Batak of The Philippines

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Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, Palawan Island (doc. A World Of Beauty)

by Magus Kutabarat

Billy Bob decided to journey to The Philippines, where he made his way to Palawan island. Locals told him Palawan is the territory of patriots, with beautiful harbors.

He heard about a community of Batak tribe, which made him curious, so he went to investigate. From a place called Sitio Tanabang, Billy Bob found a young man named Pedro to guide him. He said the Batak are mountain people so they hiked 2 hours to the central Batak village called Kalakwasan.

Billy Bob greeted the village headman and was invited to stay with a family named Sibido. The Batak people here are traditionally animist and pig farmers. They consult the shaman on health, planning and spiritual issues.

Preparing rice (doc.Paco Rocha Moreno)
Preparing rice (doc.Paco Rocha Moreno)

There are only about 300 Batak in the surrounding villages. They trade in rotan products, tree resin (minyak), and honey. The women make weaving, bead jewelery and chew betel nut called nganga.

They claim to be an ancient original tribe for thousands of years. On Palawan ancient bones dated at about 47,000 years were discovered at a cave called Tabon. This cave has different rooms and must have been pleasant to the primitive people. Billy Bob thought Tabon mean tabo.

Batak's young girl, Palawan Island (doc. lajpat ray lajju)
Batak’s young girl, Palawan Island (doc. lajpat ray lajju)

After the volcanic eruptions of Toba (Supervolcano Toba), about 74,000 years ago most of southeast Asia was destroyed by ash fallout and primitive man died of lack of food resources. The earth went into a mini ice-age after this, so many archeologists think that perhaps only Taiwan and Philippines, (because of its distance from Sumatra) could sustain human life at this time in southeast Asia, and later all migration into the Asia-Pacific emerged from here.

About 800 years ago, with the rise of Genghis Khan dynasty causing widespread panic and migration across Asia, many tribes slowly spread south.

The kusiyapi or kudlongan of the Pala'wan people (doc. boat lutes of the philippines)
The kusiyapi or kudlongan of the Palawan people (doc. boat lutes of the philippines)

The Palawan Batak have a language with similarities to the Sumatra Batak. They use the words ama, ina, opo, olo, kilala, marburing, manipis, nipin, pimate, qulu, takaw, tanis, tulu and manuk.

But with only about 300 people left in their community and many youth leaving for economic opportunities they are a diminishing community and under threat of extinction. Billy Bob was happy to have met them. (*)

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