparently completely extinct in Casiguran. I have never seen one, even

in my early years of residence there. There are large populations of

species of river turtles, small lizards, land mollusks, rats and mice.

The Agta eat none of these, nor have any of them posed a particular

problem, to my knowledge, for the Agta.

Faunal Hazards. Mention should be made concerning the potential of

faunal hazards in the Agta ecosystem. With the high death rate of the

Agta, the question arises as to what possible role certain fauna may

play in this. I have already mentioned dogs above. In an interview

schedule I used in 1976, three of my questions were, "Have you ever

been bitten [that is, attacked] by a python?" "Do you know of anyone

who has ever been killed by a python?" and, "Do you know of anyone who

has ever died of a poisonous snake bite?"

It turned out that only one of the 64 women I interviewed had been

bitten by a python, but 22 percent of the men I interviewed claimed that

they had been bitten by pythons (14/63). Of these 14 men, 12 had

visible scars from python bites which they showed me, and which I noted

down. One man had been bitten onthe elbow, one on the back, and the

rest on the legs. Four of the men had multiple bite scars, where they

said they were bitten more than once by the same python.

These make for good 'Tarzan-style' stories, but are they true? I

found no reason to doubt their word.- Some of these pythons are very
large, up to 7 m m length. When I asked my second question, however,

only two elderly Agta could recall any instance of a Casiguran Agta

having been killed by a python. Pidela (age 64 at the time of

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interview) claimed her 'uncle', Diladeg had been killed by a python when

she, Pidela, was a child. In the second case, Ayogyog (age 58) said a

man named Dinsiweg was killed and eaten by a python when he, Ayogyog,

was a boy. He also said that the victim's son, Sinayatan, killed this

snake the next day, cut it open, and removed his father's body. Neither

of these reports were verified by other Agta.

A more sure case occurred in 1973. Most of the 127 interviewees

told me of a Visayan man with an Umirey Negrito wife who had two

children who were killed by a python. In July 1976 I interviewed the

parents of these two children, who verified the incident. Later I heard

the same story from the Catholic priest in Casiguran who buried the


According to the father, on the evening of March 23, 1973, at

Pasahabat, Casiguran, a python entered the house of this family when the

parents were out. It caught and killed two of the three children in the

house. When the father arrived home later he found the python still in

the house, with one child half-swallowed in its mouth, and the other

child lying dead on the floor. He said he then killed the python with

his bolo. He said the python was wrapped around the child and was trying

to swallow it head first.

When I asked my 127 interviewees the third question, whether they

knew of anyone who had ever died of a poisonous snake bite, none of them

could think of a single person. Though many Agta claim to have been

bitten by a poisonous 'snake,' my figures are useless here because in

their language they use the same word for 'snake' as they do for

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'insect' or 'bug' (ulag). I do know, however, that no Agta, in the

memories of my interviewees, ever died from the bite of any kind of

ulag. One man I know of would have died, if I had not gotten him to the

hospital in Baler, where his four gangrenous toes were amputated.

I find it very interesting that in a country with 14 species of

deadly poisonous snakes, including cobras in Casiguran, I was unable to

find a single case of an Agta death by snakebite. This, among a group

who spend most of their lives walking barefooted in jungle terrain.

Another writer who did a three month survey of Philippine Negritos in

1912 also stated that he was unable to find records of any Negritos

having died from poisonous snakebites (Newton 1920:8, 22). And a study

on venomous snakebite mortality rates in the Philippines reported an

annual mortality rate from such of only 1.26 per 100,000, or 0.07

percent of all deaths (Reyes and Lamanna 1955).

Hutterer (1982:157) suggests that poisonous snakebite seems to be

extremely rare in the humid tropics; and the above provides some

evidence for that in the Philippines. However, some populations report

very high death rates from poisonous snakebites. Deaths from such are

said to be 15.4 per 100,000 in Burma (Reyes and Lamanna 1955:193), and

Chagnon (1977:20) states that 2 percent of all adult Yanomamo deaths are

due to snakebite. The population with the highest reported snakebite

mortality rate in the world is the Waorani Indians of eastern Ecuador.

Here 4 percent of all Waorani deaths (not just adult deaths) are caused

by poisonous snakebite, and almost 95 percent of the adult male

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population have experienced snakebite at least once (Larrick et al.


Supernatural creatures. There is one other class of 'fauna'’ which

cannot be bypassed in this section because, while they are empirically

difficult to study, they are very important to the Agta. These are

the supernatural beings. Since Agta religion will not be discussed

elsewhere in this thesis, I should make some mention of it here. Agta

religion has been briefly discussed elsewhere (Headland 1975b, 1986;

Rai 1982). Briefly, the Agta are animists. They believe in a single

high god, and in a large number of supernatural spirit beings which

inhabit their surrounding natural environment. Depending on the class

of spirit, these various beings live in trees, underground, on rocky

headlands, or in caves.

There are two general classes of spirit beings in the Agta world

view. These are hayup 'creature', and belet 'ghost'. The latter are

always malignant. 'Ghosts' are wandering disembodied souls of deceased

humans. The ghosts of recently deceased adult relatives are especially

feared, as they are prone to return to the abode of their family during

the night, causing sickness and death. When an adult dies in a camp,

Agta burn down the house in which the person died, and the whole camp

group moves to another area, usually not returning for several months.

There are several varieties of hayup creatures. Though these are

non-human, they are bipedal and may appear in human form. Most types of

hayup beings are malignant; others are neutral, and a few can be called

upon for help in curing illness.

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Agta have shown little inclination to adapt to the dominant

Catholic religion of their lowland neighbors, or to take very seriously

the Christian teachings they have heard from protestant missionaries,

including this writer, in recent years. In fact, they do not, in my

opinion, take their own religion very seriously either. Probably the

most salient feature of Agta religion is the noticeable lack of

systemization and importance it plays in their lives. Their religious

beliefs and practices are individualistic, sporadic, and of secondary

value in their ideology. Their animistic system has less control over

their daily lives, for example, than do the religious systems of other,

non-Agta tribal animistic societies in the Philippines. There are no

religious requirements or practices connected with swidden making, for

example— no augury, no magic, no prayers, no blood sacrifice, no ritual

handling of the rice seed— none of the detailed requirements we find

among other tribal swiddeners (e.g., the Manobo [Hires and Headland

1977]). They do plant a simple wooden cross in the center of their

swiddens, but it is done as sort of an afterthought, or because some

passing lowlander told them they should. If the cross falls over, they

are unlikely to set it back up. If they have a poor crop, they will

blame it on poor weather, or insects, or lack of weeding, rather than

look for a spiritual cause. (Bennagen [1985:227, 233] found a similar

lack of adherence to swidden ritual among the Dumagat Negritos east of


This does not mean that Agta ignore the spirits, however. They

worry a great deal about them when it comes to illness. They usually

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try natural healing methods to cure illnesses. If these do not work,

they look for spiritual causes. At these times they will request

prayer treatment from shamans, through seances.

Eight percent of the Agta adults are shamans in Casiguran, with two

out of ten of these being women. A shaman (bunogen) is defined by the

Agta as an individual who has a familiar spirit 'friend' (bunog) who

aids him or her in diagnosing and treating disease. The primary role

of shamans is curing. They do not practice black magic, or sorcery.

Shamans may treat their patients with herbal medicines and simple

prayers to their spirit 'friend' or, for difficult cases, they may

conduct a seance. In such cases, shamans will enter into a trance

state, chanting prayers over the patient until they are possessed by

their familiar spirits. These chants are not in the normal Agta

language, but are sung in a form of glossolalia.

It would be incorrect to say that Agta worship the spirits in

their environment. Rather, they fear them, and placate them. They do

not have a sacrificial system as do other Philippine tribal groups,

though they occasionally offer small gifts to the hayup spirits if they

are taking something from the forest. These gifts may consist of a few

grains of rice, a few ounces of honey, or just a piece of thread from a

man's G-string.

Agta, then, practice their religion only haphazardly, with most of

the practices revolving around the prevention or treatment of illness.

They have only a vague interest in the afterlife, realm of the dead,

creation, immortality, or the future. They do not seek religious

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experiences. Only the fear of death or disease seems to activate Agta

religious behavior. While it would be wrong to say that religion is

unimportant to the Agta, it does play a lesser role in their society, as

compared with other animistic groups worldwide.


In summarizing the points of this chapter which are important to

our understandingof Agta socioeconomics in the 1980s, the most salient

point is that their ecosystem is presently undergoing rapid change.

This change became serious after WWII, and is presently snowballing to

the point where Ipredict serious environmental degradation by the mid-

1990s. We have seen in this chapter how the forest structures are being

radically changed by the cutting of almost all of the mature dipterocarp

trees and the clearing of land for cultivation purposes, as well as

vigorous harvesting of rattan since 1979. I have mentioned the serious

depletion of marine and riverine resources, especially fish and shrimp,

and I have stated how the large mammal populations most important to the

Agta, wild pig and deer, have greatly declined (the deer being almost

extinct). And I have mentioned the disappearance or near-extinction of

several other fauna, the green sea turtles, hornbills, crocodiles, and

lobsters. At the same time, there has been rapid increase in some other

populations, such as the malaria parasite and, most important, lowland

immigrant homesteaders.

In Chapters 7, 8, and 9 we will consider the main historical events

in Casiguran which have affected these changes and, thus, the Agta

themselves. In this study I view these events as ecological components

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affecting the ecosystem which are just as critical as the biological and

climatic components I have presented above. In cultural ecological

theory, we must look at the cultural components in an ecosystem, as well

as the biological ones, if we are to fully understand the humans in that

ecosystem. These include not only human economic activity, but

politics, religion, kinship, and cultural dimensions of history, human

demography, epidemiology, etc. In the following chapters we will touch

on most of these, and attempt to come to an understanding of how the

Agta are adapting (or failing to adapt) to some of these changes.

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1. The Holdridge (1967) typology uses bioclimatic variables to

sub- categorize lowland tropical forests into three types, as follows:
'lowland moist forest,' where annual rainfall is 1,500-4,000 mm, with 3
to4 months with less than 200 mm of rain; 'lowland wet forest,' where
the rainfall is 4,000 to 8,000 mm, with 0 to 2 months per year with less
than 200 mm of rain; and 'lowland rainforest,' where annual rainfall is
over 8,000 mm, and there are no months with less than 200 mm of rain.

Casiguran receives an average of 3,448 mm of rainfall per year, and

averages 5.5 months per year with with less than 200 mm of rain (with a
standard deviation of 1.9).

According to Holdridge's typologythere are no 'rainforests' in

the Philippines, since there is no area in the country which receives
anywhere near 8,000 mm of rainfall. (The area with the highest rainfall
is Baguio City, with an average of 4,177 mm [Flores and Balagot

2. In late 1985, after this chapter was written, my wife made a

trip to Casiguran and found the Agta on the upper peninsula selling wild
honey to lowlanders. This was the first time we have ever observed
this. The only explanation she got for this from the Agta was, "There
is a lot of honey in the forest this year."

3. I was aware of only three cases of Agta hunting with dogs in

1983-84. One was a tabug game drive involving an entire camp group of
three families. The other two were both cases where Agta were
searching for pigs wounded the previous day. One was a man in my own
camp who went out with his dog, and the other a woman and her teenage
son, who went out with their two dogs, with only a bolo for a weapon.
All three hunts were unsuccessful.

4. The largest python I have seen and measured was 6.96 m in

length (22 ft 10 in), and had a circumference of 66 cm (26 in). The
snake had no food in its intestinal tract except for one hard lump of
fecal matter, the size of a person's fist, just above the anus. This
snake was killed by Agta Kekek Aduanan on June 9, 1970 at the headwaters
of the Koso River. Bion Griffin reports (personal correspondence
September 9, 1982) seeing a python shortly after it was killed by some
Agta in coastal Penablanca, Cagayan, on May 27, 1982. This python
measured 6.4 m, and had in its stomach at the time a not-yet-digested
wild pig which Griffin estimated as weighing approximately 14 kg.


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This chapter will attempt to describe the salient linking

relationship between Agta kinship and Agta social life in the 1980s, and

how kinship influences so much of the "on-the-ground" daily behavior of

these people. Like several other factors in Agta ecology, I consider

kinship one of the components which influences both the flow of energy

and certain adaptive actions on the part of the Agta. Agta use their

kinship system (among other aspects of their culture) to articulate

their population with their ecosystem. As we see in this chapter, this

manifests itself in their marriage patterns, residence patterns and,

ultimately, how they share their food. Kinship, in fact, interfaces

closely with Agta patterns of production, exchange and consumption of

goods and services in their society. In other words, economics, as I

defined this term in Chapter 3.

Much of Agta behavior is governed by rules between types of

kinsmen, and between kin groups. This chapter will first describe and

map the Casiguran Agta kinship terminology, and then discuss aspects of

kin- related behavior, both as it is conceptualized ideally, and how it

is actually carried out "on the ground." Specific topics will discuss

household composition, camp structure, marriage patterns, exogamy rules,

asymmetrical alliances, widow(er) behavior, divorce, treatment of

orphans, and the delicate in-law relationships found among the Agta.


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The Agta kinship system is bilateral, with the nuclear family

acting as the basic social unit. The Agta do not have lineages,

clans or cognatic descent groups. Every individual, however, is the

center point of a personal kindred, and thus that individual has

important social roles of interaction with his kindred.

The kinship terms reflect an Eskimo classification, with lineal

relatives distinguished from collaterals in the first ascending and

descending generations from an individual (whom we will refer to here

as "Ego"), as well as in his, that is, Ego's, own generation. There is

no distinction between cross and parallel cousins, conceptually or

terminologically. While Agta distinguish terminologically siblings from

cousins, they also commonly extend sibling terms metaphorically to

include cousins to whom they feel a close emotional tie. Cousin

terminology may therefore be Eskimo or Hawaiian, depending on the

context and level of contrast required.

The Agta language has a total of 15 primary kin terms of reference,

6 of which also serve as terms of address (i. e., as vocatives). In

addition, there are 7 other address terms, which are morphologically

dissimilar from their referent counterparts, making a total of 22

kinship terms. Only the 15 reference terms are described in this

section. Address terms are listed iri Section II of Appendix B. In this

chapter, Agta kin terms are defined in a non-technical manner. The

English glosses appearing here in single quotes are not precise formal

meanings of the Agta terms, since no Agta kinship term means exactly the

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same as its English equivalent. For precise formal and componential

definitions of the terms, see Section I of Appendix B, and Headland and

Headland 1984, and for a graphic display of the 15 terms see Figure 2.

Primary terms of reference: Consanguineal. In Ego's generation,

siblings are referred to either as aka 'older sibling' or as wadi

'younger sibling'. Sex is not distinguished. Pensan is the word for

'cousin', regardless of age or sex, and the collateral distance of

'cousins' may be expressed as follows: pensan-buu 'first cousin',

pensan—ikaduwa 'second cousin', and pensan—ikatelo 'third cousin'.

In the first ascending generation the referent term for 'father' is

ama, and for 'mother', ina. Siblings and cousins of both parents are

called amay 'uncle' for males, and dada 'aunt' for females. These are

the only four kinship terms in Agta which carry a meaning component for

sex. (These are the persons numbered 1 through 4 in Figure 2 and

Appendix B.

In the first descending generation the referent term for 'child' is

anak, and for children of Ego's siblings and cousins the term is aneng

'nephew' or 'niece'.

All kinsmen two or more generations removed from Ego are referred

to as apo 'grandparent' or 'grandchild'.

Primary terms of reference: Affinal. Affinal terms include asawa

'spouse', manugeng, a reciprocal term for 'parent-in-law' and

'child-in-law'; kayong, a reciprocal for 'spouse's sibling', and for

'sibling's spouse': and idas, a reciprocal term for 'spouse of spouse's

sibling' ('co-sibling-in-law'). The consanguineal term aneng, 'nephew'

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or 'niece', is extended affinally to refer as well to 'spouse's

sibling's child'. The consanguineal term apo 'grandparent' and

'grandchild' is not extended affinally to include 'spouse's

grandparents' and 'spouse's grandchildren', as is common in other

Philippine languages. Rather, manugeng is used for this reference (see

Figure 2).

Finally, the reciprocal term balai is used, in both reference and

address, to refer primarily to one's 'child's spouse's parents' ('co-

parent-in-law'), and is extended secondarily to include any of Ego's

consanguineals' spouses' consanguineals. Each of the two sponsoring

kindreds which enter into a relationship through a marriage of two of

their members are referred to collectively and reciprocally as

kabalaian (ka-+balai+-an).


The kindred. Since Agta do not have lineages, clans, or cognatic

descent groups, kinship is based on the kindred. Every Agta individual

is the center point of a personal kindred, which is reckoned bilaterally

from himself, and includes all conceptually recognized descendants of

his eight great-grandparents. Thus Ego's kindred reaches laterally to

include all second cousins of whom he is cognitively aware. Each Agta,

therefore, has his own unique personal kindred, which he shares only

with his full siblings. Thus when Ego dies, his kindred group


The personal kindred of most Agta individuals is smaller than what

is typically found in most Philippine groups. There are two reasons

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for this. First, the very high death rate among Agta (described in

Chapter 12) results in small sibling sets and, therefore, smaller

kindreds. Second, most Agta cannot trace out their personal kindred

as far as can members of some other Philippine groups. Only 29 percent

of Agta adults know the names of all four of their grandparents, while

36 percent do not know the names of any of their grandparents. (No

Agta I interviewed knew the names of any of their eight

great-grandparents.) Though Agta can get help from older relatives in

attempting to trace links between distant relatives, the fact remains

that Agta know their first cousins, some of their second cousins, and

occasionally a few others who they have been told are their third


Typical of most traditional societies, an Agta individual has both

responsibilities towards the members of his personal kindred, and

privileges he may expect from those kindred. He is expected to both

receive help from and give help to the members of his kindred. These

reciprocal obligations increase or decrease in relation to the

generational or collateral distance between Ego and the alter from whom

he is giving or receiving help.

Thus, an Agta individual's personal kindred is that roster of

humans among whom he feels most secure and safe. This does not mean

that there is no friction between consanguines, because indeed there

is. But in times of stress from outside the kindred, consanguines come

together in mutual support. An Agta's best friends are the members of

his own kindred. The Agta social behavior which results from these

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intra- kindred relationships is reflected in several aspects of Agta

society. Let us now look at some of these.


Agta camps are found widely dispersed through the Casiguran

ecosystem. But, as I explained in Chapter 1,they are not evenly

scattered everywhere in the area. They tend to be found within a 20 to

40 minute hike up rivers from lowlander barrios, and they are seldom

found inside covered forest. In a sample of 56Agtacamps in 1983-84,

only 11 percent of the camps (6/56) were actually located under the

forest canopy. Sixty-one percent of the camps (34/56) were located in

one of the three types of forest biomes, but most of those were situated

in open sunlit areas of those biomes, such as in dry riverbeds or

swiddens. The other 39 percentof the camps were located outside of

the forest (see Table 4.5 for details). I explained in Chapter 1 why

Agta avoid living inside shaded forest areas.

Households are usually composed of simple nuclear families. In a

sample of nine traditional Agta camps, comprising 48 households and 208

individuals, the following pattern of household and camp composition

emerges: Typical Agta camps are comprised of from three to seven

nuclear households, with a mean average of six households. Mean

household size is 4.3 members. (The median and mode were both also

four.) Seventy-nine percent of the households are composed of simple

nuclear families (38/48), 17 percent of augmented nuclear families

(8/48), and 4 percent of the households are composite (2/48).^

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Agta houses are very small (and very temporary, too, I might add).

In a sample of 129 houses measured in 1983-84, the mean floor area was
only 3.9 m . The per capita area of floor space, per family member,
averaged 1.2 m (for details, see Table 5.1). Figures like these amaze
the average Westerner. Their significance is that they tell us

indirectly something about the Agta. For one thing, they are poor.

Also, they live outdoors much of the time. They do not so much "live"

in their houses, as use them for shelter in wet weather, and for

sleeping. Also, they move often, and they have few belongings.

Especially significant, they have no place to store food, such as their

rice harvest which, as we shall see in Chapters 11 and 13, is usually

consumed immediately (within a month or less after they harvest).

Finally, Agta have told me that if they had bigger houses they would

just have visitors living with them more often. Agta place a high value

on food sharing but, typical perhaps of other hunter-gatherers, they

grow weary of the drain this puts upon them. I have lived with Agta

long enough to know they would sympathize with the statement an old

!Kung man once said to Richard Lee:

On one occasion [says Lee] Tomagwe asked me for a blanket and,

when I responded that he would just give it away, he replied:
'All my life I've been giving, giving; today I am old and
want something for myself' (1982:55-56).

Agta do move often, and some families very often. Rai found that

the Agta camp group he lived with in San Mariano, Isabela, in 1980

moved their camp an average of every 18 days (Rai 1982:105). While I

do not have data on just how often the average Casiguran Agta family

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moves, I know there is a wide range. Some move as often as the group

Rai lived with, while others may live in the same house for up to a

year. The Casiguran camp groups which moved the most often in 1983-84

were those living then in Area 1 (see Map 2). Every time I visited

this area, usually once a month, their camps were situated at different


The Agta residence norm is bilocal, the couple may live with either

the husband's or the wife's parents. There is, however, a tendency

towards virilocality, and Agta informants express a conceptualized

ideal for virilocal residence. In the sample discussed above of 48

households, 48 percent of the households were virilocal, 35 percent were

uxorilocal, 8 percent were neolocal, and 8 percent were ambiguous. In

an earlier study of marriage locality preference among females (Headland

1978:131-32), I found 54 percent living virilocally, 26 percent

uxorilocally, and 20 percent neolocally in Casiguran (N=61). In Palanan

in 1979, I found 45 percent of the females living virilocally, 41

percent uxorilocally, and 14 percent neolocally (N=29) (cf. Peterson

1978a:46, 61, with whose data I take issue [Headland 1978]).

A more significant pattern of camp residence behavior emerges when

we trace genealogy links between households in a traditional Agta camp.

The outstanding feature which emerges is that, in any traditional Agta

camp, everyone living in the camp is related, either directly or

serially. In the eight traditional camps I mapped, only one of the 48

households consisted of members unrelated to the rest of the camp

households. (In Rai's [1982] study of another Agta group, he also found

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that members of any camp were either in direct or serial kinship

relationship.) Unrelated Agta come together to form residential groups

only in a non-traditional setting, such as wage labor, logging

employment or on government reservations.

We may thus define an Agta camp as a social aggregate consisting of

a core of consanguineal kin together with affines from other aggregates

(cf. Steward 1968:322). It is rare for an Agta to move in and live in a

camp group where he does not have primary relatives, although overnight

visitors are not infrequent. An Agta individual will not normally

reside in an Agta camp unless he or his spouse has one or more primary

consanguines (siblings, parents or children) in that camp.

Agta visitors are often found sleeping overnight in the camps of

people to whom they are not related, and lowlanders, who do not feel

restricted by the "rule," also often sleep overnight in Agta camps. In

a camp where my wife and I resided for 42 nights in 1978 (in Area 9, on

Map 2), lowlanders slept in the camp 21 percent of the nights, and non­

related Agta visitors 52 percent of the nights. In the camp where we

resided in 1983 (in Area 4), lowlander visitors slept in the camp 19

percent of the nights, and non-related Agta visitors 25 percent. These

non-related Agta were usually mere passers-by on their way home who

needed a place to sleep. These figures are doubtless higher than the

average, since both camps were on main trails leading from town, and

because ill Agta from other bands were often brought to us for medical

treatment. (For details, see Table 5.2.) The high number of non-

related Agta overnight visitors in the 1978 camp was doubtless because

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this camp was situated just a 15 minute walk from the large Agta

resettlement "village" on the government Reservation at Calabgan. I

should stress that Agta camps have visitors who are relatives almost
every night of the year.

This rule against Agta living in a camp with non-relatives differs

from the data of some other hunter-gatherer societies. Gould found that

among the Australian Desert aborigines, "sentiment may at times

outweigh kinship in determining co-residence" (1980:17). Though Lee

states that a !Kung camp is composed largely of related persons

(1979a:61, emphasis mine), Yellen and Harpending emphasize that a IKung

band "may be defined in terms of its area of focus but not in terms of

its membership" (1972:246), and an individual may move freely from one

area to another much as he pleases (ibid.:247). Turnbull mentions that

the fission and fusion of Mbuti and Ik individuals or groups "does not

follow lines of kinship" (1968:137).

These examples differ from what we find among the Agta, where

individuals and families are not free to move into camp groups of

non-kin, except for overnight visits. Ideally, Agta reside only with

kin, a phenomenon found also among other groups both within the

Philippines (Fox 1977:358, Conklin 1954:45, Dozier 1967:14, Pal

1958:337, Pallesen 1985:13), and elsewhere (Kirk Endicott 1979:170, Helm

1965, and 1968:121, 124, Evans-Prichard 1940:225-226).

This does not mean that "flux" (in Turnbull's [1968] use of this

term) is not present among the Agta. Indeed, the frequent changeover in

both camp location and camp composition among the Agta is important for

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their political and ecological adaptation (ibid.:137). But the flux is

restricted by the overriding rule requiring individuals to live only

with kin.


It is important to understand that marriage among traditional

societies such as the Agta is characteristically a "contract between

corporate groups" (Keesing 1975:42). It is not simply a union of two

individuals. Only if this point is kept in mind do the aspects of Agta

social organization discussed throughout this thesis make sense.

Virtually all Agta adults marry, except for some with mental or

physical handicaps, or those few who are taken away permanently by

lowlanders (often orphan children "adopted" for use as servants). In

1984, only 4 males and 1 female over age 29 had never married. (This

count excludes the 5 members of the de jure population over age 29 who

were taken away by lowlanders eight or more years ago, whose civil

status is unknown to me.)

All present unions are monogamous. Our genealogies reveal two

cases of sororal polygyny in the past, both of which were terminated by

deaths sometime before WWII.

Agta practice strict kin exogamy, and a strong preference for group

endogamy. There are only two cases of consanguineal unions in our

genealogical records, one between first cousins who were married for

many years (they had no offspring), and a man presently married to, he

says, his parent's parent's parent's sibling's child's child's daughter.

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There are also 12 cases known to us, 5 still ongoing in 1984, of unions

between affines.

Twenty-eight percent of the presently married adults (in 1984) were

married to outsiders (71/256). Eleven percent were married to non-Agta

lowlanders (2 men and 25 women), and 17 percent were married to Agta

from other population groups outside of Casiguran.

There was one sororate union in 1984, and one levirate union. The

genealogy records show four more such unions in the recent past. Mild

criticism is made about these unions, and the two couples presently so

married are occasionally teased. This is because such unions violate

the Agta exogamy rule.

The exogamy rule. Keesing makes explicit the difference between

incest rules and exogamy rules. "The incest taboo defines the limits of

prohibited sexual relations. . . . Exogamy defines the limits of

socially-approved marriage" (1975:42). The Agta exogamy rule includes

incest taboo prohibitions, but is broader in that it includes marriage

prohibitions even with certain Agta which are not consanguines.

The Agta have an interesting and closely followed exogamy rule:

One may not marry any person whom he already callsby anykinship term.

Peterson has described the same rule for the Palanan Agta: No one may

marry "anyone known to be a consanguineal or affinal kinsman. . . . ego

should not marry known consanguines of persons who have ever married

any of ego's known consanguines" (1978a:15). Note that this rule is

much stricter than our Western incest rules. In most Western

societies, for example, two brothers may marry twogirls who are

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cousins, or even sisters. This is frowned upon among the Agta. This is

an interesting rule for a population of only 609.

Conklin (1959:634) describes the same exogamy rule for the Hanunoo

of Mindoro. The Hanunoo, however, often break the rule, whereas the

Agta seldom do. (Similar rules against the marriage of affines are

mentioned for groups outside of the the Philippines in Gray 1968:264,

Service 1971:81, and Barnes 1971:103.)

Asymmetrical marriage alliances. Because of this exogamy rule,

Agta are not supposed to marry any affine or former affine (since one

calls these otherwise potential spouses by a kinship term). What this

means is that ifanyone in Ego's kindred has already married someone

from, say, kin group X, Ego is thus precluded from marrying anyone in

that kin group. Onecannot marry any person he calls balai

'consanguineal'sspouses' consanguineals'. That is to say, if my

brother or cousin marries a girl named Susie, then I cannot marry any

member of Susie's personal kindred.

It is interesting to note that this standard of ideal behavior is

quite closely adhered to in normative behavior. As mentioned above, our

genealogy charts revealed only 5 marriages between affines in 1984, and

7 others in earlier years, which are now terminated (see discussion in

Headland 1978:131). It is interesting to note how this exogamy rule

seems to be followed in real, on the ground, behavior, since the Agta

population is quite small. This certainly must restrict a young

person's range of choice for a mate (a topic I will discuss in more

detail in Chapter 12, when we look at the population decline).

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What we see, then, in this marriage pattern is a type of

asymmetrical marriage alliance system between kin groups, involving

indirect exchange (see Keesing 1975:84). For the Agta, this means that

once my kin group takes a spouse (male or female) from your kin group,

the exchange cannot be repeated nor reciprocated. Thus, if I have four

children, they should all secure their spouses from four different kin


It is at this point that we see a link between kinship and ecology.

There is an apparent adaptive function of this exogamy rule, which

serves to spread people around. The rule tends to distribute people of

any one kin group through a wide range of locales and food resource

zones. In time of need, this means any Agta has a number of widely

dispersed kinsmen with whom he can reside. These Agta mating rules

provide what Wobst calls "steady insurance at low cost [because they]

force the participants . . . to maintain close relationships with non­

local [groups]. . . . These relationships can be depended on in case of

local resource stress" (1975:80). As Colson has stated, "Social links

with those outside one's immediate terrain are the ultimate insurance

against famine" (1979:23). (The physical anthropologist or geneticist

would note another ecological function of this rule, in that it keeps

the Agta genes more homogenized in this small population than would

probably otherwise be the case.) . This custom was not consciously

planned, of course, nor are the Agta aware of its adaptive function. It

can probably best be explained as a long term evolutionary result of

natural selection.

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Barnes reports that this type of exogamy rule occurs commonly in

the highlands of New Guinea. That is, "every marriage between two

groups is an impediment to further marriages between them" (1971:103).

This contrasts with the "alliance systems" found elsewhere, where men

of group A take all their wives from group B, in turn giving sisters as

wives symmetrically back to men of group B, or asymmetrically to men of

group C. As Barnes points out, in alliance systems the intergroup

social ties are concentrated between two or three groups. But in the

Agta case, emphasis is on a multiplicity of intergroup connections.

This Agta marriage rule also supports some findings described by Cohen,

that "the widest extension of incest taboos beyond the nuclear family is

found in the least complex societies . . . [where] incest taboos extend

to many remote relatives, including in-laws and the in-laws of in-laws"


The shallowness of Agta genealogical records. As we have seen

above, Agta do not keep any genealogical records in their own memories.

For them to do so, I believe, would be maladaptive and incompatible with

their wide exogamy rule. Some Philippine hill tribes do keep

genealogical records in their heads (for references, see Dozier

1967:20). Such groups as the Ifugao practice ancestor worship, are

land-owning, and have bilateral descent groups. The Agta have none of

these. The Ifugao, for example can count pedigrees back for 8 to as

many as 20 generations (Conklin 1980:38). The Agta do not have

pedigrees at all. In fact, among the Agta, memory of grandparents is

memory of a^ person, not of a_ genealogy. Those few Agta who could give

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me the names of their grandparents were able to do so, in every case,

because they had personally lived with those grandparents when they

were children. If they didn't know the names of grandparents, it was

usually because the grandparents had died before they were born, or

were old enough to remember them.

It should be noted that, while the names of deceased individuals

are not strictly taboo, there _is some reluctance to say such names.

When recently deceased people must be referred to, a teknonymous

expression is often used (e.g., "the mother of Raiding"). This of

course results in the names of the dead being forgotten by most people

after a few year's time.

Agta, then, have a broad exogamy rule. How can they keep such a

rule, with their small population size, and still find mates? I am

suggesting that they make it easier for themselves to find eligible

marriage partners by cutting their genealogies down to exclude great-

grandparents. (They do not do this consciously, of course, but no Agta

I interviewed knew the names of their great-grandparents.) In this way,

one sheds distant cousins, thus making them eligible marriage partners.

If the Agta were ever to settle down and become farmers, with a land

inheritance system, they would likely then find it important to remember

ancestors as they formed inheritance rules. This would then put

pressure on the exogamy rule, with the probable result that the exogamy

circle would be reduced by allowing, or even preferring, marriages

between cousins (a custom found in some Philippine groups).

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How deep can the genealogies of people in a small population be,

without forcing them to break their exogamy rule? Not very. Whether

consciously or not, the Agta find it convenient, when looking for mates,

to "forget"their dead ancestors. The more you remember, the fewer

girls you have from which to choose. From this it is quite logical to

conjecture that the Agta do not practice ancestor worship (common in

other tribal groups in Luzon), because it is not compatible with their

exogamy rule— a rule which is ecologically adaptive because it causes

the Agta to form ties with several other groups who can then be relied

on in time of need.

How to get ja spouse. There are three ways in which marriage

unions are formed. The socially approved way, and the norm, is for two

sets of parents, with their siblings, to formally arrange a marriage

between two of their children. This involves a series of usually three

formal betrothal palavers (sakad) between the two kindred groups. I

have described the sakad in detail elsewhere, and will not repeat it

here (Headland 1975b:251-52, 1978:129-30). If the marriage is agreed

upon, the boy usually begins a period of "bride service" (sehebi),

living with the parents of the girl. From this, a period of "trial

marriage" evolves.^ After the couple have been sleeping together for

some time, there is, ideally, a kasal 'wedding', in which bride price

gifts are given by the boy's kindred to the kindred of the girl.

A second way in which unions are formed is through lepwang

'elopement'. In this case, a boy and girl arrange privately to run away

together. After living together for several days alone in the forest or

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in the home of a distant friend or kinsman, they return to the home of

either set of parents. The parents and elder kin of the couple are

usually terribly upset by the elopement, but they make no overt attempt,

that I have ever been able to observe, to separate the couple. The

couple usually remains married.

A third way in which marriage unions are formed is called paket.

This refers to a marriage in which at least one, but more often both, of

the partners is widowed from a previous marriage. In most cases which

I have observed, both partners were widowed, and both were older than

40 years of age. Such marriages come about through the consensual

agreement of the two partners, who merely begin living together. In

these cases, there is no formal event of any kind— no sakad discussion

between the two kindreds, and no kasal 'wedding'. If the man is a

widower, but the woman is not, or is young enough so that her parents

are still living, there may be a sakad discussion to arrange the

marriage. The lack of stability of such marriages (between two widowed

partners) is discussed below.

Bride service. Ideally, when a girl is married for the first

time, the male to whom she is betrothed, or with whom she elopes, is

expected to do sehebi 'bride service'.The period of bride service is

agreed upon by the two sets of parents of the couple. Sehebi (from

Spanish servir 'to serve') refers to a period of "service"in which a

young man lives with his parents-in-law, providing economic support to

their household. This period typically is said to last from three

months to a year. It takes place after the sakad 'palavers' between

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the two kindreds, and before the kasal 'wedding'(if there is one).

During this trial period the young man can still be rejected by the

girl or her family, if he seems unsuitable. And he himself can also

break off the arrangement if he changes his mind.

'Bride service', however, does not seem to be highly

institutionalized, and is a form of ideal behavior which is not strictly

carried out according to the rules. Only 44 percent of the married

males claim to have done 'bride service' when they married (28/63 males

interviewed in 1976).

Age at marriage and age difference between mates. Casiguran Agta

females today marry at the mean age of 18.4 years (see bottom of Table

12.5). A good number marry before that, however. A third are married

by the end of their seventeenth year, a few marry as early as age

sixteen, and an even smaller percentage (13 percent) at age fifteen. I

have no record of a female ever marrying at age fourteen, or earlier.

Though most girls are married by the time they finish their teens, a

significant minority, about one-third, do not marry until they are in

their early twenties. (The mean male age at marriage is 21.7 years [see

Chapter 12].)

In contrast to some hunter-gatherer groups where the husbands are a

good deal older than their wives, most Agta are married to partners

close in age. In a sample of 132 unions, 73 percent of the couples were

less than 6 years apart in age. That is, 73 percent of the married Agta

have mates which are members of their same 5 year age cohort group. In

9 percent of the unions, the couples are the same age (12/132). In most

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marriages, 80 percent, the husband is older than his wife, while for 11

percent the wife is older.

Divorce. In June '84, 8 percent of the ever-married men and 7

percent of the ever-married women were currently divorced. Overall,

eighteen percent of the ever-married adults stated to me in 1977 that

they have been divorced at least once (23/127). Most cases of divorce

occur among two categories of couples. First, divorce is more apt to

occur among couples who are newly married, or who are still in a

"trial" period of incipient marriage (as when the boy is still living

in the home of the girl's parents doing bride service) . These

"marriages" may break up within a few days or weeks, often (I suspect)

without the union ever having been consummated. Second, divorce is

quite frequent among second marriages (paket, discussed above) of older

widowed people.

On the other hand, marriages are very stable among couples with

children. It is especially unusual for couples with dependent children

to divorce, and I can recall only two cases of this in my experience.

When divorce (hiwalay 'to separate') does occur, there is no

formal event marking such. No bride price is returned and, since Agta

marriages are not formally recorded by the government or church, no

formal "divorce proceedings" are carried out. The couple merely

separates and, if there is no reconciliation after several weeks, they

are considered "divorced" by the society.

In the 1970s, my wife and I had hypothesized that arranged

marriages (sakad) tend to be more stable, while marriages formed by

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elopement (lepwang) were more apt to end in divorce. When we tested

this hypothesis in 1977, however, we found there was no significant

difference in divorce rates between the two types of marriage.

In a sample of 44 marriage unions consisting of couples of which

neither partner had been married before, 45 percent of the unions began

through elopement, and 55 percent were arranged. The difference is

insignificant, and suggests that marriages formed through elopement are

just as likely to succeed as those formed through sakad palavers.

Widowhood. Since an Agta marriage is between two kin groups, and

not merely between two individuals, even death itself does not terminate

an Agta marriage. When a married adult dies, certain social obligations

between the surviving spouse and his or her kindred, and the kindred of

the deceased, come into play. First of all, if no consanguines were with

the deceased at the time of death, his primary kin may blame the

surviving widow(er) of improper care of their now deceased kinsman.

This is especially so if the deceased was young, or died suddenly. I

have even seen cases where the surviving relatives spread the rumor that

their deceased kinsman was murdered by the spouse.

For this reason, the widow(er) and his kin group make efforts to

avoid such accusations in the following ways: (1) they may carry the

dying person to the camp of his own relatives, or (2) they will make

efforts to fetch the dying person's relatives, bringing them to their

camp before the death occurs, or at least before the body is buried.

Then, when the person dies, (3) the widow(er) is expected to go through

a period of overt mourning of about one year, during which he should

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neither bathe, cut his hair, or wear clean clothing. His relatives will

also help him weave heavy strands of fiber, which he will then wear on

his wrists, arms and around his upper body for one year. The widow(er)

is not supposed to cut these cords off himself, but is to wait until a

primary relative of the deceased decides to cut them off. When this is

done, it signals the end of the period of mourning, that the widow(er)

is forgiven for letting his spouse die, and that the in-laws will not

be angry if he now remarries.

There is a fourth requirement expected of the widow(er) and his or

her kin group: They are expected to perform megbilo. The word bilo

means 'widow' or 'widower'. The verbalized form, megbilo, means, "For

the kinsmen of a widow or widower to give mandatory gifts to the

kinship group of the deceased spouse, in order to placate their anger

at them, and so that they will not continue to hold them responsible

for the death" (Headland and Headland 1974:25). The gifts (called

pagbilo) should be given within a year of the death, and these consist

of cooking pots, cloth, and bolos. I have seen aspects of this action

performed on several occasions, but it does not seem to be carried

through to completion in most cases. This megbilo requirement may be a

custom which is dying out, or it may have always been a form of ideal

behavior which was often not carried through to completion in actual

behavior. (Barton [1969:20] describes a custom similar to this among

the Ifugao. I am unaware of this custom for any other Philippine


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There is, finally, a fifth requirement expected of the surviving

widow(er). In Agta culture, although parents are the primary guardians

of their own children, the children are also considered as belonging to

all adult primary members of the kindred of both parents. Indeed, the

Agta language does not have a word for 'parents', but has a near­

equivalent term, dedikel, which we may gloss as 'elders who raised me'.

It is a generic kinship term not only for Ego's mother and father, but

for all kin of the first ascending generation from Ego who had a part

in raising Ego. (The term itself is a derived form of the verb dikel

'to grow up'.)

Since a kindred group does have some claim on its juvenile members,

the fifth requirement of a widow(er) with two or more dependent children

is that he or she give one of the children to the siblings or parents of

the deceased spouse. This is usually the oldest child. The child will

then live indefinitely with his dead parent's kin. It was explained to

me that the widow(er) gives the child to his or her in-laws to

compensate them for the loss of their deceased kinsman. This is never

done if the widow(er) has only one living child.


Treatment of orphans. An 'orphan' (ulila) in Agta society is

defined as a child who has lost at least one parent by death. The

previous section has outlined how orphans may be given by the surviving

parent to that parent's in-laws, to raise. Though this custom may be

viewed negatively by Western standards, there is at least one reason why

the custom is beneficial for the orphan. When a widow(er) remarries,

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the new spouse views the widow's children as non-kin, and thus typically

shows little concern, responsibility, or affection for those children.

In short, stepparents make little effort to care for their stepchildren.

Though there are exceptions, I have seen several cases of second class

treatment of children by stepparents.

For this reason, 'orphan' children often find living with a dead

parent's kindred more favorable to living with the surviving parent who

is remarried. This is especially so if that parent is living with the

kin group of the new spouse. In that case, the child would find himself

living in a foreign camp with none of h:’s own personal kindred to

support him, except his own parent, now remarried. This is an

unfortunate situation for any Agta individual, since Agta make little

effort to aid non-kinsmen.

This is not to say that orphans receive first class treatment just

because they are living with their dead parents primary kin. In this

situation, though they are not treated as outsiders, they are still

foster children. As such, they will not always receive the same care

from their aunts and uncles as do their cousins who are lineal offspring

of those adults. Adult Agta will care for their foster nephews and

nieces but, if they have children of their own, they will favor their

own children first.

One outcome of this behavior is that orphans of marriageable age

find it difficult to marry. I interpret this as being because they do

not have the support of their own parents in arranging a marriage. In

1984, there were 16 females in the population age 18+ who were still

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single. Twelve of these were 'orphans'. Of the seven unmarried males

age 22+, all were 'orphans' except one, who is totally blind. There is

some evidence, then, that orphans tend to marry at a later age than is

the norm. It is hypothesizedhere that this is because they do not

have both living parents to help them in arranging a marriage, and

their other senior kindred (aunts and uncles) do not make the extra

effort to assist them, as they would their own lineal offspring.

Relationships between half-siblings. The relationships found

between full siblings is a close one. Both during childhood and after

marriage, full siblings are very close. Though there may be quarrels,

for the most part there is a strong trust bond among siblings. This is

not so among half-siblings. Though half-siblings may live together in

the same camp, especially if the mutual parent is still living, there is

typically strife, friction, and distrust between them. An interesting

phenomenon occurred over and over during our years of collecting

genealogies from many informants: When my wife or I asked for names of

one's siblings, names of half-siblings were seldom listed! When we

finally realized that interviewees were failing to give us the names of

their half-siblings, we had to redo a good number of our interviews,

asking specifically for the names of any half-siblings, to complete the


The delicate relationships with in-laws. There is a very

noticeable form of institutionalized behavior between an individual and

all adult members of his spouse's kindred (except for their own mutual

offspring). This relationship is manifested in what Schusky (1972:61)

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calls a "respect relationship" of Ego towards his spouse's kindred.

Ego practices very circumspect behavior towards these in-laws. He first

of all never says the names of any of his spouse's kindred. Those names

are taboo to him, and he will never repeat them even if they are not

present. This norm is closely followed today. (Affines with names taboo

to Ego are marked with asterisks in Figure 2.)

Ego is always careful to manifest deference towards his spouse's

kindred. And this is especially the case during the first year or two

of marriage. When Ego is living with the kinship group of his spouse he

is absent from all of his own kindred ( except his children), and

sometimes a severe strain is put on him as he strives to show respect

and circumspect behavior to most of those around him. There is thus a

certain amount of ambivalence between an individual and his in-laws.

Just one spiteful sister-in-law can make life miserable for Ego, and I

have seen many cases where a kin group will harass an in-law continually

until he and his spouse are forced to move out of the camp.

Because of the delicate situation of an individual living away from

his own kindred, in the camp of his spouse's group, there is often a

close relationship which builds up between him and his idas 'co-

sibling-in-law' of the same sex (e.g., two men married to sisters).

These two individuals, though not directly related, are drawn together

as mutual outsiders in a potentially hostile community. Except for his

own spouse, these other outsiders, (Ego's idas) are the only ones whose

names he can say in the whole camp. The result is thus often a close

bond relationship between idas dyads of the same sex, in the same camp.

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They will address each other by the reciprocal vocative term idas, work

together, and support each other as needs arise. This is one of the

few cases where Agta form close friendships with non-kindred.

* * *

The present chapter has attempted to highlight the important

relationships between Agta kinship and Agta social behavior, and how

the Agta use kinship to relate with their total ecosystem including,

especially in this case, other humans in that ecosystem. I have

described here household and camp composition, marriage, and how that

fits with exogamy rules and asymmetrical alliances, widow(er) behavior,

divorce, and in-law relationships.

As in the case with most hunter-gatherer societies, Agta family and

kinship organization are of pivotal importance to the success of the

whole Agta adaptive system. Service's statement for other band

societies fits the Agta situation well:

There are no specialized or formalized institutions or groups

that can be differentiated as economic, political, religious
and so on. The family itself is the organization that
undertakes all roles. The important economic division of
labor is by age and sex differentiations. . . . the band
level of society is a familistic order in terms of both
cultural and social organization (Service 1966:8, emphasis

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1. In my definition, "simple nuclear households" consist of a

married couple with their offspring (or without offspring); "augmented
nuclear households" consist of a nuclear family with one or more
dependent unmarried relatives; and"composite households" are those with
two or more related married couples living together sharing the same

2. Agta houses are tiny even by ruralFilipino standards, and even

compared to another Negrito group. Rahmannet al. report that among the
Negritos of northern Negros, "The average floor area of their houses was
about 10 sq. meters" (1973:154). Wallace says that Gaddang "houses
average an area of approximately seventy-five square feet [7.1 m ]"
(1967:117), and Pahilanga and Lynch (1972:55) report the average size of
the houses of rice farmers in Nueva Ecija in 1971 was 27 m .

3. Serially related individuals are kin of kin. That is, such

ego- alter dyads are separated by two or more marriage links, and are
thus only indirectly related. Three examples of alters serially
related to Ego are Ego's idas 'spouse's sibling's spouse', his balai
'consanguineal's spouse's consanguineal', and any spouses of Ego's

4. I have data showing the number of nights five nuclear

households had overnight guests who were relatives. (This is data for
individual households, not camps, and is based on large samples
collected in 1983.) The percentages of nights they had such guests
were, for each household, 98%, 81%, 79%, 57%, and 33%. Fifteen other
families who stayed in the camp where I was for shorter times, together
had relatives as guests an average of 42% of the nights.

5. The term "trial marriage" here is an etic concept. The Agta

themselves have no word for such, nor any emic conception of it. But
since I have observed a number of cases where young unmarried men lived
for periods with unmarried girls (usually in the home of the girl's
parents), and then separated,- I use this term to refer to that


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If the hunting and gathering way of life has survived in the

Kalahari, it is not because of isolation (Vierich 1982:213).

Modern foragers tend still to be viewed in most of the current

anthropological literature as sequestered beings whose very
existence is due to the fact that they live beyond the reach
of the trade routes of foreign powers. They are
[incorrectly] depicted as quintessential isolates, whose
world was merely glimpsed in passing by explorers, and who
remained remote until anthropologists penetrated their lives
(Schrire 1984:2).

As the reader will soon see, the argument of this chapter disagrees

strongly with the well-entrenched evolutionary view of hunter-gatherers

summarized in the above quote which, as Schrire reminds us, "rests on

the tacit assumption that [such peoples] have no history to speak of at

all" (ibid.).

In the theoretical approach I use in this thesis I interpret

ecological forces in an ecosystem as not just the physical components,

but other forces such as history, politics, economics, religion, and

other human cultural behavior. This chapter, and the following three,

will attempt to review some of the significant historical events in the

Casiguran ecosystem, including current events and recent political

trends. It is impossible for us to fully understand the evolutionary

trajectory of the Agta people without knowing at least some of the

history which has led, or pressured, the Agta into their present

economic niche. It is also necessary for us to see this historical


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background if we are to predict the possible future direction of these


In this chapter I present two alternative hypothetical models of

Agta prehistory. Data are presented which substantiate the second of

these models (and repudiate the first). These data are based on

comparative- historical Austronesian linguistics (in this chapter), and

from early historical records (in the next chapter). Following that,

Chapter 8 will discuss the significant events in the history of the

American period and up to the 1960s, and Chapter 9 will review the

important current events of last decade. All of these "events" are

viewed here as "ecological conditions" in the Casiguran ecosystem, as

we see how they have and are affecting the flow of energy units in the

Casiguran ecosystem and, specifically, the Agta population itself.

My reconstruction of Agta prehispanic economics in this chapter

will be partly conjectural. For both that period and the Spanish

period (as well as the 20th century history to be presented in Chapter

8), my review will be built around the second of my two proposed

models, which I here argue is the best and most accurate reflection of

the pattern of Agta cultural evolution since the time of Christ. I

call this model here "Model Two." To make this evolutionary-historical

model more salient to the reader, I contrast it with a more generally

believed model, which I call "Model One," or the "isolationist stance."

Model One reflects the popular view of how most lay people, many

historians, and perhaps even most anthropologists assume that

hunter-gatherer groups such as the Agta lived in the recent past.

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It should be made clear at the start that the two models are not

one hundred percent opposed to each other. In several ways they

overlap, and sometimes even complement one another. They do, however,

diverge at certain critical points, and it is those divergent points

which I will highlight, as a heuristic tool, in order to make ray

argument, and to clarify the issues as I see them. The goal is to lay

the groundwork for answering in later chapters the main questions of

this thesis, why the Agta behave economically as they do, and why they

are not taking up agriculture as an alternative way of life.

There is little known about the history of Casiguran, especially

for the Spanish and prehispanic periods. I will, however, attempt to

outline in this and the following two chapters the historical

information I have been able to find or, since 1962, observe,

emphasizing those events which have influenced Agta culture. As the

reader will see, the historical records cited in those two chapters

provide strong circumstantial evidence in support of my Model Two which

I present in this chapter.


Model One: The older model. Two alternative hypothetical models of

how the Agta may have been living in prehispanic times may be

delimited. The older and more generally accepted assumption, the Model

One "isolationist stance" (a term borrowed from Gordon 1984:220),

assumes that the first human inhabitants of the Philippines were some

type of Pleistocene Homo sapiens which evolved some 20,000 years ago

into the phenotypic Negrito type found in the Archipelago today.

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(Bellwood [1985:74, 113] is one who believes that the Negritos were the

aboriginal inhabitants of the Philippines.) Solheim, for example,

proposes that

It is likely that all of the land area of the late Pleistocene

Philippines had a small and variable Homo sapiens
population. . . . The Negritos . . . were descendants of this
late Pleistocene population. . . . Though of small size,
these people would not have been classified as Negritos
and . . . they evolved locally under similar lowland
rainforest ecological conditions into the known Negrito
groups of today and the recent past (1981:25; cf. Rambo

Omoto proposes a similar microevolutionary view:

The evidence [of certain gene frequencies] . . . suggests that

there were at least two streams of migration of the
aboriginal groups in the Philippines, one being on the
western part, perhaps from Borneo via Palawan to Luzon, and
the other on the eastern part to Mindanao. The western group
represented by the Aeta [and Agta] is phenotypically the true
Negrito. They may have shared an ancestral stock with the
Semang [Negritos] of Malaysia and evolved [from a non-Negrito
Homo sapiens type] in the upper Pleistocene times, probably
during 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, in the tropical
rain-forest of Sundaland and developed phenotypic [Negrito]
peculiarities through genetic adaptation. . . . Selective
advantage of small body size in the tropical rain-forest
appears to be obvious because of smaller calorie needs, a
more efficient body cooling, and the relative ease of moving
in a dense vegetation. . . . some groups [of early humans]
entered the rain-forest and evolved phenotypically into what
we call Negritos today (1985:129-130).

This model assumes that the Negritos, then, were the aboriginal

inhabitants of the Philippine archipelago, that their original languages

were not Austronesian, and that they lived a "pure" hunter-gatherer

lifestyle well into the Spanish era. If there were non-Negrito non-

Austronesian speaking humans which migrated into the archipelago in the

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early Holocene, the Negritos had little or no contact with them. And

when Austronesian speaking groups began migrating into the islands

around 4000 B.C.,1 the Negritos had only light contact with them.

Yet, Model One assumes, their original languages became extinct as the

various Negrito groups exchanged them for the languages of their

Austronesian neighbors.

This "isolationist" model proposes that the Agta bands living along

the eastern coast of Luzon were especially separated from non-Agta

farming populations, since even during Spanish times very few non-

Negrito people lived in that isolated and inhospitable area of Luzon,

with its rugged mountains, stormy weather, and rough seas.

William H. Scott, the leading historian today on the early

Philippines, presents an only slightly exaggerated summary statement of

this Model One view of Philippine prehistory, with which he of course

disagrees, but which is still taught in many of the nation's classrooms:

During the past 30,000 years, the archipelago experienced a

stereotyped progression of Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age
advances through the arrival of waves of migration of
racially distinct peoples, whose [customs] . . . are known in
detail. Each migration was superior . . . to the one before
it, and therefore later migrants drove earlier ones into the
less desirable mountainous interiors. . . . All these groups
remained sufficiently isolated to preserve their genetic
purity . . . Historic contacts [did not begin until]
. . . between the tenth and fifteenth centuries (Scott
1984:vii-viii, emphasis added).

The Agta, then, according to Model One, lived a 'true' hunter-

gatherer lifestyle, a near-Pleistocene economy, right through most of

the Spanish era, and perhaps even into the early part of this century.

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Indeed, when I hiked along the isolated eastern coast of Cagayan in

1965, the Agta groups I found there, 170 km north of Casiguran, looked

pretty 'wild' compared to the Casiguran Agta. Loggers had not yet

reached this area, the present-day coastal town of Maconacon was still

virgin rainforest, and the Agta camps there were far from lowlanders.

And even today this particular Agta population is considered the least

acculturated of any Philippine Negrito group.

My initial impression of these 'wild' Agta was soon countered

however, by my recognition that these people had steel bolos and glass

diving goggles, and that they wore G-strings and wrap-around skirts of

commercial cotton. They also had small root crop swiddens, and they knew

what day of the week it was. Every camp had drying racks covered with

wild meat. But this meat was not for themselves, I soon learned. They

were preparing it for their trading partners, their non-Agta farming

neighbors living a half day's hike south. 2

In Casiguran, if Model One is carried to its extreme, the Agta

probably lived at least somewhat isolated from and independent of the

Casiguranin lowland farming population until well into the last century,

and perhaps even up to 1912, when the American Army Officer Wilfrid

Turnbull began his assignment in Casiguran to "bring [this] wild tribe

under government control" (Turnbull 1930). Not only in prehispanic

times, but up to the turn of this century, and for some bands up to the

end of WWII, the Casiguran Agta may have lived by hunting, fishing, and

gathering, with wild yams their main starch food. They had, this

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"isolationist stance" assumes, little trade of any kind with the lowland

farming population, and they practiced no agriculture.

Some aspects of this model may not be too far from reality. It is

a reasonable argument that the Negritos were here long before the

arrival of the first Austronesian speaking non-Negrito populations

began migrating into the islands, and that their languages were not

Austronesian. I accept this part of the Model One view. Likewise, I

must emphasize, I assume that the proto-Agta, and all proto-Negritos in

the Philippines during the early Holocene, lived at that time a Model

One lifestyle of some kind. That is, I accept in my Model Two framework

that at some time in the distant past the ancestors of the present-day

Agta lived isolated, and independent of neighboring farmers (though

they may have done some simple cultivation themselves). It is hard to

know when this traditional independent hunter-gatherer lifestyle may

have ended, but there was probably a gradual changeover to a Model Two

lifestyle about the time that early Austronesian-speaking populations

begin migrating into northeastern Luzon. This was probably not as early

as 4000 B.C. (when Austronesian speakers first entered the northern

Philippines), but the Model Two changeover may have been established, or

at least have begun, by 1200 B.C., when humans which were probably not

Negritos were living in the Palanan valley. (I base this on the

archaeological work of W. Peterson in Palanan, which I discuss below.)

My point here is that my Model Two view proposes how Philippine Negritos

lived during the last 2,000 years or so. I am not hypothesizing here

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how proto-Negritos may have lived in the archipelago 5 to 10,000 years


Though both models assume that Negritos (or proto-Negritos) were

the first human inhabitants of the Philippines.there is little

evidence— archaeological, linguistic, or otherwise— to substantiate

such an argument. Genetic studies of Philippine Negritos (Omoto 1981,

1985) likewise provide no evidence for resolving the question of the

antiquity or degree of genetic isolation of Negritos from other

populations. No evidence has ever been found of any 'residue' of an

extinct original Negrito language in the present speech of any

Philippine Negrito group. It is certainly incorrect to suggest, as

have some writers (e.g., Blumentritt 1900:15, Kroeber 1919:41-42,

Vanoverbergh 1925:417, 1937:10, Kreiger 1942:106, Keesing 1962:341,

Gagelonia 1967:108, and Lebar 1975:24), that the Negritos do not have

any languages of their own today, but merely speak the languages of

their closest neighbors. The Agta groups of Eastern Luzon all speak

their own (Austronesian) languages, which are not intelligible to their

lowland neighbors (except for those lowlanders who have learned them

through lifelong interaction with the Agta). These six or more Agta

languages are neither more nor less similar to the languages of their
lowland neighbors than are other Philippine languages to each other.

Model Two: The newer model. I propose here a second, more complex

model which overlaps with the first model above, but which, I argue, may

come closer to the actual history of the Agta in the prehistoric and

hispanic periods. This revised model, Model Two, agrees with some parts

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of Model One. It diverges from it, however, at two salient points.

First, Model Two argues for a great deal more contact and symbiosis

between the Agta and their small populations of neighboring lowland

farmers, both during the early hispanic period and since at least the

time of Christ. Second, the model argues for a much earlier date for

the beginnings of agriculture in the Agta culture. A third problem

with the first model is that— and this is the case with most models— it

is too simplified. It assumes that all Agta bands were homogeneous. As

will be seen in Model Two, and later in subsequent chapters, not all

Agta bands followed the same economic life style; nor did they all have

the same degree of contact with lowland farmers.

The Model One "isolationist" view, then, assumes that the Agta

lived isolated from and independent of lowland farming populations at

least until the Spanish period. This seems logical when we realize

that there were approximately only a half a million people in the whole

archipelago in the 16th century. Though there were surely very few

lowland farming groups in northeastern Luzon at that time, early

Spanish documents do firmly establish that such groups did exist there

in the 1500s. One document dated 1582 states there were "about five

hundred Indians" in Casiguran then (Blair and Robertson 1903-09:5.99).

The Franciscan Fathers began their mission work among the lowland

populations of Baler, Casiguran and Palanan in 1578.

Going well back into prehistoric times, archaeologist Warren

Peterson (1974a, 1974b) excavated a habitation site in Palanan which he

dates at least as early as 1200 B.C. I interpret this so-called

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"incipient agricultural site" (Peterson's term [1974b:227]) as probably

non- Negrito, since it had postholes 40 centimeters in diameter, a

highly developed earthenware assemblage with much pottery, two mortars,

and evidence of the reaping of [wild?] grain (1974b:131, 161, 162, 225,

227). It is not likely that nomadic hunter-gatherers would have left

such a residue pattern over 3,000 years ago.

There is evidence that humans were living on the western side of

the Sierra Madre, in northeastern Luzon at the end of the Pleistocene

(Thiel 1980). These people were using what Thiel calls "grass reaping

blades" in the same area at a date she proposes of around 5000 B.C.

Thiel also found a brass needle at the same site inan archaeological

level she dates as 2000 B.C., and a burial cave she dates at 1500 B.C.

Warren Peterson (1974b) also excavated a site on the west side of the

Sierra Madre just 40 km west of Casiguran. C-14 tests of his samples

indicate this site was frequented by hunter-collectors over a "probable

time span of 2110-4120 B.P." (That is, from 2000 B.C. to the time of

Christ.) It is tempting to assume that these humans were Negritos.

The circumstantial evidence points, then, to the likelihood that

there were non-Agta farming populations, as well as Negrito hunters, in

the fertile alluvial plains of Palanan and Casiguran before the time of

Christ. Model Two proposes that at least some Agta bands, whether in

these two wide valleys or in other areas on the western side of the

Sierra Madre, had significant symbiotic relationships of one type or

another with these farming populations by the eve of the Christian era.

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This symbiosis may not have been continuous, and it surely had not

always been mutualistic, but it was significant. There is one strong

piece of evidence showing that there must have been heavy prehistoric

interaction between Agta hunters and lowland farmers, and this is

linguistic. Linguistic notes from the Spanish era on different Negrito

languages and dialects in various areas of the Philippines show that all

these languages were fully Austronesian. The earliest linguistic data on

the Agta languages (Baer 1907, Scherer 1909, Vanoverbergh 1937) show

them to be nothing more nor less than normal Philippine languages.

There are a few Philippine languages which are aberrant, with

vocabulary and/or grammar so different that they cannot with any

assurance be subgrouped within any of the accepted Philippine linguistic

families. (These languages are Ivatan, Blaan, Tboli, Tiruray, Bagobo,

and Sama-Bajaw.) (See Reid 1981:235 and, for details, Walton 1979.) None

of the Negrito languages are included in this deviant group (but see

Pennoyer n.d., on the Ati Negrito language). The Agta languages, for

example, fit neatly into a linguistic sub-group— called Northern

Cordilleran (NC) (Tharp 1974)— with their neighboring lowland

languages, while still being clearly distinct languages from those


If it is true, as virtually every writer assumes (e.g., see Blust

1981:301), that the Agta Negritos of eastern Luzon originally spoke

languages which were non-Austronesian, how is it that their languages

today are fully developed Austronesian languages? There can be only one

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answer to this question. Hundreds of years ago the ancestors of the

present day Agta must have been in almost continuous interaction with

Austronesian speaking peoples. How else would it have been possible

for them to have lost their original languages, to the point where no

trace of them can be found today, and adopt the speech of their non-

Negrito neighbors, then end up speaking today Austronesian languages

related to but clearly distinct from those neighbors? Sporadic contact,

or no contact at all until the end of the prehispanic era, would hardly

have allowed enough time for this.

Let me review the linguistic evidence in a little more detail.

First, implicit evidence that Negritos were in contact with the

earliest Austronesians is shown by the fact that the name by which they

are commonly known, agta, is a reflex of Proto-Austronesian *qaRta

'Negrito' (Charles 1974:460),^ which contains a proto- phoneme (*R)

which did not survive the differentiation of the first language

(Proto-Philippine, Proto-Malayo-Polynesian, or Proto-Extra- Formosan,

depending on one's subgroupingassumptions). In the Northern

Cordilleran languages *R went to g (henceagta); in the Central

Cordilleran languages *R went to 1 (hence alta); and in the Sambalic

languages *R went to y (hence ayta), and so on. All these terms, found

today in many Philippine languages, always meaning 'Negrito', are

reflexes of the same Proto-Austronesian word.

Second, some Agta languages appear to have retained some very

archaic features which are not found today in most other Philippine

languages, but which were in some very early daughter language of

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Proto-Austronesian. This provides evidence that the ancestors of these

Agta speakers were once interacting with non-Negrito speakers of a

now-extinct language, let us say Proto-Northern Cordilleran (PNC), an

interaction so intense that they borrowed those features, perhaps even

adopted the PNC language itself as their own. Then later these ancient

Negritos separated themselves from these non-Negrito neighbors, but

continued to retain the language they borrowed from them, PNC. Over

time, through the normal processes of language change, the PNC language

of these two groups diverged into separate dialects, and finally into

separate daughter languages of PNC no longer mutually intelligible. The

descendents of this ancient Negrito breakoff group retained certain

features of the proto language, PNC, which most of the non-Negrito

populations lost.

I refer to such archaic features in Casiguran Agta as the di

'locative marker', and the retention of the unreduced verbal affixes

mina- and minag—, rather than their reducing to the na- and nag- forms

most commonly found in other Philippine languages. (For details, see

Headland and Healey 1974.)

In other words, these archaic forms found today in Casiguran Agta

indicate that they were first learned when such forms were present in

the Austronesian language spoken by the people with whom they were then

in contact, in this case PNC. As any historical linguist will verify,

that must have been a very long time ago. We are not talking about

just a few hundred years here. It is theoretically possible that within

a couple of generations these ancient Negritos could have taken over as

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their own the proto-language of some Austronesian-speaking farming

group, if the interethnic symbiosis was intense enough. But it would

have taken at least a thousand years— after the two groups separated—

for the two daughter languages spoken today by the descendants of those

two groups to become mutually unintelligible. Yet the retention of the

archaic forms in present day Casiguran Agta provides evidence that this

is what happened.

A third piece of linguistic evidence showing a long period of

separate development of the Casiguran Agta language, after it was

borrowed through intense contact, is that it does not share a particular

innovation which characterizes the 15 other present-day Northern

Cordilleran languages, as well as Ilokano. That is, of gemination

following the mid close central 'pepet' vowel. (Palanan Agta does have

geminate clusters by the way.) Nor does Casiguran Agta share the

complete assimilation of heterogeneous stop clusters found in most of

the Northern Cordilleran languages (excepting Isnag and Central Cagayan

Agta). (See Tharp 1974, for details).

The linguistic evidence, then, suggests some type of cyclic

interaction between prehistoric Agta and farming populations. This

ranged from periods of intimate contact (not just trading), when

children and parents of both groups worked together for periods long

enough for bilingualism to develop, and then for the earlier Agta

language to be lost, to subsequent periods of no contact when the new

Negrito language began to differentiate, to periods of casual trading

contact when bilingualism became functional. In this third period some

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linguistic forms would be borrowed, but not enough to replace the

language of the home.

The linguistic evidence, then forces us to favor the second, newer

model I present here, Model Two, which proposes that the Agta were not

living as independent Pleistocene-type hunter-gatherers during late

prehistoric times.^ Some Agta bands possibly did live far from and

independent of non-Negrito farming populations, but even these band

groups moved at times to where they could trade with farmers. But most

Agta interacted with their Austronesian speaking neighbors to the extent

that they not only learned the languages of these 'lowlanders,' but

actually adopted them as their own languages. The interdependent

symbiotic relationships which are so salient today between the Agta and

the lowland farming populations have gone on for a lot longer than most

people have thought.


Although there are still some questions about this, it appears

that it is the scarcity of carbohydrates rather than protein
that represents a major limiting factor for low-density
foraging populations in rain forests (Hutterer 1984:82).

There is another body of data which could be brought into this

debate, but which data are too weak— almost non-existent— at the moment

to provide evidence either for or against either of the two proposed

models. This body of evidence could be gathered. It is out there in the

rainforests now but, except for a quick initial investigation by James

Eder, and some data from Karen Endicott on Malaya, the empirical data

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has not yet been collected which could satisfactorily answer what I

call here the "wild yam question."

The question concerns just how plentiful wild yams are in the

tropical rainforests of eastern Luzon. The assumption implicit in the

"isolationist" Model One stance is that, since the Agta lived

independently of non-Agta agriculturalists, there must have been plenty

of wild starch foods available for them in the forest. Like many other

a priori assumptions implicit in Model One, this is also implicitly

accepted. Previously, I also had assumed this (though now I am unsure),

because the Agta have several types of wild yams— six in Casiguran—

which they exploit when they cannot get rice or root crops. (However,

only 1.6 percent of the Agta meals in 1984 consisted of wild yams [see

Table 4.6].)

Recently, however, the question has been raised as to whether there

were, in prehispanic times, enough wild plant foods, specifically wild

yams, to sustain a Southeast Asian hunter-gatherer population living

independently. The argument has been made, for example, that such wild

foods are so scarce in rainforest environments that they could not

support human foraging populations unless they supplemented their diet

by part time cultivation and/or trade with neighboring farmers. Even a

very low population density would not satisfy the conditions, if the

wild yams are not available all year around. As we know from Liebig's

(1840) "law of the minimum," it doesn't matter how abundant food is for

11 months of the year if there is none during the 12th.

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If this yam scarcity hypothesis were correct, it would provide

strong support for Model Two, as well as explain why Agta, not to

mention other tropical forest foraging groups (e.g., the Mbuti, etc.)

are so heavily involved in exchange relationships with farmers. This

does not mean human foragers could not have lived in such areas during

the Pleistocene; but the carrying capacity would have been quite low,

and such people would have depended on other foods than yams, such as

perhaps animal fat, for their carbohydrate needs, and/or aquatic fauna.

To review the argument, Rambo believes that the Malaysian

rainforest is a "virtual desert" (1982:261) for human forager groups,

because of its scarcity, he says, of wild edible plants and animals.

He refers here specifically to the scarcity of wild yams, whose tubers

are buried beneath the soil where they are hard to get at (ibid.:263).

Karl Hutterer discusses in some detail why he thinks that tropical

rainforests are "deficient in carbohydrate plant foods for human

occupants" (1983:179). Hutterer is not quite correct, however, when he

says that tropical rainforests have been described as "green deserts"

(ibid.). To my knowledge, he is the only one who has used that term in

this context. Geertz (1963:25) uses the term, but as a reference to

tropical grasslands, and LaBastille (1979) refers to the Amazon forest

as a "desert covered with trees," but she is referring to the poor soils

of that area, not lack of starch foods. Meggers (1971) calls the Amazon

a "counterfeit paradise" for the same reason. Schalk (1981:67) refers

to temperate zone coniferous rainforests of the American Northwest Coast

as a "food desert" for foragers living there; and Chagnon and Hames

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argue against the view that the Amazon is a "protein desert" (1979:913)

because of a supposed scarcity of wild game.

To my knowledge, no one except Hutterer and Rambo, who are

colleagues, has argued that Southeast Asian rainforests lack sufficient

plant foods to sustain independent human foraging groups.

Estioko-Griffin and Griffin, who have had extensive field time with

foragers in rainforest environments far from agriculturalists, suggest

they may be correct. They suggest that "wild roots and

vegetables . . . are probably not available in quantities adequate to

support the present density of Agta" (1981b:143). On the same line,

Estioko-Griffin has hypothesized that "the Agta forest environment is

plant food poor" (1984:211). The Griffin's statements are not based on

any specific data, however. Richard makes mention that there is a

shortage of edible plants in tropical rainforests, and "this is why

jungle hunter-gatherers have very low population densities" (Richard


If these authors are correct, this would give strong support to

Model Two, which I support, because it would mean that Agta would have

found it difficult, if not impossible, to have ever lived in the Model

One "isolationist" lifestyle outlined above. Such a lifestyle would not

have provided enough food, at least starch food, to eat. Hutterer, in

fact, argues that the supposed lack of plant foods is the primary reason

we find Southeast Asian foraging societies living in symbiosis with

neighboring farming populations today.

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At this point, however, the data for giving us a definitive answer

to this question on- wild yams is insufficient. As Hutterer admits,

"Nobody has ever counted the number, or measured the productivity of

wild edible roots occurring per hectare in a seasonal rain forest"


On the other hand, there is some circumstantial evidence (which

does not support my argument) which suggests that Rambo and Hutterer

may be wrong in believing that there are not enough wild starch foods in

the forest to sustain an isolated, independent band of foragers. Dunn

(1975:56) describes areas of the Malayan rainforest as having many

varieties of flora and fauna exploited by human foragers there,

including over 2,000 species of plants. Karen Endicott (1979:41)

furnishes data showing ample harvests of wild tubers by Batek Negritos

in Malaya. The Batek, she says, average 2 lbs of wild tubers per hour of

work, or an average of 10 lbs for each collecting trip. She says 70

percent of their starch food is wild tubers, with the other 30 percent

being rice gained by trading rattan (ibid.:54). The use of Endicott's

data as a base for contradicting the Hutterer-Rambo hypothesis is shaky,

however, both because of the great amount of rice the Batek eat and

because Endicott's sample is very small.

A third set of data indicating that wild tubers may be abundant in

Philippine rainforests comes from James Eder (1978). Eder claims that

the Batak Negritos of Palawan, Philippines, ate a good deal of wild yams

during his 37 day study in 1975. These Batak harvested an average of

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1.85 kg per hour of work of one type of wild yam, and 0.52 kg per hour

for a second type (including travel time and processing time).

There are so many problems with Eder's data, however (and he

acknowledges some of these, and emphasizes that his findings are

preliminary), that they simply cannot be used for trying to disprove the

Hutterer-Rambo hypothesis. The "data were obtained during a single 1

month period . . . [and] the dispersed settlement pattern limited,

unfortunately, the number of food-collecting forays [Eder] could observe

firsthand" (ibid.:60). Eder mentions, too, that he did some "estimating

[of] the approximate returns to these activities" (ibid., emphasis


Most important to note was that during this period 15 percent of

the Batak's caloric intake was from their swiddens (ibid.:60), and

throughout the year about 50 percent of their caloricintake comes from

rice bought with money earnedfrom collecting Manilacopal (ibid.:59).

Eder estimates that about half of Batak calories come from wild yams

(and half from rice). But ina one year field study in 1979 on Batak

food sharing, Cadelina found thatonly 11 percent of their caloric

intake was wild plant foods that year (84 percent was rice) (Cadelina


Both of these Batak studies suggest that there may be more wild

yams in Philippine forests than Hutterer and Rambo allow for. But

these Batak data give us no information as to whether there are enough

such yams in £he Batak area to sustain them indefinitely if they had no


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It should be noted that Eder presents the recent past of the Batak

in a Model One "isolationist" framework. He says, for example, that

they "once lived in self-contained isolation" (ibid.:55) and, quoting a

1964 thesis on the Batak, that they "began cultivating rice only during

the latter part of the 19th century" (ibid.:58). There is not a shred

of evidence for either of these assumptions about the Batak. It is also

yet to be proven (though Eder assumes it in his 1978 paper), that the

Batak ever "subsisted entirely on collected [wild] forest foods,

particularly wild yams, honey, and wild pig" (ibid.:55-56) ?

In evaluating this argument, we must not fail to note a point made

by Robert Fox, who conducted a one yearpost-doctoral study of the

material culture of one Philippine Negrito group in Zambales in

1947-48. Fox argues that the many wild food plants he collected and

identified in the environment of these Zambal Ayta indicate that "the

pygmies were once able to live without recourse to cultivation"

(1953:245). The catch comes, however, in a statement two pages later,

where he says, "The association of the Negritos with cultivated plants

must be reckoned in a few hundred years— excepting perhaps the taro and

yams (ibid.:247, emphasis added). In other words, if I read Fox right,

he allows that these Ayta may have been cultivating taro and yam, if

nothing else, previously to the "few hundred years ago" date when, he

estimates, they became associated with other cultigens.


There are three authors whose writings have influenced me in my

development of the Model Two argument, proposed above. These are Roger

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Keesing, Fredrick Dunn, and Karl Hutterer. All three describe the

prehistoric world, or parts of it, as a world where tribal peoples have

been in intense interaction with one another for a very long time. All

these authors, writing independently, reject this Model One

"isolationist stance," that ancient tribal groups lived neatly separated

from one another, in environments that were isolated and self-contained.

Keesing calls this Model One view "the mosaic stereotype", and critiques

it in detail (1981:111-122).

Keesing argues instead for a "systemic view" of the prehistoric

tribal world, a view which sees simple tribal societies, complex

societies, and even states, coexisting and evolving together. Keesing

believes that most prehistoric foraging groups were parts of complex

regional systems, tied together through trade, exchange, and politics.

His systemic view argues that "for several thousand years the

'environments' of most hunters and gatherers have included surrounding

agriculturalists, pastoralists, and in many cases kingdoms and empires"

(ibid.:122). The mosaic view (what I call Model One), on the other hand,

is a view "of a world that never existed" (ibid.:114). It continues,

however, to be taught to anthropology students, and to the public. A

recent issue in Newsweek depicts the San Bushmen as untouched hunters

until "early in this century, they [first] encountered Civilization"

(Newsweek January 28, 1985, p. 66).' Further, in a new human ecology

text by anthropologist Bernard Campbell, the view is perpetuated by

statements such as, "San [Bushmen] lifestyle [has] probably changed

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little over the course of hundreds of thousands of years [sic]"


We shouldnot, then, limit this Model Two argument just to Asia. I

have already reviewed in Chapter 3 the argumentsof Brooks, Schrire,

Wilmsen, and others, that the African Bushmen were involved in

interethnic trade many hundreds of years ago. As Parkington says, "We

know now . . . that all hunter gatherers in southern Africa have shared

the landscape for at least 1500 years with pastoralists or

agriculturalists" (1984:172). Wilmsen cites a wealth of data to support

this Model Two view for the Kalahari, and says, "Inthe nineteenth

century, the !Kung homeland was already laced by a network of trade

routes supplying local products to the European market (1983:16). As

Denbow points out, though anthropologists (specifically, Lee,

Silberbauer, and Tanaka) have tried to find independent foraging groups

to study in the Kalahari Desert, "in fact there has probably been no

such thing here, in an historical or processual sense, for almost 1500

years" (Denbow 1984:188). Bahuchet and Guillaume (1982) argue the same

for the West African pygmies. There are several papers in a volume

edited by Francis et al. (1981) showing the complexity of long range

trade networks in Amazonia in prehistoric times. Finally, Schrire

(1984:14-17) reviews the writings of others who argue or show evidence

for interethnic trade in North America long before the arrival of

Europeans, including Eskimo interchanges across the Bering Strait.

Turning specifically to Southeast Asia, Fredrick Bunn (1975)

describes a prehistoric system of extensive exploitation and trade in

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Malaya which fits perfectly Keesing's systemic view. Dunn provides

evidence that trade of Malay peninsula forest products for export

(mostly to China) has gone on since the 5th century. He argues that the

collecting of these products was obviously done by aboriginal forest

peoples, and that these forest aborigines played a highly significant

role in Malay economic history as collectors and primary traders


A recent paper by Hoffman (1984) argues specifically that the

hunter- gatherer groups in Borneo are former agriculturalists who

switched to a different economic niche in order to supply forest

products to Malay middlemen. This specialized economic adaptation

slowly spread in Borneo as trade with China developed. This is not a

recent phenomenon. Hoffman hypothesizes that Chinese sailors were

trading in Borneo even earlier than the 5th century date Dunn gives

above for Malaya. And by the beginning of the present millennium,

Hoffman argues, intense trade was going on in Borneo with Indians,

Arabs, Persians, and Chinese. According to Hoffman, not only did

today's forager groups in Borneo evolve into their present niche in

order to supply the constant demand for forest goods, but that they may

even have played a crucial role in the formation- of complex states.

This suggestion comes from the theory that certain kingdoms in Sumatra

and Borneo developed into statehood' because of their roles as supply

centers for the China trade.

When we look specifically at the Philippine context, Karl Hutterer

provides us with a further Model Two-type "systemic view" of extensive

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prehistoric trade in these islands (1974, 1976, 1977, 1983). Hutterer

reviews the evidence for intensive and extensive prehistoric trade

between agriculturalists and foragers, and the widely distributed

pottery which was imported from other countries in Asia. Hutterer

emphasizes that the export items were mostly forest products (1974:295,

296), and suggests that Negrito populations were in a "specialized

adaptation to commercial forest exploitation in connection with foreign

trade" (ibid.:297). He rejects the notion that the trading

relationships found among all hunter-gatherers in Southeast Asia today

with their farming neighbors is a recent situation. Rather, this intense

symbiosis has gone on for a very long time (1976).

While it is unlikely that Chinese trading vessels were plying the

eastern coast of Luzon in the 5th century, as Dunn argues they were in

Malaya and Borneo, it is a well established fact that there was

extensive long distance trade in the Philippines with China by at least

the time of the Sung Dynasty (A.D. 960-1279) (R. Fox 1967, Jocano

1975:145ff, Scott 1983, 1984:63ff). Furthermore, trade within the

Philippines was surely going on long before that. As Scott points out,

the Filipinos were not just passive customers of foreign traders:

"Visayan [ships] were on the Fukien coast in the 12th century. . . . in

982, Mindoro merchants appeared on the Canton coast with merchandise for

sale" (1981:23). "By the time of the Spanish advent, Filipino

merchants and mercenaries were spread all over Southeast Asia: . . .

Luzon shipping was plying the waters . . . that includes all of insular

Southeast Asia" (Scott 1984:80-81). Mindoro was part of the

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international Asian trade route by 972 A.D. (Scott 1983:1), and by 1270

A.D. Mindoro "was itself the central port for the exchange of local

goods on a Borneo-Fukien route" (ibid.:15).

The writings of Dunn, Hutterer, and Scott show clearly how

widespread and continuous trade was in prehistoric times in Southeast

Asia, and how willing aboriginal peoples were to participate in such

trade. I suggest that the ancestors of the present day Agta also sought

ways to trade and interact with other societies (perhaps even Chinese

sailors, or at least their middlemen), long before the Spanish era. As

Scott has stated, "The most impressive demonstration of Filipino

merchandising [on the eve of the Spanish arrival] was the delivery of

imported trade porcelains to every Filipino language group from Bontoc

to Bohol, from Manila to Marawi" (1981:25). Anyone still tempted to

take a Model One "isolationist" viewpoint of the Philippine prehispanic

period would do well to read William Scott's descriptions of the wide

extent of capitalistic commerce and trade throughout the Philippines in

the late prehispanic period. One summary of his argument states:

The picture of Philippine domestic trade . . . is . . . every

community "traded with other communities, . . . The
inter-barrio feuding which appears as endemic in Spanish
accounts might suggest at first reading that such barrios
were perforce isolated from one another and therefore
self-sufficient [the Model One view]. But the same accounts
specifically name the betrayal of amicable intercourse as the
major cause for war . . . If there were any Filipino
communities which supplied all their own food, clothing,
tools, and weapons, Spanish accounts do not describe them.
Rather, the total impression is one of continual movements of
rice, camotes, bananas, coconuts, wine, fish, game, salt, and
cloth . . . to say nothing of iron, gold, jewelry, porcelain,
and slaves [the Model Two view] (Scott 1981:24).

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Turning our attention to the history of "agriculture” among the

Agta, I have been forced at this point to rethink my earlier Model One

ideas (that the Agta did not do any cultivation until this century) by

the writings of Hutterer. Hutterer takes Model Two a step further than

the other three authors in arguing for the antiquity of plant

cultivation activities among Southeast Asian foraging societies (1976,

1983). The traditional, Model One, interpretation of agricultural

activities among Southeast Asian hunter-gatherers says the phenomenon

is a recent 'contamination' brought about through contact with

agriculturalists and under the pressure of shrinking hunting territory

(Hutterer 1976:226).

This is a reflection of theModel One "isolationist

stance,"— Keesing's "mosaic stereotype." Hutterer criticizes this

view, and considers it more likely that "this pattern of occasional

agricultural activities among SoutheastAsian hunters is of great

antiquity" (ibid.). Actually, the shrinking of Agta territory may

militate against the chance of their changing over to a successful

farming lifestyle. We will pick up this point in detail in Chapter 13.

My argument here is that in late prehistoric times all Agta and, in

fact, all Philippine Negritos were well acquainted with plant

cultivation, that most bands at least sporadically planted small gardens

of their own, and that many bands assisted their lowland farming

neighbors in both swidden and wet rice agricultural work. It was only

the rare bands which may have lived independently and alone in isolated

areas, neither trading nor participating in part time cultivation of one

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type or another. I believe the Model Two concept I have proposed here

offers us a much more realistic hypothesis of how prehistoric Negrito

foragers lived on the eve of the Spanish conquest.

Perhaps the whole argument of this chapter may be best summarized

by a statement made by Rambo, in his recent review of Dunn's (1975)


If . . . the very great role that trade with settled

agriculturists plays in the survival of the contemporary
Semang [Malaysian Negritos] is recognized, then the
conventional assumption that they are surviving remnants of
Paleolithic hunters and gatherers is called into question.
The Semang may not, in fact, be primitive hunters and
gatherers at all but instead may be something very
different— specialist forest collectors who have evolved to
fill a niche created by the overseas demand for Malayan
forest products following the beginnings of maritime trade in
Southeast Asia some 5,000 years ago (Rambo 1981:140).

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1. The latest archaeological and linguistic evidence today favors

the view that the original homeland ofProto-Austronesian was Formosa,
and that migrations of people speaking daughter languages of Proto-
Austronesian entered the northern Philippines from Formosa beginning
around 4000 B.C. (See Pawley and Green 1973:52-54, Blust 1978:220,
Harvey 1981, and Reid 1981:14. A condensed layman's summary of this
view appears in Scott 1984:38-39, 52. A more technical summary may be
found in Bellwood 1985:107-121, 130.)

2. Not all visitors to the Agta would agree with my Model Two
argument presented in this chapter, of course. It is exasperating to me
how others continue even today to perpetuate the Model One myth in the
popular literature. A French jouriialist who visited an Agta band in
Isabela for a week in 1979 published an article on them in a popular
magazine with first class color photographs. This journalist depicted
them in an extreme Model One stereotype: "No evidence that the tribe
practiced any kind of agriculture," and described their supposedly acute
fear of his mirror, tape recorder, and camera— "obviously the first they
had everseen. And I was the first white man to intrude upon them
[sic]" (Evrard 1979:38, 39).

Even worse was a 1981 report by the government appointed

Commissioner to the Non-Christian Tribes for the Province of Cagayan,
who describes the Agta as a "Newly Found Tribe" of "cannibal[s] in the
upper Sierra Madre." He defines them as "the most primitive, wild,
fierce, anddangerous group . . . ageneration from the Stone
Age . . . having no clothes. . . . Fond of eating raw food such as
meat . . . [their] children unwanted and unloved . . . ignorant of days,
weeks, months, as well as years . . . idolatry and adultery are supreme
[sic]," and even quoting one Agta as saying, "The most delicious meat is
the liver of human beings [sic]" (Cortez n.d.).

3. Douglas Pennoyer, a 1983 Fullbright scholar to the Philippines,

has recently completed a historical-comparative study on the Ati Negrito
language of Panay, titled "Inati, The Hidden Negrito Language of Panay"
(n.d.). Pennoyer's major finding is that Inati is a distinct Philippine
language that is separate from and unintelligible to all other languages
of the Central Philippines. It is not a Bisayan language, and it has a
high number of linguistic innovations not found in other Philippine

4. The linguistic evidence I present here in support of my Model

Two hypothesis was developed over many years of discussion and
correspondence with Lawrence Reid. Though I am responsible for my
interpretation of the evidence, it was Reid who helped me find that


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evidence and to recognize its potential for reconstructing Agta


5. There is no question that *qaR£a was a word in the original

Proto-Austronesian language (Blust 1972). There is some question as to
its original meaning at that time. Charles (1974:460) says it meant
'Negrito'. Blust suggests it may have meant 'outsiders, alien people',
probably later coming to mean 'slave'; and he concurs with Zorc that in
a language Zorc calls "Proto-Philippine" (that is, the supposedly
original Austronesian language in the Philippines, *qaR£a already meant
'Negrito, black person' (Zorc n.d., cited in Blust 1972:168).

6. Model One, the more generally accepted model, could be argued

for here. But to do so one would have to hypothesize either that the
Negritos were not the original inhabitants of the Philippines, but
rather immigrated here concurrently with the various groups of
Austronesian immigrants some 6,000 yearsago, or that the homeland of
the Proto-Austronesian language was actually in the Philippines. The
latter hypothesis would then argue that there have always been both
Negrito and non-Negrito peoples in the islands, with both groups
evolving biologically from some earlier type of Homo sapiens, or
perhaps even Homo erectus, and that their earliest language was

7. Eder seems to have moved from his 1978 "Model One" view of the
Batak to, by 1984, a partial "Model Two" view. At least he acknowledges
that the Batak may have been trading with Chinese, directly or
indirectly, a thousand years ago (see Eder 1984a:839).

8. It should be noted here that Rai's (1982) thesis presents the

Agta as being "relatively isolated" in prehispanic and early Spanish
times, with only "marginal" or "peripheral" trade with outsiders until
very recently, within the last two or three centuries (ibid.:139-40,
145-46, 152, 154), and with formal trade relationships being "at most
only as old as the beginning of this century" (ibid.:156). Rai's
model also proposes that Agta agriculture is also recent, about two
centuries old (ibid.:166). His model of Agta prehistory is, then,
diametrically the opposite of mine here.

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In the last chapter I proposed a hypothetical model which argued

that the prehispanic Agta were far from being the isolated stone age

hunters so many seem to assume. Rather, these Negritoswere heavily

involved in symbiotic relationships with their farming neighbors long

before the arrival of Magellan. I also argued in that chapter that

most Agta bands practiced sporadic agriculture for at least a few

hundred years preceding the Spanish conquest.

This chapter will attempt to bring together a number of references

from several early Spanish, German, American, and Philippine documents

which provide evidence that the Agta were, indeed, involved in both

symbiotic trade and part time agriculture throughout the Spanish period.

The archival evidence for both of these institutions among the Agta for

that 350 year period is so striking that it should persuade the reader

that they did not just suddenly spring up when the Spanish missionaries

waded ashore on the eastern coast of Luzon in 1578. Rather, they must

have already been widely practiced before the end of the prehispanic

era, if not long before.

In other words, this chapter provides strong ethnohistorical

evidence for the argument in the previous chapter that the prehistoric

Agta lived a Model Two "systemic" lifestyle, not a Model One "mosaic

stereotype," an incorrect mythical view which has been perpetuated for

so long that it is now firmly entrenched in both the historical and


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even the anthropological literature. As Cadelina states, in his

mention of studies on Negritos on Negros Island by contemporary

anthropologists, "Most of the reports dwelt on the isolation of the

[Negrito] people and their seemingly self-sufficiency. The Negritos .

. . were presented as self-contained, non-integral to the larger

Philippine society" (1983:94). Furthermore, all Philippine Negritos

are stereotyped as "people without cultivation" even into this century

(e.g., Borrows 1908:45-46). The present chapters will attempt to

dismantle that mythological "isolationist stance" viewpoint.


There are some records concerning the Casiguran area for the

Spanish period. These are sparse, but what we have does provide

important glimpses into that period, including some highly significant

pieces of information on the Agta.

Of the many questions we have concerning what the Agta culture may

have been like during the Spanish period, two of the most important, for

purposes of this study, are whether the Agta were involved in

agriculture, and whether they were involved in symbiotic relationships

with the lowland Casiguranin farmers. As we shall see in this section,

the Spanish records provide answers to both of these questions.

In this section I will cite from the Spanish documents I have found

which help us to reconstruct a more accurate historical picture of

Casiguran from the 16th to the 19th century. I will also comment on my

interpretation of these documents, and what they tell us about the Agta

of that period. I will specifically highlight those points which show

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how the Agta conform to either of the two models outlined in the first

part of this chapter.

As far as we know, the first European to see the eastern coast of

Luzon (called the "eontracosta" by the Spaniards), was Juan de Salcedo,

the grandson of Miguel de Legazpi. In 1572, after exploring the west

and north coast of Luzon, Salcedo sailed down the whole "uninhabited"

eontracosta with fifteen companions in two open boats of shallow draft,

to the area opposite Polillo Island, from whence he hiked west to

Manila. Unfortunately, there is next to no information on this trip. If

Salcedo kept a diary of this trip, I was unable to find any reference to

it. The one very short description of the trip, a letter written by a

Francisco de Ortega to the viceroy of Neuva Espana on June 6, 1573,

gives information which is misleading, if not incorrect:

In all the length of that coast there was not a single village
nor one Indian [sic], for the whole country is desolate where
they supposed there would be a great many people (translated
in Blair and Robertson, Vol. 34:258 [hereafter B&R 34:258]).

There were, of course, both Negrito and non-Negrito populations on

the eontracosta in 1572. The fact that there were "Indians" (i.e.,

non- Negritos) there then is plain from a document written in June 1582

by a Spanish soldier named de Loarca. In his geographical treatise of

the islands, he says this about the eontracosta:

The coast between Vicor [Bikol, in southeastern Luzon] and

Babuyanes [Islands] is rugged. . . . Not all this land is
inhabited, but only three districts of it, namely the
province of Valete [Baler] with about eight hundred Indians;
ten leagues farther, that of Casiguran, with about five
hundred Indians . . . and, farther on, the province of Alanao

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[Palanan?] River. This last is well peopled, and produces

gold and cotton; its native Indians resemble those of Valete
and Casiguran. Besides these three districts, no other .
settlement on this coast is encountered until the cape of
Babuyanes is reached (de Loarca 1582; translated in B&R

Loarca does not give the source of his information, it may have

come from a Capt. Don Juan de Arze who, apparently, was the second

Spaniard to sail around Luzon, in 1580 (B&R 34:376). It is puzzling

that Salcedo missed seeing any "Indians" on his trip. Both the Palanan

and Casiguran plains are shielded by mountains from the view of boats

passing on the open sea. But it is hard to believe these explorers

would miss seeing the farming sites which were in Baler. In any case

there were non-Agta populations in Palanan, Casiguran, and Baler whom

Salcedo evidently by-passed and, as we shall see, were soon to be

missionized by the Franciscans, who opened their stations there just

six years later.

The Spanish Missions. Catholic missionary work began with the

arrival of the Franciscans on the eontracosta in the late sixteenth

century. There is some confusion as to just when this work began, and

especially when it began in Casiguran. Some documents say 1578, some

say 1588, and other historians refer to 1609. The work was opened by a

P. Esteban Ortiz who started at Binangonan (today, Infanta), on the

Pacific coast straight east of Manila, and 170 km south of Casiguran.

This was in 1588, according to de Assis' Historia General (1756

[translated in B&R 41:94]), who mentions a second priest who went with

Ortiz, named P. Juan de Porras). This date is almost surely incorrect.

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The correct year was probably 1578. First of all, Franciscan records

show that both Ortiz and Porras died in 1582 or 1583 (Bruce Cruikshank,

personal correspondence). Perez (1927:307) gives the opening date as

1578; Huerta (1865:279) gives the same date, and so does the 1978

Catholic Directory of the Philippines (CDP 1978:567). Further

confirmation of the earlier date comes from a statement from Perez which

says that Ortiz left the work to others in 1579. This statement says

that P. Ortiz

founded the mission stations of Binangonan de Larapon, Baler

and Casiguran, which he left in the charge of P. Francisco de
Santa Maria . . . when in 1579 he [Ortiz] went to take care
of the missions founded by the Fathers Lucarelli and Baeza
(Perez 1927:307-08, emphasis added; cf. B&R 41:94).

The 1579 date in the Perez document is significant. (It is not in

the B&R translation of de Assis.) It not only leads us to accept the

1578 date, rather than 1588, but it implies that the Franciscans began

in Casiguran, too, in 1578, and not just in Binangonan (Infanta). The

reference by de Assis, on the other hand, seems to imply that Ortiz

never reached Baler and Casiguran, and that these missions began later—

and the date is unclear— under P. Santa Maria. If we follow de Assis,'

the date of the opening of the Casiguran mission could have been in

1588, 1609, 1616, or some date in between.

Another document says the town' of Casiguran was 'founded'* in 1609

by a P. Bias Palomino "and his six companions" (Huerta 1865:282), and

this is the date given in the local oral history (on June 13, in fact).

Also, the 1978 Catholic Directory of the Philippines says the

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Franciscans "established the first centers of Faith in Binangonan de

Lampon (now Infanta) in 1578; Baler in 1609 [and] Casiguran in 1609"

(CDP 1978:567). (Palanan was also founded by Franciscan P. Bias

Palomino, who went there in 1609 [Perez 1927:308].)

To complicate the picture even further, Perez says "the first

missionary to . . . Casiguran was Fr. Francisco de Fuenciscla, on the

30th of April, 1616" (1927:309-10), while Huerta (1865:282-83) says the

first priest (permanently?) assigned there was a Fr. Pascual Serrano, in

1616. Probably the best way to interpret this is to assume that

Casiguran did not have a permanent parish priest until 1616.

In any case, whatever the exact date, Catholic mission endeavors

were heavy and influential in Casiguran from early Spanish times up to

the present. Their influence on the Agta, of course, was much less than

it was on the lowland farming population, as we shall see below. It

should be mentioned here that the Franciscans turned their work on the

eontracosta over to the Augustinian Recollects in 1658 (Huerta 1865:283,

Perez 1927:290; the Blair and Robertson editors [B&R 41:13-14] state the

date incorrectly as 1662). Then, 46 years later, in May of 1704, the

Augustinians turned the three missions (Baler, Casiguran, and Palanan)

back over again to the Franciscans (Perez 1927:310).

While the Spanish priests put most of their efforts into

Christianizing the non-Negrito lowland population in Casiguran, they by

no means neglected completely the surrounding Agta. Throughout the

Spanish period the Agta were probably at least equal in number to the

Christianized "Indians," and they perhaps outnumbered them by as much as

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three to one in the sixteenth century (see Table 1.1). The Franciscans

had a zeal to reach the Agta, as can be seen from a reading of their

records, but this zeal was hindered both by geographical distance and by

the passive resistance of the Agta to "coming under the bells"—

submitting to the hispanization process— an attitude which is still

prevalent among the Agta today. Today, almost all of the lowlanders in

Casiguran are practicing Catholics. The Agta remain animists, showing

little interest in Christianity of any type. True, some Agta have their

infants baptized today, and 32 percent of the Agta adults claim they

have been baptized by the Catholic church. (Forty-one of 127 adults

answered yes to this question asked by me or my wife in 1976.) Agta

culture and world view have been influenced by almost 400 years of

interaction with Christianized farmers. But few, if any, Agta today are

practicing Catholics, nor claim to be such.

Still, there are frequent references in the Spanish mission

documents of efforts to reach the Agta. There are several scattered

references to the baptizing of Agta in the 1700s, and there are two

lists of names of Agta who were baptized by a P. Bernardo de Santa Rosa

in 1742. Some priests went to the effort to study the Agta languages.

Santa Rosa (who lived in Casiguran from 1727 to 1750) evidently learned

to speak some Agta, as well as the local Casiguranin language of the

townspeople. P. Domingo Martorell is reported to have composed a

catechism in the Palanan Agta language when he lived at the headwaters

of the Palanan River in 1754 (Perez 1927:294). Also, an Agta vocabulary

was compiled by an anonymous priest, which was said to have been given

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to Ferdinand Blumentritt in 1844 by a P. Teodoro Fernandez (Perez

1927:295; 1928:86).

Summarizing two Franciscan reports written in 1746, Perez

(1927:317) briefly outlines a special evangelistic effort of the

Franciscans to concentrate on subjugating the Agta all along the coast

from Binangonan (Infanta) to Palanan. This special mission effort went

on from 1719 to 1754. It is worth quoting from part of this document:

Thus the [Franciscan] missionaries preceded to reduce the

Aetas . . . from Binangonan [Infanta] of Larapon to the head of
Engano [the northeast point of Luzon], and the Ilongots,
Italones and Ibalaos of the slopes of the Caraballo Oriental
[the Sierra Madre]. . . . they did not leave a mountain or a
valley that they did not pass through, from Baler, Casiguran
and Palanan to the Pampanga, Pangasinan, Ituy [the upper
Cagayan Valley] Paniqui and Cagayan. In this time, that is
from 1719 to 1754, they subjugated the inhabitants of
Dipaculao, Ditali, Damag, Bangog, Tambaguen, Labang, Comblan,
Langotan, the [Casiguran] peninsula of San Idelfonsa [sic],
Dibenbilan of Palanan, and Umirey, which was between
Binangonan of Lampon and Baler. In all these places they
constructed their churches and convents, noted the topography
of each one of the subjugated towns, made note of many other
towns and hamlets, studied their rites and customs, and wrote
catechisms in their dialects (Perez 1927:317).


The Spanish records make references to various customs, etc. of the

Agta, which are of secondary interest, but do not speak specifically to

the questions of the present thesis. We must bypass those for now, and

concentrate our attention on the documents which give us clues as to

whether the Agta of the Spanish period conformed to Model One or to

Model Two, as these were presented in the last chapter. Specifically,

we are interested in knowing what kind of interaction the Agta were

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having with their farming neighbors during the Spanish period, if any,

and whether they were doing any agriculture. Let us see first what the

mission records tell us about Agta-farmer relationships.

As it turns out, the records show plainly that the Agta-farmer

interactions follow Model Two, and not Model One. During the earliest

century for which we have data, the 1700s, there were strong symbiotic

relationships between the two groups of both a mutualistic and

competitive nature, both types running concurrently. That is, while

there were some Agta living with lowlanders in or near the town, and

working for them, and others living in friendly trading relationships

further away, there were still other Agta groups who kept the

townspeople living in fear, sometimes even cutting the town off from

interaction with Baler and Palanan. The Casiguranin townspeople lived in

peaceful and friendly relationships with some Agta groups, while

remaining at the same time mortal enemies of other Agta. We will see in

the next chapter that this historical situation, resembling Model Two,

continued right on into the American period. But for now let us limit

ourselves to the Spanish era.

References to hostile relationships. The earliest reference we

have of the Agta is a 1649 document which mentions that the area near

Casiguran has "thickets and mountains inhabited by savage 'cimarrones'"

(translated in B&R 35:318). Another document, written in 1788, but

referring to conditions in Casiguran in 1663, also refers to "the

extensive mountains near by [which were] filled with Aetas, blacks, and

Calingas heathen" (in B&R 41:97). Huerta, speaking probably of the

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17th and 18th century periods says, "The roads [from Casiguran] for

communicating with the town of Palanan and the one with Baler are very

bad and, more, dangerous because of the multitude of infidels who

surround the town, whose ferocity offers little confidence" (1865:282).

P. Bernardo de Santa Rosa, speaking of conditions in Casiguran in a

1746 report, also refers to hostile Agta disrupting communication

between Casiguran and Baler, and making travel difficult. Speaking of

both friendly and hostile Agta during his 23 year assignment in

Casiguran in the second quarter of the 18th century, Santa Rosa says,

Among the many hamlets of Aetas which are found on the beaches
and in the mountains of the Caraballo [Sierra Madre], some
are peaceful, docile and gentle, not taking
vengeance . . . but there are others, such as the Dumagats,
who live between this town [Casiguran] and Baler who are
extremely bloodthirsty. . . . the most vile rascals . . . Some
of the Aetas . . . are happy to see the Padres, but these
that live between this town and Baler . . . they are surely
killers . . . who disturb all the vicinity . . . because of
such things this distance between Casiguran and Baler is very
painful [to travel through]; . . . In the time of Father
Fulano (Father Doe) they killed so many Aetas and
Indians . . . and in my time . . . they have [killed] was it
nine or ten Indians and Aetas? (cited in Perez 1927:293-94).

In an earlier unpublished letter written by another priest, P. Juan

Torres, dated February 10, 1720, he mentions some Agta (in Area 8 of

Map 2) who did the following:

Just then it happened that thfe negro Aetas, all pagans and an
accursed rabble . . . killed a young unmarried man of this
town [Casiguran]; and then they went with their bows and
threatened the Ilongots [who were starting to build a pueblo
at Calabgan, near Casiguran]. These, seeing that they
couldn't be sure of finding a living in those steep places
and that the Aetas wouldn't let them live there, decided to
return to Comblan (AFIO MS 89/62).

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Father Torres closes this letter by saying,

The Negros who inhabit the site of Dimataben [Area 8 of Map 2]

are a bad cast of unbelievers and according to my information
are not good for anything but to persecute and kill the
Christians. From this point [of San Ildefonso peninsula] four
or five Christians have already died, whom have been deprived
of life with their arrows (ibid.).

In another report Santa Rosa wrote in 1746, he makes some vague

mention of a "massacre" and "slaughter of many Christians" by Agta in

Casiguran. He then states that he sent the Agta five bags of hulled rice

and some tobacco, "In order that this chief and his people eat and

don't do bad things to the town" (cited in Perez 1928:96-97). He

further refers here to

the poor Casiguran people, so oppressed and afraid of these

[Agta] savages or monsters of hell . . . [Killing], it is a
never-ending story. . . . The Indians [i.e., the lowlanders]
are always loaded down with their shields and lances and
arrows everywhere they go. . . . These miserable
[towns]people, so oppressed and harassed and fenced-in (ibid.;
original dated 1746).

A hundred years later, Semper provides yet another example of Agta

hindering lowlanders from traveling at will:

A short time before I came to Casiguran [in 1860] several

Negritos from near there who were suspected of having stolen
buffaloes were arrested and taken to Baler. On the way, one
of them died; and since that time his friends and relatives
who had up to that time been in very good relationships with
the village [of Casiguran] were at war with the Christians.
The Agtas retreated into the mountains . . . where they
settled into two hamlets. These I always had to avoid in my
excursions . . . beccuse I could not cure my companions from
Palanan of their fear of those feared archers (1861:255).

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And three pages earlier in the same report, Semper says,

In some cases, specifically the Negritos between Baler and

Casiguran, they even live in a state of continual warfare with
their Christian as well as non-Christian neighbors

In another 19th century report, a Father Pedro de Medio says,

concerning the Agta of the Sierra Madre,

Robbery, also, is for them a very useful method of maintaining

themselves, and they may well be counted as among the plagues
which the agriculturalists in the neighboring towns have to
fear (Medio 1887, cited in Report 1901:390).

It is hard to imagine the lowlanders being so intimidated by the

Agta during the Spanish period (since the situation is often reversed

today). Yet records show that even in the early decades of this

century the Casiguran townspeople were, at times, living in fear of

Agta raiders. When a Philippine Constabulary detachment went to

Casiguran in 1911 to try to put a stop to the interethnic killing, they

found that

The town was then patrolled by the citizens at night, as they

feared reprisal on the part of the Dumagats, especially by
setting fire to the houses (Turnbull 1930:782).

And as late as 1925, we learn, the Casiguranin people went through a

period when they were apparently so' afraid of the Agta that they wrote a

petition to the president of the Philippine Senate requesting military

protection so they could go out and work their fields without fear of

attack by Agta. This petition, signed by eleven members of the

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Casiguran municipal council, requests the reassignment of the

Constabulary company to Casiguran again. The document says, in part,

From the time this Company arrived at Casiguran [i.e., when it

was first assigned there], peaceful conditions have always
prevailed. Fearful conducts of the Non-Christian people
which we, Christians, previously look upon as hindrances to
our progress and growth . . . [were] automatically suspended
on account of the moral influence and presence of this
[military] company. Previously many of us would not dare to
stay and cultivate our lands or homesteads even within a short
distance from the town on account of the fear that we would be
attacked by these benighted people.But thanks to the
presence of this Company, we can do our agricultural work
with full assurance that our properties and lives are
safe . . . recalling this Company from its present post [in
Casiguran] will not only effect [sic] our advancement and
progress, but it will also resume the savage and unpeaceful
conditions of the Non-Christian people among us (Petition

Vanoverbergh, speaking for theyear 1936,also mentions that the

Casiguran townspeople were also at this time said to be "firmly

convinced, through mere autosuggestion, that they were in continual

danger on account of the Negrito settlements by which their town was

surrounded" (1937-38:157). Though Vanoverbergh considers their fears

exaggerated, he does describe five case studies of Agta allegedly

killing lowlanders in the early 1930s (ibid.:155-56).

Lukban also tells us how, in the first decade of this century, the

"merchants of Casiguran dealing in livestock for Echague are molested

most of the time, and assaulted or killed [by Ilongot and Agta, when

trying to pass through the Sierra Madre with livestock]" (1914:5-6).

Speaking for the year 1906, the late PhilippinePresidentQuezon, who

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was then governor of Tayabas (of which Casiguran was then a part),


This race is generally peaceable, and it is only [at] the

pueblo of Casiguran that there are some sanguinary individual
Negritos living at Mount Simbaan [Area 10 of Map 2] within
the jurisdiction of [Casiguran] municipality. . . . I have
endeavored to bring the Negritos under the influence of
civilization. . . . Even the sanguinary Negritos of Casiguran
now go down to the pueblo and rub shoulders with the
townspeople (Quezon 1906, cited in Seventh Annual Report

There is also one report of the Palanan townspeople living in fear

of Agta, in the second decade of this century. Speaking for around the

year 1915, one writer says,

[The Agta] were very dependent upon the [Palanan] townspeople

for existence, and . . . the townspeople relied upon the
nearby Itas [i.e., Agta] for protection from the more distant
and more wilder ones. In order to encourage dependency upon
the part of these [Agta], they provided them with corn and
other necessities in exchange for what work they chose to do.
One notorious group of mountain people was much feared by the
inhabitants of the town, as even the women of the family were
armed with bow and arrow and were reported as responsible for
several killings on the trail to Ilagan (Turnbull 1930:38).

Though some of the above statements may reflect stereotyped

exaggeration, they recur often enough in the records for us to know that

the symbiotic relationships between the Agta and the farmers was not

always mutualistic, but that they ranged as well to competitive and even

probably predatory symbiosis, as defined in Chapter 3. Also, as we will

see in Chapter 12, the homicide rate among the Casiguran Agta today is

one of the highest in the world. Killing was obviously a way of life,

both in the past and right up into the 1980s.

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It is hard to know, from what little historical data we have,

whether there were any Agta bands living independently of non-Agta

populations in the early Spanish period, not even engaging in trade.

Personally, I doubt it. I found only two references suggesting this,

both written by a German naturalist named Carl Semper, who spent three

months traveling from Baler to Palanan and on to San Mariano in 1860.

In his 1869 book Semper mentions that the Agta live "without

significant trade [and] without agriculture [sic]" (1869:51). Yet on

the very next page he refers to their trading forest products to the

Christians for rice (ibid.:51-52). In an earlier publication, Semper

says the Agta who live "further up from Palanan and south of Casiguran

as far down as Mauben live completely independently, far from the

Christian villages" (1861:252). Yet he says on the same page,

referring to these same "independent" Agta, that they make temporary

moves "to the west side of the Cordillera in order to seek work and

food there among the Tagalog tribes" (ibid.). Referring to the Agta

bands closer to Casiguran and Palanan, he says, "They have already

taken on much [linguistic and cultural borrowing] from the Tagalogs and

other tribes . . . with whom they always live in close proximity. Some

of them . . . have become farmers" (ibid.).

The Agta were hardly living "completely independent," then, or

without cultivating, as Semper seems to want to suggest. Fr. Santa

Rosa, for example, describes what sounds like a type of almost "silent

trade" he had with these so-called "independent" Agta south of Casiguran

120 years before Semper's visit:

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The conquest and winning of the will of those [Agta] of the

inlet or port of Dinariaban [about 60 km SSW of Casiguran]
remains; but this place belongs to Baler. [Author here says
the Agta here are enemies of the Baler people, and that the
'Aetas' say they will kill any that come there with
arrows.] . . . Only twice in more than a hundred times that I
have been there have I put down anchor, but away from the
land. . . . It is very difficult to know [the Agta's]
intentions for certain, and there are now many
Aetas. . . . In my time they have killed with arrows
there . . . although they are somewhat distant, they plunge
into the water and they kill with arrows [evidently shooting
at people offshore in boats] . . . One leaves here . . . to
arrive there [by boat], call with a steel drum and wait to
speak to [the Agta] from the boat, watching their manner when
they come out, and if by their words and deeds their good or
bad will is perceived. When an Aeta leaves his weapons and
goes to swim until the bank, this is a good sign, but when
they call and show something, saying this is wax, or a hog,
and only one or two come out, you must not trust them,
because there may be many hiding, and if the one who appears
turns his back to you, the others shoot their arrows (Santa
Rosa 1746; cited in Perez 1928:104-05).

There are statements, of course, made by people giving second hand

opinions on degree of 'primitive isolation' of Agta Negritos. Dean C.

Worcester, for example, who was U.S. Secretary of the Interior of the

Philippines from 1901 to 1913, and perhaps did more than any other

single individual to perpetuate the Model One myth, made this statement

after a quick steamer trip down the east coast of Luzon in 1909: "In

this region, and in this region alone, the Negrito . . . has had little

or no contact with white men or with Christian Filipinos" (Worcester


I, of course, discredit this Model One statement. If these Agta

along the coast north of Palanan were so independent from Christian

Filipinos, how is it then that Worcester says he found in their

abandoned lean-tos coconut shells, clay pots, steel fishhooks, steel

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arrowheads, steel bolos, and cotton cloth (ibid.:841)! Two other items

Worcester found, and photographed, in these Agta camps, and which are

shown in one of his published photos "taken on the northeast coast of

Luzon" (Worcester 1912:837), are a wooden mortar for pounding corn or

rice, and a tin can! In 1909 the Agta bands of the eastern Cagayan

coast were probably the most isolated and remote hunter-gatherer group

in the Philippines (and this was still the case when I visited them in

1965). Isolated? Yes. Living independently from lowland Filipinos?


Friendly relationships. We also learn from the mission records

that, while the Casiguranin townspeople had hostile relationships with

some Agta, they at the same time had very friendly and continuous

interaction with other Agta bands, including trade. The same priest who

has just described for us above the trouble between the 'savage' Agta

and the Christianized farmers, Father Santa Rosa, now tells us the

following about other Agta. We see first of all that

the [Casiguran Agta of the 18th century] don't think about

anything except about killing, tobacco, rice, knives and,
those of the beaches, clothing" (original 1746, cited in
Perez 1928:106).

This statement provides us with an important clue concerning what must

have been a heavy symbiotic trading system, a system of some type which

I believe went on, perhaps not always in the same form, both before and

during the Spanish period. This is what Model Two proposes. It is not

hard to believe that the Agta were desiring the above-mentioned goods in

early Spanish times and, in the case of knives and rice, in the

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prehispanic period as well. With this felt need for goods, symbiotic

relationships naturally evolved between the two populations, the Agta

giving in exchange wild meat and other forest products and, by the

Spanish period, serving as part time agricultural laborers at peak times

(such as planting and harvest). Santa Rosa goes on to say,

The [Agta] get resin, wax . . . rattan, [Livistona] anahaw

palm, etc. for the Indians [i.e., the lowlanders], and the
Indians pay them either with food [probably rice] or with
glass beads, or some kind of arrow andpots, etc. . . .These
[Agta] people are not killers, and are friendly with everyone
(1746, cited in Perez 1928:87).

Semper describes the same trading system going on 120 years later, after

his trip through Casiguran and Palanan in I860. He says the Agta then

had metal bolos "which they receive from the Christians," and that they

were then trading beeswax to the Christians "for glass beads, straw

mats, some rice, and their most coveted item, tobacco" (1869:52).

Referring to the institutionalized symbiotic patron-client system

which we find today among the Agta (best described by Peterson 1978b),

Santa Rosa describes what must have been a similar system in the 1740s:

The [Casiguran Agta] make use of the Maguinoo [master,

patron], and by this we have entered [into relationships]
with them. They become relatives [with the townspeople] and
they call themselves brothers with those of the town, and so
with him who is their friend. And they say to their friend
[when they come to town] . . . How is our mother,
Brother? . . . All this is forvanity . . . to become
relatives with the ones of the town . . . since they want to
walk around dressed like the Indians, and thiswithout paying
for the clothing, but asking for it (1746, cited in Perez
1928:94, see also Perez 1927:294).

Here we have a partial description of a fully developed symbiotic

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patron-client institution between the Agta and farmers of Casiguran in

the early 18th century! Like today, it sometimes included the forming

of ritual kinship relationships, an institution practiced since early

Spanish times throughout the Christianized Philippines between 'big and

little people' (Lynch 1975). (For details, see Hart 1977 and, for

Casiguran, see Headland 1975b:250-51). The two uses of the term

'friend' in the above quote are probably Santa Rosa's gloss of the word

ahibay, which in both the Agta and Casiguranin languages means

'trading-partner-friend-of-the-other-ethnic-group' (see my discussion of

this term in ibid.:251). Of the Agta on the Casiguran peninsula, Santa

Rosa says,

These people are very gentle, very docile, and very obliging
in everything; and all want to be Christians. The majority
have grown up in the town, and afterwards, with the motive of
marriage, they go away to the cape (orig. 1746, cited in
Perez 1928:87).

In another unpublished letter he says of these same Agta,

Those who live in what is called Point San Alifonso are

permanently settled there. . . . These Dumagas do not go away
from there, nor do they desire to leave because of the
attachment they have with the town, since many of them grew
up in the town and then went there to live because it was
their own land (AFIO MS 89/60).

Incidentally, Santa Rosa mentions that although "each hamlet of

these Aetas has a distinct language . . . all of them understand the

language of the town" (1746, cited in Perez 1927:294). This tells us

something about the high degree of interaction between the Agta and

their farming neighbors in the early 1700s, as the languages of the two

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• ( t 4
groups are not similar enough to be mutually intelligible. If the

18th century Agta could understand the Casiguranin language, as they do

today, it was learned intelligibility gained through long-time

interaction with the townspeople.

There are other brief mentions of cooperative relationships

between Agta and lowlanders. John Garvan describes a type of

relationship between the Agta in Camarines Sur and their Tagalog

neighbors in a letter to the Director of the Philippine Bureau of

Science, dated March 12, 1913 (published in Worcester 1913a:105-07). We

may presume that Garvan's description refers to a system prevalent in

some Agta areas by the end of the Spanish period, if not before. In

this case, the Agta were being used by the lowlanders as servants and

laborers, "astate of economic servitude on the land of Tagalogs." It

was a typical patron-client relationship which we find today in most

Agta areas, in one form or another, where each family or camp group had

their Tagalog 'owner,' or ahibay.

Frank Lynch (1948) provides a later report for these same Agta, for

the year 1947, saying that they were then involved in hunting,

agricultural labor, and upland cultivation. And a recent SIL report

says these same Agta are today, 1984, working as laborers and practicing

some swidden farming, but doing no hunting (Blair et al. 1984).

Another variation of this relationship at the turn of this century,

in contrast to the one in Camarines, is described in the Eighth Annual

Report of the Philippine Commission: "The Negritos [on the east coast

of Isabela] . . . engage only in hunting and fishing, the products

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whereof they exchange for rice or maize with the Christians"

(1908:334). Segovia also mentions this same thing for the Agta in both

Casiguran and Palanan, when he passed through these areas in 1901:

These 'negritos' . . . were not savage. They frequent

Casiguran and exchange the products of the forest, and chase
[hunt], for rice and Indian corn (1902:103).

Semper (1861:255-56) also states that about one-half of the hamlets of

the Irrayas, a non-Agta tribal people living in San Mariano, Isabela,

had Agta living with them when he spent a month there in 1860.

In the 1901 Report of the Philippine Commission, two 19th century

undated reports by different priests are cited, which further illustrate

the heavy Agta-farmer symbiotic interaction during Spanish times. The

first, written originally in 1887 by a Father Pedro de Medio, referring

to Agta in the mountains of Cagayan (which included Isabela and Aurora

then), says

There are Negritos who go to live near some Christian town in

order to carry on in the houses of its inhabitants, or in
their fields, some little work, such as pounding rice, caring
for crops, or other affairs of the sort; but this is only
temporary, and when they have need of corn, with which the
Christians are wont to pay them, or a few yards of cloth,
brightly colored (Medio 1887, cited in Report 1901:391).

The second cited report on the same page, by a Father Eusibio Platero,

says this about the Agta of Camarines Sur:

When they get hungry on account of the lack of game, they

present themselves to cultivate abaca or to aid in harvesting
rice, and they work in the abaca plantations for their food
and for a few handfuls of recently cut rice (ibid.).

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Lukban, after his short visit to Casiguran in 1914, describes the

following for the Agta there, a situation which I hope I have convinced

the reader of by now was prevalent in the Spanish period:

[Concerning] the Dumagat residents in all the hamlets of

Casiguran . . . almost all have had and still have commercial,
living-together relationships . . . in daily labor . . . in
partnerships with the Christian inhabitants of the town, with
a feeling of brotherhood being observed among
them. . . . The Dumagat that goes to the house of a Christian
in the town of Casiguran is a person of confidence, where he
will have his meals and a placeto stay. These Dumagats we
call civilized, in order not to confuse them with the
hostiles (Lukban 1914:6-9, emphasis added).

In this manner the civilized Dumagats live together with the

Christians of Casiguran, coming on many occasions looking for
palay [rice] or tobacco. . . . These Dumagats supply
themselves with palay in the town, leaving it in the houses
of their respective Christian friends, after the harvest

The [Dumagats] have merchant and social relations as laborers

and daily-wage-laborers, or as partners with those of the
town of Baler; and this is the same with the Dumagats of
Casiguran (ibid.:9). The daily wage of these Dumagat is more
or less ten cantavos a day, with two meals for the whole
family (ibid.:4).

Then, concerning the "uncivilized" Agta, he has this to say:

From this point of view we should call the uncivilized ones

those which include half of the inhabitants of the hamlet of
Dinalongan and almost all of the inhabitants of the hamlets
of Simbaan and Dinadyawan [these three Agta band areas are
all in Area 10 of Map 2], [These Agta] are very hostile and
don't have life in common with the Christians, nor with the
civilized Dumagats (ibid.:2).

From these references it seems obvious that Model Two depicts more

realistically the Casiguran situation during the Spanish period, if not

long before. We see here that, contrary to the traditional and more

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popularly believed assumptions of Model One, Agta were not living alone

and isolated at all. Rather, they were heavily involved in prehispanic

times, just as they are today, in various types of symbiotic trading

relationships with their lowland neighbors. These relationships ranged

from outright living with the lowlanders, to discontinuous trade, to

chronic warfare. Let us see now what we might learn from the early

records concerning Agta participation in agriculture.


We come now to our second question concerning the Agta culture

during the Spanish period: To what degree, if any, were they involved

in agriculture? For our earliest references to this, we again turn to

Father Santa Rosa. In an unpublished letter by Santa Rosa dated on March

10, 1745, he definitely establishes for us that there were Casiguran

Agta making their own agricultural fields (sementeras)~* in the first

half of the 18th century. He says,

And now I add that those[Agta] of the seacoast which runs

from this town to midway between Baler and Casiguran live in
two hamlets, make theirfields [sementeras] and have their
little houses like the Indians. . . . each of them finds it
convenient for making their little fields any time they feel
like making them, and more convenient for just sitting around
and hunting in the mountains . . . because it is their native
land and, though nothing but mountains, they love it (AFIO MS

Note that this particular area (Area 10 of Map 2) was very distant from

lowland settlements, and was the area of the "hostile"Agta referred to

in several references quoted above. Here were Agta living far from

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lowlanders and practicing independent agriculture in the 18th century.

In another 1746 document, the same priest refers in passing to the

Agta on the cape of San Ildefonso (Area 1 in Map 2) also practicing

agriculture, this time under his supervision: "I made them dig up a

piece of land for them to sow seed" (Santa Rosa, cited in Perez

1928:87). This same group, he says, previously "had their own sown

land extended well onto the road going to Palanan . . . which they

abandoned" (ibid.). He also mentions that the Agta worked for

lowlanders in agriculture: "They help the Indians with their sowing"

(ibid.). This statement is repeated again, referring to another Agta

band group northwest of town(Area 8 of Map 2) who were still non-

Christian "infidels," and who did not come to town, but who "help the

Indians sow their fields" (ibid.:88). Then, a few pages later he

refers to yet another Agta band which abandoned their hamlet and

fields to move to Dinalongan (ibid.:92-93, emphasis added). And still

another reference later in the report mentions an Agta camp with houses

"like the Tagalogs . . . and also their own fields" (ibid.:96). (Note

that all these references were written in the first half of the 18th


Semper gives us some clues concerning Agta participation in

agriculture in 1860 when, referring to the Palanan Agta, he says, "Some

of them have become farmers" (1861:252) and, referring to the Agta in

San Mariano, he says that about one-half of the sitios of the Irrayas

had Agta attached to them, and that these Agta "had accepted their

[Irraya neighbors'] farming practices" (ibid.:255-56).

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Looking again at the 1887 letter cited above by Father Pedro de

Medio, he has this to say about Agta cultivation practices in

northeastern Luzon:

There are a few settlements far within the large forests whose
[Agta] inhabitants take the trouble to cultivate tiny fields
near streams, but the cultivation is conducted on so small a
scale that it seems like play. Indian corn is almost the
only thing which they plant, but there are those who do not
even know this, and they are, perhaps, in the majority. Even
when they have cleared a small field, it is fashionable to
abandon it in a short time (Medio 1887, cited in Report

As we will learn in Chapter 11, this statement, except for the

reference to corn, is a fair description of the type of agriculture

being done Dy the Casiguran Agta in the 1980s. Concerning the 19th

century Agta of Camarines Sur, Father Eusibio Platero mentions that

"they do not cultivate the fields nor sow anything but a few sweet

potatoes" (ibid.:391, emphasis added).


When we come to the records of the early years of this century,

there are a number of references to Agta symbiosis and Agta involvement

in agriculture. These are cited here to reinforce what should by now

be quite obvious— that these two institutions, found among Agta groups

throughout the Sierra Madre from the northern tip of Luzon to Camarines

Sur, are not new; they have been practiced, I argue, for hundreds of


I have already mentioned several pages back how Secretary

Worcester, on his steamer trip down the east coast in August 1909 found

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Agta that, though they certainly appeared at first glance to be living

independently of interaction with other Filipinos, had trade goods such

as steel utensils and cotton cloth. In the same article Worcester says

that these Negritos told him— this was in 1909— that "during the rainy

season they went back into the mountains, where they sometimes planted

yams, upland rice, or corn" (1912:841).

The Governor of Tayabas Province, Lukban, writing in 1914, tells us

that after the Agta spend their weekends in Casiguran,

They return to their hamlets to work their own

lands. . . . They were almost constantly going to town on
Saturday, in the afternoon, to remain all day Sunday, and
returning to their agricultural tasks on Monday (Lukban

There are two business letters, written nine years apart,

describing the commercial buying of large amounts of rattan from

Casiguran Agta in 1914 and in 1923 (Whitney 1914, Report 1923:39).

In this same letter by Whitney, dated March 15, 1914, written from

Calabgan, Casiguran, he says, referring to the Agta living on the newly

formed reservation for them,

All of those [Agta] men who refused to come to Calabgan have

since arrived and are at work clearing their fields . . . At
present there are some hundred and twenty men at Calabgan,
most of whom have bukids [i.e., fields]. . . . There are also
some five negritos from the interior who have settled in
Calabgan and as soon as they have finished their fields I am
going to send they [sic] to their old rancherias [i.e.,
hamlets] to bring in more people (Whitney 1914).

It is difficult to interpret just what was happening on this reservation

in 1914. But we can be sure that Capt. Whitney, an American P.C.

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officer, was putting pressure on the Agta at this time not only to live

on the reservation, but to cultivate the land. In any case, I include

it as an example, though a deviant one, of Agta farming in 1914.

Looking at Agta outside of the Casiguran area, Paul Schebesta,

referring to his visit to the Agta in San Mariano in 1939, says that

"they lived by catching fish which they traded for corn, tomatoes and

pomelo [a citrus fruit]" (1954:60; see also p. 64). For Palanan, in a

1951 article on the Christian peoples of the Philippines, the author

states that the Palanan lowlanders get part of their subsistence by

"trade with the Negrito and other forest pagans" (Tangco 1951:85).

Speaking for the Agta of the Baler area shortly before WWII,

Amazona refers to their making swiddens, but says, "Their greater

occupational emphasis seems to be on hunting, fishing and gathering

sikag (a root) . . . rather than on cultivation" (Amazona 1951:24).

Referring to symbiosis by the same group, he says,

It has become customary to exchange . . .wild food for

cultivated foods and clothing with their Tagalog
friends . . . in exchange they receive rice, palay, salt,
tobacco, bolos, steel for arrow heads, pottery, and
cloth. . . . They would then stay away for another few weeks
until they would again have sufficient dried meat and fish to
exchange. . . . Occasionally they might accept the invitation
of their Tagalog friends to work for them and cultivate their
farms (ibid.).

Some especially important information, both on Agta interethnic

relationships andon Agta cultivation, are provided by the reports of

Wilfrid Turnbull, the American Army officer who began working with the

Casiguran Agta in 1911, and who lived in Casiguran intermittently for

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ten years or so. Turnbull provides a clear description of Agta economic

behavior and Agta-farmer symbiotic relationships in the second decade of

this century. Here is a part of his description:

Dating back to the original settlement of the Kasiguran

valley, the Dumagats [his term for the Agta] had been in the
habit of helping in the work [of the lowland farmers] and,
with the lapse of time, had become the peons, and the
Christians had become the landed gentry . . . dependent upon
the wild people for labor. These [Dumagats] had always
procured cloth, booze, cooking pots and other necessities from
the people of the town in exchange for game, forest products,
or labor. . . . During the planting and harvest seasons labor
was much in demand. . . . A few Christians did a thriving
business advancing booze or tobacco [to the Dumagats]
(Turnbull 1930:732).

Later in the same article Turnbull continues his description of

this mutualistic symbiosis. He mentions that at the end of a day's

labor the Agta, in "probably most cases, got gloriously drunk"

(ibid.:783). He goes on to say,

A few of the townspeople never employed Dumagats; others

treated them as members of the family. Most of the wild
people who visited Kasiguran had Christian arribay [a local
word, meaning 'trading partner'] and dealt chiefly with
these. In many cases . . . there was not only mutual profit
but also mutual assistance and regard. . . . The arribay is a
legacy from the early days of the settlement when every
Christian had a Dumagat friend and partner in his work. Each
was the arribay of the other. When in the settlement the
Christian protected the Dumagat; when outside, the situation
was reversed . . .

There was, however, no general' liking or confidence between

the two peoples— only between individuals. The majority of
the wild tribe did not feel comfortable in Kasiguran and
there was but a small fraction of one per cent of the
townspeople who would go alone or sleep a few miles out of
town (ibid.).

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Turnbull also refers in another article to the Casiguran Agta working as

guides and carriers for lowland travelers, and also that the Agta

collected copal (a tree resin) for trade (1929:237-38).

It is most interesting to see what Turnbull has to say about Agta

agricultural practices, in this second decade of the present century.

Although he makes several mentions to Agta doing agricultural labor for

lowland farmers, he makes two references to them making fields for

themselves. He refers first to an Agta campsite "some forty miles up

the coast, [which would be about halfway between Casiguran and Palanan,

which] when seen by the writer [Turnbull], had quite a few coconuts

planted" (1930:110). He also says that a "large proportion" of the

Casiguran Agta who did not come to live on his reservation [established

in 1912] "started small settlements in their own country, built regular

houses, and planted crops" (ibid., emphasis added).

Turnbull seems to imply that all these Agta, scattered along 180 km

of coastline from Baler to Palanan, "started" agriculture only then,

under his inducement. I, of course, argue that these Agta had been

practicing desultory cultivation for hundreds of years before Turnbull's


Probably it was in 1912 when Turnbull contacted what he calls the

'wildest' Agta (in Area 10 of Map 2) and got them to agree to make a

settlement at the mouth of the Dinalongan River, which he calls "their

favorite camping place." Here he says they then cultivated "a small

piece of land planted with seeds supplied by the Government"

(1930:794). Turnbull does not tell us if these Agta made this field on

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their own, or under his order. But he does say, several pages later,

that these same "people of Dinalungan had become so prosperous in trade

that they neglected their farm" (ibid.:32).

He does tell of a great deal of agricultural work the Agta did on

the Calabgan reservation he established for them near Casiguran in

1912, but this work was done under his more-or-less forced supervision


Morice Vanoverbergh, a Belgium priest who spent two months studying

the culture of the Casiguran Agta in 1936, also provides us with some

excellent data on how the Agta were living then. We are not surprised

to learn that, in 1936, "Rice is the staple food among the [Casiguran]

Negritos," (Vanoverbergh 1937-38:922), since we have read several

references inferring this for the Spanish period, and Turnbull, speaking

for the 1910s, says

Many [Agta] living within easy reach of the towns [of

Casiguran and Palanan] depend more or less on rice or corn
for food. Some of those who live permanently near town can
not get along without it (1929:177).

What is interesting is what Vanoverbergh has to say about how these

Agta obtain this rice they need. Continuing Vanoverbergh's above quote,

he goes on to say that

. . . very few of them raise rice, and even when they do, they
never raise it in sufficient quantities . . . therefore they
largely depend on the Malays for their daily bread

Vanoverbergh here refers to their exchanging fish or venison for rice.

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He states several pages later, that "Economically, they are slaves, as

they depend almost entirely on their Malay neighbors, who furnish them

most of their rice" (ibid.:149). Vanoverbergh also states that the

Agta secure rice by

cutting timber and gathering forest products under the

direction and for the benefit of other people, and helping
the Malays with the rice harvest. [These activities] have
become almost general among the Pygmies (ibid.:928).

Vanoverbergh does not fail to mention Agta agricultural pursuits,

however. He makes several references to their doing small scale

cultivation in 1936. He states in one place, for example,

Whenever I met Negritos I could observe that the practice of

tilling the soil seemed to be very much on the increase.
Most of the Pygmies who live in the southern part of the
district of Casiguran have their own small
homesteads . . . [although] their chief pursuits continue to
be hunting and fishing. They plant sweet potatoes, maize,
bananas and a certain amount of sugar cane; also, to some
extent, rice, tomatoes, taro, beans, manioc, papaws [papaya]
and several kinds of squashes and other Cucurbitaceae. In
the northern part of the district and at Baler, agriculture
was less prominent (ibid.:927).

This does not mean all Agta were involved in agriculture during the

historical period, much less the late prehispanic era. Model Two allows

that some bands may have gone for periods without making swiddens, and

even that a few bands may never have made them. I found only one piece

of evidence for this in the records. In an unpublished letter by a P.

Juan de Ocana, dated March 6, 1754, he says,

There are many Aetas on the beaches as we go to Palanan [from

Casiguran], but some are Aetas which today are here and

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tomorrow are to the mountains, since they do not plant nor

cultivate the land, because all the mountains are their •
lands, resting places. And that is where they maintain
themselves and are fat (AFIO MS 89/61).

* * *

In this chapter we have seen that the prehispanic Agta did not live

as 'pure' hunters, in isolation from agriculturalists. I have tried to

establish that the Agta, at least by the eve of the Spanish conquest,

were heavily involved in various types of trading relationship with non-

Negrito lowland populations, and that most Agta bands were practicing at

least some type of part-time small-scale cultivation. There is no

question that the ancestors of the present-day Agta were at onetime

paleolithic hunter-gatherers. What I am arguing here is that this

stone-age lifestyle ended long ago, possibly in the early Holocene, and

that the Agta probably moved into the neolithic at more-or-less the same

time as did their Asian neighbors.

Now, as we turn to Chapter 8, I review the historical highlights

of the 20th century, as they affected Agta evolutionary change. We will

see that their symbiotic interchange with agriculturalists, and their

desultory agricultural practices have continued not only through the

Spanish period, but right up to the present day. In later chapters we

will see how these economic institutions have adjusted to changing

forces in the Casiguran ecosystem', including historical forces, as the

Agta have tried to adapt to the changes resulting from these.

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1. The 'founding' of a town, in the ecclesiastical terminology of

the time, "does not mean there was no previous settlement there, only
that now it is incorporated into Spanish civil empire and Roman
Catholic ecclesiastical organization" (Bruce Cruikshank, personal

2. 'Cimarrones' is a Spanish term of "reference to wild natives or

Negritos" (B&R 54:217). It is important to remember, when trying to
interpret the Spanish mission records, that there were non-Negrito
Ilongot tribal people living on the southwest border of the Casiguran
Agta area, and 'runaway' Casiguranin people living at times in the
mountains, often doubtless with Agta, because they wished to escape from
the mission domination or, in the Cagayan Valley, Spanish taxation or
forced labor (see Perez 1927:290). For details of the latter, see
Keesing (1962:179, 206). Often the mission letters refer to the
'infidels' in the mountains without specifying whether they are
referring to Negritos, Ilongot, or merely fugitive lowlanders. The Agta
are variously referred to in the records by terms such as 'Aetas',
'negros','Dumagats', and 'Dumagas'.

3. The original of this particular photo was taken on August 30,

1909, and is archived in the Worcester Photographic Archives at the
Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, file no. I-Z-l. The
original photo also shows a small clay pot to the right of the mortar,
which was cut from the photo reproduction published in Worcester

4. There are two reasons for arguing that the Agta and Casiguranin
languages are not mutually intelligible. One, the shared vocabulary
between the two languages is only 77 percent, slightly below the 80
percent threshold score by which two languages would be considered
mutually intelligible, and two, the intelligibility tests I conducted in
Casiguran in 1975 showed that those Casiguranin townspeople who had
never interacted with Agta could not understand Agta. The scores of
those five lowlanders were 80, 80, 70, 69, and 65, with the averajge
being 73 percent. (For details see Headland 1975a.)

5. Sementera means 'a place where seed is sowed,' from the

Spanish, sementar 'to s.ow'. The 18th century friars had no word for
slash-and-burn -swidden fields, and they thus referred to any type of
field as sementera. Some students of Philippine history have
mistakenly limited the meaning of the word to pond fields (Wm. H. Scott,
personal correspondence).


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Kasiguran consists of a stone church with priest's residence

attached, both somewhat delapidated [sic], and.also about 100
houses built in the usual way with rectangular streets. The
town was absolutely deserted, but we found dogs, pigs and
chickens about the houses and a clock going and showing
correct time. We saw three men all of whom fled at our
approach. . . . Confidence seemed to be spreading about the
Bay, as several strange natives [Agta?] came aboard [the
steamer USS Vicksburg]. . . . There seems to be no money used
here. . . . I saw several extensive rice fields and a few
little patches of corn, beans and other vegetables (Barry
1901, describing a visit by 16 U.S. sailors to Casiguran on
March 18, 1901).

In Chapter 6 I proposed a model of how I believe the ancestors of

the present-day Agta lived in late prehistoric times. In contrast to

the more popular "isolationist stance," or "mosaic stereotype" view,

that Philippine Negritos at the time of the Spanish arrival were living

a more-or-less paleolithic style of life, divorced from farmers and

farming, I argued that such foraging societies, and Agta in particular,

had been involved in interethnic trade, as well as small scale part-time

cultivation, long before the 16th century. In the last chapter I cited

a good deal of mostly Spanish period sources demonstrating how

widespread both of these economic institutions were among the Agta

throughout that 300 year period, presenting this as circumstantial

evidence that these two economic institutions were almost surely well

established before the Spanish arrival.


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This "Model Two" view of Agta prehistory will take us a long way in

understanding why the Agta live as they do today, still carrying on

these same two institutions, with not a great deal of modification from

what the cited documents describe. Before we go into those questions,

however, there are still some 20th century historical highlights— new

ecological forces— introduced into the Casiguran ecosystem in this

century, which have and are affecting the Agta today. It is necessary

for us to be aware of these more recent historical events if we are to

come to an adequate understanding of why the Agta behaveas they do


In this chapter I will review the critical historical events of the

American period, from the arrival of the American Capt. Turnbull in 1911

up to the 1960s. These events include such influences as the entrance

of logging and mining industries into the area, the introduction of

firearms and its effect on game populations, the Agta school, commercial

liquors, government agencies assigned to control the Agta, and WWII. We

will look especially here at the program of Capt. Turnbull himself, and

we will review what is probably the most crucial force of all, the

national population explosion. In the next chapter we will look at the

more current events, forces which entered the Agta ecosystem after my

arrival, and especially after 1970. (These latter include the

influences resulting from the building of the national road, the mass

media, foreign missionaries, the world demand for rattan furniture, the

NPA guerrilla war, Martial Law, the Aquino assassination, etc.) Not all

of these "ecological" forces fit neatly into one period or the other.

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I have attempted to put them in this or the next chapter according to

whichever period I think they made the heaviest impact. Those forces

which played an influence during both periods will be made clear from

the context.


The arrival of the American Capt. Turnbull. If there is any one

event which we could single out as precipitating traumatic and long-

lasting culture change among the Casiguran Agta, it would be the arrival

of Capt. Wilfrid Turnbull to Casiguran in 1911. There have been several

other culture-changing historical events which brought upsetting change

to the traditional Agta way of life, as we shall see in this and the

next chapter; but none of them, in my opinion, could have caused as much

stress (and the beginning of Agta deculturation) as Turnbull's arrival,

with his orders in hand to "bring [the] wild [Agta] tribe under

government control" (Turnbull 1930).

Turnbull was born in England in 1869, and emigrated to the United

States, where he became a medical doctor. He joined the U.S. Army, and

came to the Philippines as an Army doctor in 1899. He was discharged

from the Army in 1901, with rank of captain, but remained in the country

and joined the Philippine Constabulary in August of the same year. He

was assigned to the Baler-Casiguran area in September 1911 to assist the

provincial governor as supervisor of wild tribes. His first job there

was just what the title of his 1930 article states, to bring the

troublesome Casiguran Agta under government control. Though he was

assigned to Baler, and was in and out of Casiguran until at least 1917,

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he also spent considerable time working with the Ilongot, and with other

tribal groups in Mountain Province. He evidently lived as a civilian in

Baler throughout the 1920s, buying rattan and shipping it to Manila.

Turnbull was living in retirement in Muntinlupa, near Manila, when the

war broke out. Perhaps because of his age he was not interned at the

Santo Tomas Internment Camp until October 1942. He died there of a

heart attack on November 1, 1944, at the age of 75.^

History of the Calabgan Reservation. Turnbull probably arrived in

Casiguran in September or October of 1911. By early 1912 a plan was

put into operation to establish an Agta land reserve near the mouth of

the Calabgan River, 14 km southwest of the town. The primary goals were

two: to change the Agta from "wandering nomads" into sedentary

villagers, and to make them into farmers. A secondary goal was to

bring all Agta together where they could be policed in such a way that

they would stop harassing the Christian farming population. Overall,

the government wanted this "wild tribe" brought under "control;" in

short, to "civilize" them. Originally, the plan was to bring all Agta

onto the Reservation, from as far south as Infanta, Quezon to as far

north as Palanan, Isabela. This never worked out in practice, except

for a few Palanan Agta families who visited the Reservation for a short

time in 1914. In Turnbull's discussion of his "work of taming" the

Agta, he says,

In order to get control of the various groups— impracticable

so long as they were scattered— the Secretary of the
Interior, the Honorable Dean C. Worcester, issued an order
obliging the Dumagats to take up residence on a certain tract

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of land which was later to be set aside by the Government as

a reservation for the tribe (1930:31).

Worcester himself comments on this plan, commending Turnbull at the same


Conditions [in 1912-13] among the peculiarly wild and

primitive Ilongot and Negrito inhabitants steadily improve.
Capt. Wilfrid Turnbull, P.C., who has charge of the work for
the Ilongots and Negritos on the Pacific slope of the eastern
mountain range of this province [Nueva Vizcaya, of which
Casiguran was then a part], has succeeded in establishing and
holding together two [?] flourishing Negrito villages, a
thing which, so far as I am aware, has never before beer. done.
Captain Turnbull has lived with his Negritos and Ilongots
throughout the year. Whether the villages which he has built
up can be brought to sucha state of development that they
will not disintegrate if their inhabitants are not under the
immediate control of a white man remains to be seen

As we will see, the Calabgan reservation plan did "disintegrate," but

not for the reasons Worcester predicted.

Turnbull was not the only American to work with the Casiguran Agta.

There was an unnamed American school teacher whom Turnbull says "was

assigned to Calabgan just as the writer [Turnbull] went on leave"

(1930:32), and there was another American military P.C. officer who came

to Calabgan in 1913 as Turnbull's "relief" (ibid.), a Capt. Francis A.

Whitney (who is mentioned in the military records of Elarth [1949:184]).

Turnbull mentions his "success" at the Calabgan Reserve, stating that

there were "about" 150 Agta families living there, that the settlement

was well laid out with new houses, that most Agta were busy at farming,

and that the school was built and class attendance was high. Yet he

also refers continually to the problems of trying to keep the Agta on

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the Reserve. He mentions four times the use of leg irons, and other

punishments to "runaway" Agta, and to having to chain gang men together

to get them to clear their fields.

The provincial governor, Lukban, also wrote in 1914 about ths

chronic problem of the Agta leaving the Reserve to go off into the

mountains whenever the lieutenant governors were away from the Reserve

(Lukban 1914:2-3; these It. governors were Whitney and Turnbull, as

Lukban states on page 11 [where he spells Turnbull's name as

Thrombole].) Capt. Whitney also writes, in a letter to the governor

dated March 15, 1914, of the problem of getting the Agta to live on the

Reserve, and asking permission "to use force in making them come

in . . . if other means fail" (Wh'itney 1914). This obviously chronic

problem of getting the Agta to live at the Calabgan Reserve was still

going on in 1923 (see Sanvictores 1923) and, as we will see, in the

1980s as well.

Nevertheless, Turnbull gives a fair list of accomplishments. By

the siimmer of 1915, he says, 30 ha had been planted in various crops,

including coconuts, and 15 ha of irrigated wet rice fields. There was

an "Exchange," store, office building, school, soldiers' barracks,

athletic grounds, and "some seventy houses belonging to Dumagats"

(1930:114). One optimistic report says that, by 1915,

The Negrito settlement at Calabgan, on the east coast,

continues successful, and it has been proved that the
Negrito, under proper supervision, can be persuaded to till
the soil and give up his nomad life (Report 1916:127).

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As the reader may suspect by now, however, the Agta did not see

'his resettlement scheme in the same light. These Agta had at the time

exclusive free reign of 700 square kilometers of land, all to

themselves. The government's plan was to put all these Agta onto an
area of just 1.53 km , and there contain them. It should not be hard

to understand why the Agta objected to this. As my older informants

recall those prewar years, they continued to alternate back and forth

from playing games with the soldiers— by showing up on the Reservation

for free meals while they played at farming, to hiding from soldiers

who would hike to Agta camps at the end of the summers to round up

children for the boarding school. Though the Calabgan resettlement

efforts went on sporadically right up to December 8, 1941, there was a

decision made at least once to close the Reservation "due to

the . . . expense involved and the small number of Negritos that could

be kept in this reservation" (Annual Report 1926:63). It should be

noted, however, that the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes proposed the

same year to give the "adult inhabitants of the reservation permanent

homesteads within the reservation of not to exceed 4 hectares"

(Sanvictores 1923).

It was not until 1934 that a document was drawn up formally

declaring this reservation land as for the Agta. That year the

Calabgan Reservation was formally declared as "for the exclusive use of

the non-Christians" by Governor General Proclamation No. 723. This

document (Governor General 1935:955-57) was signed and sealed by

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Governor General Frank Murphy on August 21, 1934. It defines in detail

the exact borders of the 152.60 ha Reservation.

After the War, there were no further efforts to either move the

Agta onto the Reservation again, or to acknowledge their rightful and

now legal claim to this land, until 1963. That year, a Mr. Macaraya,

an agent of the (now defunct) Commission on National Integration came

to Casiguran and undertook serious efforts to evict the many non-Agta

squatters from the Reservation and move the Agta on in their place.

This program was a dismal failure.

Then, in 1975, a major project was again attempted to establish the

Agta on this land, the same land cleared by their own grandparents many

years before. The 55th Philippine Constabulary Battalion, in

cooperation with agents from the government Office of the Presidential

Assistant on National Minorities (PANAMIN), moved the many lowlander

farmers off this land (literally sawing through their houseposts with

chain saws and dragging their houses off the Reservation with logging

trucks), and then moved a reported 50 Agta families onto the same area

in order to begin farming. The optimism of the military and Panamin was

high, but again, the Agta themselves saw it in a different light.

Things went well for awhile. Under supervision, the Agta built a

"village," complete with streets and houses all in neat rows, and took

up farming (more or less) while the Panamin agency supplied them with

free rice.

By this time, the Agta were skilled at exploiting such situations

for their benefit. However, at about the same time the free rations

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began to run out, social relationships also began to deteriorate, both

between the different bands and between the Agta and the Panamin

agents. By July 1977 only 22 families remained at Calabgan. And in

March 1978 it was down to 7 families (plus 8 lowlander men who had

gained access to the reservation land either because they were married

to Agta women, orhave a part-Agta ancestry themselves). Finally, at

the time of my last visit to the Reserve, in July 1984, there was only

one Agta family living there.

I will discuss in Chapter 13 why the Agta have so resisted this

settlement scheme. Suffice it to say it is for sound economic and

ecological reasons. It is not because they are "primitive," "ignorant,"

or too low in mentality for civilization. What sad to see is that,

after forcing the Agta to clear this wide area of fertile land during

the pre-war years, and seeing it today covered with naturally irrigated

rice paddies and productive coconut groves (all being cultivated by

lowlanders), there are still no Agta with deeded land there today.

Theboarding school for Agta children. Over the years, my wife

and I have listened to older Agta tell stories of their sporadic periods

of attendance at the Calabgan Reservation school before the War. A few

of the stories were of hiding from Filipino soldiers, or being caught by

them and taken to the boarding school (from where they often ran away

and returned to their families). But mostly the stories were of fun

times at the school. None of the story tellers seemed to have bad

memories of their school experiences there. They were evidently well

fed, and supplied with clothes and school supplies from America. The

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school continued to function intermittently from 1914 to December 9,

1941. A number of Agta remember the day the school closed, and they

were sent home, when word came of the Japanese attack on the


In our formal questioning of Agta adults in 1976, we found that 65

percent of those who were of school age between the years 1921 and 1941

attended the Calabgan school for at least a short period (31/48). All

but 3 of these attended for at least one year (they said), 7 claimed to

have finished grade 3, and 1 finished grade 6.

Emphasis in the school was on learning to read, write, and speak

English. There were classes as well in simple gardening, and in rice

and corn agriculture. They were also taught both Filipino and American

history. (There was never an American teacher at the school, in the

memories of my informants.) The results of these lessons were not

apparent to us. None of the Agta we knew could speak English (although

there were three men who thought they could, whenever they were

drinking). There was one man who died in 1968 who was fully literate in

Tagalog, and several who could write their names. There were a dozen or

so who could sing English folk songs, and several who knew the names of

various Filipino and American folk heroes. One of the important things

they learned was to count, using Tagalog, Spanish, and English numbering


In spite of the obvious ethnocentric bias we see in the way this

school was run, we should not underestimate the powerful acculturative

force it played upon the Agta. Though it would be difficult to know

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just how to measure that influence, we can be sure it had a profound

effect on the whole Agta culture, as Agta children were brought into

intense interaction with lowland teachers and, later, carried new ideas

home to their families and relatives.


If the program of Capt. Turnbull was the first and biggest catalyst

of Agta acculturative change, certainly a close second was the national

population explosion which began at the turn of this century. At the

beginning of the Spanish conquest, the archipelago was estimated to have

a total population of only a half million people, and in 1903 it was

only 7.64 million. In 1939 it was 16 million, by 1960 it was 27

million, and today, 1985, it is 54 million.

Since WWII, this tremendous population explosion has pushed a fast

accelerating number of immigrant Filipino homesteaders into the

Casiguran area, especially since 1960. Four hundred years ago the Agta

outnumbered the lowland farmers by at least 2 to 1. (I estimate that the

Casiguran Agta population numbered between one and two thousand in 1582,

when the Casiguranin farming population was reported to be 500 [B&R

5:99].) By 1900 the ratio had reversed to 1 to 2 (i.e., for every Agta

there were 2 lowlanders). When I arrived in Casiguran in 1962 the ratio

was about 1 to 12.5 (about 800 Agta and 10,000 lowlanders). Today, June

1984, there are 609 Agta and 35,000 lowlanders, a ratio of 1 to 57!

(See Table 1.1.)

Not only were the lowlanders few in the past but, until the 1920s,

virtually all of them lived in or very near the town. The maps of the

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Casiguran barrios in both the 1903 and 1918 national censuses show that

the then eight barrios were all adjacent to the town central. In short,

we see that, just as my older informants recall, the pre-war Agta had
virtually the whole 700 km of the Casiguran ecosystem pretty much to
themselves, with a population density of about 1.5 persons per km ,

except for the area in and around the town, where the lowlanders
lived. Today these same Agta are vastly outnumbered by the fast

expanding farming populations, most of whom are immigrant homesteaders.

These non-Agta lowlanders no longer live aggregated in the municipal

towns (of which there are now four in the area). Instead, they are

spread widely throughout most of the area, moving every year further up

the rivers as they clear forest land for cultivation, rechannel whole

rivers for irrigation purposes, denude wide areas of mountainsides in

open strip mining (at Dinapigui in the 1960s), bulldoze logging roads,

cut lumber and, since 1979, collect rattan.

When I returned to Casiguran from Hawaii in 1982, one aspect of my

research plan was to measure the distances from all Agta camps to the

nearest non-Agta residence sites. My estimate was that the distances

during my earlier years there ran in the range of 20 to 120 minutes

walking time, but I had never collected the quantitative data to be

really sure. When I got back to Casiguran, however, I found this goal

impractical, because there were now so many lowlanders residing up and

down the rivers that many Agta camps had lowlanders living upriver from

them, a phenomenon unheard of even in the 1970s. Moreover, many Agta

camps had lowlanders living right with them, usually to buy their

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rattan as it was collected each day. Almost every Agta camp in 1983-84

had lowland families living within a hundred meters. Besides this there

were, on any given day without heavy rain, somewhere between one

thousand and two thousand lowlanders scattered throughout the forests

collecting rattan themselves for commercial sale. Even in the late

1970s most Agta groups had their upriver areas mostly to themselves,

except when loggers were working the area, but upon my return in 1982 I

found that every Agta band area now had lowlanders living in it.

Indeed, as I spent most of the next 19 months hiking back and forth

throughout these areas, it was a rare hour of hiking when I did not

hear the sound of voices or choppingin the distance, as lowlanders cut

down rattan to sell at the coast.

Now, as an ecologically trained anthropologist, I cannot help but

feel a sense of sadness as I see a way of life, which proved highly

adaptive for thousands of years, fast coming to an end. As the reader

will recognize as he reads through this thesis, I consider the Casiguran

area, and indeed the whole Philippines, as living on the precipice of

ecological disaster. I fear the ecological degradation of Casiguran

will continue at an accelerating rate, and that the Agta will come out

as the biggest losers. In fact, the Agta's inability tocope now will

be quite plain to see when we look at their demographic statistics in

Chapter 12.

What is most interesting is that the Agta do not look at their

changed circumstances in the same light as do I. In 1983 I asked a

number of older Agta to compare their life now with their life before

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the War, and for which period they felt their life was best. A few of

the respondents said their life was better before; but in these cases,

every one of them was focusing on some individual problem of their own

at the presenttime, either their present poor health or the death of a

spouse. One woman, for example, told me, "Life was better before

because my husband was still alive, and he always brought me food."

But otherwise, virtually every Agta to whom I asked this question said

that life is better now than it was in the past.

Here is an example of a conversation I had with a man named

Budegdeg (not his real name),age 61 when I interviewed him on June 27,

1983. This was typical of the responses I got. Budegdeg grew up in a

river valley just 8 km from the town of Casiguran. According to

lowlanders with whom I have discussed Casiguran history, up until 1928,

when a Japanese logging company began work in the area, no lowlander

would dare to enter this rivershed area, (except the Guerrero family,

since Mr. Guerrero was the ahxbay trading partner with Budegdeg's

father and his band). In those days this Agta band group were lords in

their own domain, a band of about 6 families, living alone in a river

canyon covering some 30 km , teeming with fish and game, and a few

small gardens they planted in alternate years.

As we discussed the history of his life,Budegdeg first told me of

how a certainIlokano named Silaw (a pseudonym) cheated him out of his

land (somewhere between 1961-64), and about the Japanese soldier he

killed during WWII. When I finally asked him if he thought life was

better now or before, he said, "Oh, it is much better now." When I

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asked why, he answered, "Lowlanders! We have lots of lowlanders here

now." I asked, "And how is that better?" He muttered something about

what a dumb question, then said, "Look, Tomas, before, we were always

having hunger problems, no rice! And no tobacco either, and no liquor.

We seldom could get these things, and we had to hike all the way to

town. Now," he said, "we can get rice all the time from these

lowlanders living right here. And we can get drunk anytime we want."

So there you have it. I asked this question to many other Agta.

All who spoke to the general situation, not to some specific personal

problem, gave virtually the same answer, focusing usually on the

availability of rice. Agta, like other Filipinos, use the same word for

'cooked rice' as they do for 'food' and for the verb, 'to eat'. They

also, like other Filipinos, do not consider that they have eaten if they

do not have rice with a meal. I have been many times in Agta camps

when rice was not available. Even if there were root crop foods, and

they were eating them three times a day, they all claimed they were

starving. As we see in Table 4.6, the Agta ate rice at 92 percent of

their meals in 1984. In January of that year, when there was a rice

shortage, I grew weary of listening to their chronic complaints that

they were starving and without food. Yet they still had rice at 86

percent of their meals that month. (This is not to say Agta have

enough rice to eat, their thin body' size suggests they do not [see

Table 12.16], but to emphasize how important it is to them.)

For better or for worse, the Agta have a quite different attitude

to the invasions of their lands by outsiders than do most other tribal

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peoples. While there are many Agta who complain of exploitation from

lowlanders, the fact is that they are more concerned about having rice

in their cooking pots for that day than they are about long range loss

of their lands. Their rice comes from the lowlanders, and perhaps we

have here a case of a group of people who know better than "to bite the

hand that feeds them." Doubtless, my Agta respondents here were, like

other humans elsewhere, more interested in individual opportunism than

in systemic stability and adaptation at the population level. In any

case, whatever the Agta may think of the flood of lowland Filipinos

moving into every area of their traditional hunting grounds, this

population explosion is without question a highly significant

independent variable in their ecosystem, a variable which is today the

single greatest force for Agta change and deculturation.


Compared with most of the Philippines, the Casiguran valley

remained, throughout the four years of WWII, in relative peace. Life

became harder, to be sure, for both Agta and lowland farmers, but there

was next to no direct warfare in the area. For most of the period,

until mid 1945, there was just one platoon of Japanese stationed in the

area. This was a part of the Kamba Co. (the rest of whom were

stationed in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya), of the 178th Battalion, 108th Army

Infantry Division (Takamiya 1975:89-90). The leader of the platoon in

Casiguran was a Capt. Nishizaka. According to my informants, this

captain was fair and kind to the local people in Casiguran. In fact,

the relationship between these Japanese and the local people, Agta and

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lowlanders, was apparently cordial throughout the War. According to

Takamiya (ibid.), all the men of this platoon died in Casiguran in mid


It was hard for me to sift out the facts from the myths which are

told in Casiguran today about the war years. Now, 40 years later,

stories of the war tend to be idealized and exaggerated.. According to

my informants, some Agta lived near the town and had no trouble with

the Japanese, while others withdrew, at least periodically, to distant

areas in the forest to avoid trouble. According to informants, all

Agta were able to continue in their traditional trade relationships,

except for the disruptive period from June to September 1945. And many

of them developed friendly trade relationships with Japanese. Agta who

lived in the distant areas said they ate wild yams more often than they

had in the prewar years, and also were more conscientious about making

root crop gardens, since their normal food, traded rice, was less

reliable. Not surprising, several Agta were said to have worked

periodically for the Japanese as guides, hunters, and casual laborers.

According to official records in Casiguran, the following U.S. Army

units were in the Casiguran area at the end of the War:

May 1944 to March 6, 1945: the Allied Intelligence Bureau,

under the command of a "Captain Ball."

March 7 to June 30, 1945: the 16th 1st Infantry Regiment of

the 25th Division, in Dilasag and Casiguran.

June 30 to July 31, 1945: 103rd Infantry Regiment, 43rd

Division, in Casiguran and Dinalongan.

August 1 to August 7, 1945: 172nd Infantry Regiment, 43rd

Division, in Casiguran and Dinalongan.

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August 15 to October 2, 1945: 149th Infantry Regiment, 48th

Division, in Casiguran and Dinalongan.

Most Agta do not look back on the war years as especially

difficult, though they recall periods of time when they could not get

rice, and of having towear bark cloth (poorer lowlanders in the

barrios also said their own clothing in those days was made of bark

cloth). They were obviously well treated by the American forces when

they arrived. Older Agta can still relate with excitement about the

times in 1945 when GI C rations were dropped to them by parachute, and

about the American sailors who gave them blankets in exchange for live

baby monkeys. And my wife and I well remember their excitement in 1962

when they first heard we wanted to live with them. We thought a fight

was going to break out between two of the band groups over who was

going to get the 'Amerikanos' to live with them. The matter was

decided by thelocal government agent in charge of Agta affairs at the

time. (I might add, therewas some disillusionment when they found out

we didn't give out free blankets and C rations.)

A few Agta men claimed to have killed Japanese at the end of the

war, but I could substantiate only one of these claims after so many

years. Budegdeg's claim that he killed a Japanese soldier is

supported by other Agta. Two other Casiguran Agta men, Gahang and

Bulitug (now deceased) both told me they killed one Japanese each in

Falanan, and my informants support that claim. There are 3 Palanan

Agta men (Kirispin, Tanyet, and Rumines, all now deceased) who were

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said to have kiiled Japanese, also in Palanan. I never knew these

latter 3 men.

There is one clear reference in the Japanese war records to Agta

killing Japanese soldiers in the Sierra Madre. This occurred on or

shortly before September 11, 1945. The reference appears in a first

hand report describing the retreat of a company of Japanese troops

reorganized from remnants of the Cavite Naval Arsenal. This group

departed from Minuri (on the Dibuluan River in southern Isabela) on

August 8, fleeing east through the mountains until they came out on the

coast at Dinapigui, at the southeastern corner of Isabela Province (see

Map 1). At that time, the report states, "At the seashore there were

no houses nor any trace of human footprints. It had taken us over a

month [to hike through the Sierra Madre from Minuri], and four-fifths

of our number died [along the way]" (Nis’

nida 1984:157). Most of these

died from starvation, exhaustion and sickness. But some died at the

hands of Agta:

On the way we were attacked by Negritos and lost a few of the

soldiers. This was because some soldiers had stolen a
fishnet/trap which the Negritos had put in the river. This
was our first time to see any people other than ourselves.
These people looked very primitive. We saw one or two
traces of their living on our way along the River Q, the
places they made fires, leg tips of burned reptiles, or the
tools for making fires. So we were cautious of possible
attack. This is because those who were a little bit behind
the main troops were attacked. On the next day [after the
attack?], September 12, we departed from camp no. 20

A scale map in this report shows clearly the path of this retreat.

"River Q" runs northwest down the western side of the Sierra Madre, and

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empties into the Pinacauan de Ilagan (thelocal name is Pinacanuan de

Ilagen) River at grid coordinates 16° 37' N by 122° 03' E.^ The

"attack" by Negritos occurred somewhere between there and "camp no.

20," (which was located at coordinates 16° 33' N by 122° 08' E).

It is interesting, but not particularly surprising, to find Agta

killing Japanese soldiers. A more important question to ask is, How

many Casiguran Agta were killed by Japanese during the war?

As we will see in Chapter 12, there was apparently a high Agta

population decline between Vanoverbergh's 1936 Agta census, and my

wife's and my census of 1977. Perhaps this was the result of a high

number of Agta being killed by Japanese. We know that hundreds of

desperate Japanese troops retreated into the Sierra Madre after their

terrible defeat at Balete Pass (also called Dalton Pass), at Santa Fe,

Nueva Vizcaya, in early June, 1945; and thousands more fled in the same

direction when American Paratroopers of the 11th Airborne Division

parachuted into Aparri on June 23:

By the end of the period [late June of '45] the remnants of

the Yuguchi Force were in full flight eastward into the
untracked wilderness of the Sierra Madre, separating the
Cagayan Valley from Luzon's coast. . . . The 37th [U.S.]
Division . . . now began mopping up and patrolling eastward
into the Sierra Madre, where perhaps as many as 10,000
Japanese, the bulk of them service personnel, hid out (Smith
1963:569, 571; italics in the original).

Many of these Japanese troops passed directly through Agta areas in

Casiguran, as they attempted to flee towards Palanan. Many of these

retreated first to the headwaters of the Cagayan Valley, where they

regrouped at Pinapagan (now the town of Madella, Quirino Province), 45

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km straight west of Casiguran, with the rugged Sierra Madre in between.

In June and July groups of these sick and starving soldiers were fleeing

east again into Casiguran:

The ones who went to Casiguran were the ones /no had stationed
themselves in Pinapagan. From the end of June many different
troops of the Japanese 4th Air Division were at Pinapagan.
Then other groups of the Japanese 10th Infantry Division came
at the beginning of July. One platoon of Takahashi Company
of the 127th Battalion (of Major Shitami) was sent to
Casiguran to guard, but it seems that most of them died of
sickness and by the attacks of guerrillas. This 127th
Battalion arrived at Pinapagan on March 20 to gather rice.
About the beginning of April they sent one platoon to
Casiguran. Then, on June 20, 700 Americans landed at
Casiguran, and 300 guerrillas joined them. Only one orderly
made it back to Pinapagan (Soeda 1985).

Many Japanese perished, as well, in the mountains of Palanan in

1945. An American missionary who hiked into Palanan in 1947 mentions

"dozens of piles of Japanese bones we saw along the trail . . . [where]

hundreds died from starvation and sickness . . . there were dozens upon

dozens of piles of whitened bones along the trail" (Spottswood


There are records of one particular Japanese "scouting party"

hiding in the Casiguran hills from July 28 to August 17, a group of

about 30 men led by a First Lieutenant Mitsuo Matsuoka from the 52nd

Independent Squadron (Kimura 1976:59). The diary of one man in this

group states, in part,

After 8 days of difficult travel from Pinapagan we arrived at

the east coast [at Caoiguran]. On the sea shore we found
lots of big squid, and tried to shoot them, but we could not
get them. On the beach there was a settlement [possibly
Agta], but there were no people. . . . A little ways inland

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we found a native's nipa house, and no one was there. So we

decided to stay overnight. But that night we were attacked by
guerrillas. Sergeant Uchida was shot to death and also others
were killed; and only a few were able to make it back [to
Pinapagan] on August 17 (Mr. Soma, cited in Kimura 1976:60).

A diary of another man in this same scouting party mentions their

attempt to get help from an Agta:

On the east coast, when we came to a settlement, there were

only women and children there, except for one small [Negrito]
man about 4 feet high. We asked him to guide the way so we
could go and get salt. But on our way he went into the
jungle, and we lost him (Mr. Kodama, cited in ibid.:61).

Other groups of sick and desperate Japanese were still wandering

between Casiguran and Palanan weeks after the war was over.^ Nishida

describes his experience, as he was hiking south towards Dilasag (which

is 12 km NE of Casiguran town) in late September:

We met an army officer, Mr. Oohara. They had been staying in

one of the settlements near Dilasag, about 10 soldiers. They
told us that they plan to go to Palanan, because the
guerrillas in Casiguran are more cruel than the ones in
Palanan (Nishida 1984:162). . . . So we also decided to go to
Palanan to surrender (ibid.:164). . . . A U.S. Navy LST boat
came to Palanan on October 4 [and took us aboard]. We were
about 1500. The boat went south along the coast. Near
Dilasag we noticed a fire, and some American soldiers went to
check, and brought back 3 Japanese soldiers. The next
morning we stopped at Casiguran and found another 10 Japanese
soldiers (ibid.:176-77).

From the following, which refers to a different campaign than the

above, and in the area immediately south of Casiguran, we get a glimpse

from the American side of how these Japanese stragglers were picked up

all along the east coast:

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The 2nd [U.S.] Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment, at Dingalan

Bay from 1 June to 30 June 1945 conducted an extensive
prisoner taking campaign. . . . numerous leaflets were
dropped all along the coast from Infanta to Baler Bay and
broadcasts made from an LCM plyingthe coast line. From
prisoners, locations of other groups of enemy were
determined, and patrols dispatched to capture or destroy the
enemy. A landing was also made at Baler Bay when it was
determined that many small groups of enemy were in that area.
In this operation a total of 252 prisoners were
taken. . . . No casualties were suffered by the 2nd
Battalion . . . in this operation (Operations 1945:78).

Renato Rosaldo has documented the devastating effect this Japanese

retreat had on the Ilongot tribespeople as these starving soldiers fled

through their area just before reaching Casiguran. Rosaldo estimates

that "a third of the Ilongot population died during that month of June"

(1980:36, 40, 113, 132-33), most killed directly by Japanese desperate

for food, and the rest from disease and starvation as they fled from

their homes and hid in the forest without food or shelter


It is reasonable, then, to assume that a good number of Casiguran

Agta may have been killed by these same Japanese, who were by this time

wandering throughout the mountains from Casiguran to Palanan in extreme

dire straits— those who were still alive— from starvation, exposure,

and sickness, and terrified of the advancing Americans and the local

Filipino guerrillas, who shot them on sight. It was my hypothesis, in

the mid 1970s, thatthe difference between my census figures and those

of Vanoverbergh's was possibly the result of a high number of Agta

being killed during the War. In pursuit of an answer to this

hypothesis, I asked 127Agta adults in 1976, "Do you know the name of

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any Agta who was killed by Japanese during the War?" I did not get a

single positive answer. Though several knew, however, of 2 Agta

teenage girls, sisters named Diteng and Dumilya, who were killed by

Filipino guerrillas. They were traveling at the time with the mayor of

Casiguran, Antonio Angara, and his wife, when all four were ambushed and

killed at Dinadyawan in 1945. No one had a relative killed by Japanese

during the War, nor could anyone remember any Agta having been killed.^

There were evidently very few lowlanders killed by Japanese, either,

during the War. I know of only 3 cases of such, after asking this

question to many lowlander friends. One was a man in Dinalongan named

Simion, married to an Agta woman named Oriyeng at the time; another was

an Ilokano man at Dilasag named Gurigul; and the third was a Visayan

visitor whom the Japanese executed after he was caught stealing in the

town of Casiguran.

I accept this as incontrovertible evidence that no Agta were killed

by Japanese during WWII.


The logging companies. Logging has been a major industry in the

Casiguran ecosystem for almost 60 years, until it was temporarily banned

by Presidential decree in November 1978. The first commercial logging

operations in Casiguran began in 1928, with the establishment of a large

sawmill at Dibakong, seven km west of the town. This was the Philippine

Lumber Exportation Co., managed by two Japanese who local people

remember as Mr. Tutu and Mr. Noe. Some photographs of this company's

logging operations in Casiguran Bay appear in a 1930 issue of National

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Geographic (Goddard 1930). Also, in an extract from the minutes of the

Casiguran Municipal Council meeting dated December 29, 1928 (Casiguran

Municipal Council 1928), the company is mentioned by name, and that it

was building a sawmill. Local people say this company moved their camp

across the Bay to Pasarubuy (Area 4 in Map 2) about 1937. According

to other local Casiguran people, there was a logging company managed by

Spanish expatriates at Dialang (Area 1) from 1949-51, and a Chinese-run

logging company somewhere on the lower peninsula in the early 1950s.

Logging continued at a heavy pace throughout my tenure in

Casiguran, until the 1978 ban, and I have lived in Agta camps when they

came under intense disruption, in my view (but not necessarily the

Agta's), from encroaching loggers. The extent of the logging industry

in the 1970s is reflected in one report, which says,

Before all logging licenses were suspended [in November 1978],

close to10,000 persons were engaged in logging [in all of
Aurora, not just Casiguran], and more than 40 [logging] firms
operating over 1214 sq. km. of forest produced 638,000 cubic
meters of timber (Parumog 1982:4).

While I suspect the figure of 10,000 employees may be inflated, the fact

is that logging was heavy in the Casiguran area throughout most of my

tenure. According to one BFD report (Mina 1983:19), the amount of

timber cut in1978in the three municipal areas (excluding Dinapigui,

which is in Isabela) totaled 52,109 m . There were four logging

companies working the area at this time, until the ban in November

(Casiguran Bay Timber Corp., Industries Development Corp., RCC Timber

Co., and Pacific Timber Export Corp. [popularly known as PATECO]).

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PATECO, based at Dilasag, has been allowed to continue their operation

in spite' of the ban, since their cutting is all done just north of the

Aurora border, in the Dinapigui river valley in Isabela. This is in the

northern corner of the "Casiguran ecosystem." According to the annual

reports of the Casiguran office of the Bureau of Forest Development (BFD

Reports n.d.; Mina 1983:19), the logs harvested "in whole" for this

area by PATECO were 2,826 m^ in 1980, 5,813 m^ in 1981, and 9,977 m^ in


During my years, the main logging campswere much more modernized

than the three towns in the area. In 1969 the camp at Lawang, 6 km

northwest of Casiguran, had 24 hour electricity, running water, flush

toilets, their own medical doctor, private airplane service and, of

course, their own vehicles. In some logging camps in the early 1970s

the managers' offices were air-conditioned, and guests were served

Magnolia ice cream flown in from Manila. The Acoje Mining camp at

Dinapigui flew in supplies weekly during the early 1960s in DC3


The Acoje Mining Corporation. A major change came to the economic

life of most of the Agta in northern Casiguran and southern Palanan in

1960, and especially to the Agta band group at Dinapigui. This was

the year the Acoje Mining Co. began work to open a magnesium open pit

mine at Dinapigui. (The name "Acoje" stands for the names of the five

families who founded the corporation: Aurora, Cuyogan, Osmena,

Jacinto, and Elizalde.) I estimate that during the first half of the

decade of the'60s between 200 and 300 Agta lived at Dinapigui for

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periods of time, where the adults were employed as laborers for Acoje,

at 4 pesos a day (then equivalent to $1.00 U.S.), which was almost four

times the standard days's wages in Casiguran. I visited twice the Agta

settlement site during those years, and twice more in the late 1960s,

after most of the Agta had left the area, and twice in 1983- 84.

I cannot say much about this situation, since I never lived at

Dinapigui. The most obvious effect of this industry, which closed down

in the early 1970s, was that it brought in large numbers of Ilokano and

Igorot workers, many of whom remained as permanent homestead farmers,

and that it denuded much of the mine area of trees. The Dinapigui

rivershed was almost all primary forest when I saw it in the early

1960s; today it is almost all cleared of trees, with farms dotting the

whole area. In 1960 the Agta band group there had the valley for

themselves. They were reportedly driven from their land, and their

houses and crops destroyed when the mining company arrived, to make room

for the company buildings. (For details, see paragraph no. 19 in

Appendix G.) Today they are displaced (though I found two extended

family groups there in 1983-84, employed as hunters and guards for the

PATECO logging company).

Any final chance for the Agta to gain rights to this, their

traditional area, was probably lost in the summer of 1984, when the

governor of Isabela awarded 200 Igorot families 500 ha of agricultural

land in Dinapigui (Times Journal, June 5, 1984). This was a settlement

project done under the land distribution program of the