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© Lawrence Waldron
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bisan tamon Ati

ma-itum nga linahe

binatà tamon dinhe

timbang kami diamante


negritos, we indeed may be

belonging to the black race,

but, as natives of this place,

like precious diamonds are we

Excerpt from a Negrito folksong
(see below 1)



Who are the Negritos?

The Negritos are a black people who have lived in the Philippines for more than 20,000 years. By virtue of their diminutive stature, like that of African Pygmy populations, and their general physiognomic resemblance to equatorial African ethnicities, they were called "Negritos" by Spanish colonists.

Throughout the Philippines the various linguistic subgroups of Malays that live near them refer to these distinctive, ancient people by many names: Aeta; Agta; Atta; Ati; Bataan; Anglat; Casiguran Dumagat; (Central and Northeast) Cagayan; Ebukid; Iriga; Isarog; Katabaga; Manide Abiyan; Mamanua; Palanan; Roso; Santa Margarita; Tageilog; Tayabas; Uriray Dumagat; Villaviciosa; Yaga; and Zambales among others (see below 2).

Their many names give evidence of their dispersed populations throughout Luzon , the Visayas, Mindanao , Palawan and other Philippine islands. However, for all their names, they represent less than one percent of the Philippine population.

How these apparently African people came to the Philippine archipelago has been a matter of great speculation, but not nearly as much serious research.



1) Ati version from Monteclaro's Maragtas/English translation by Trinidad Subide in Carreon's Maragtas
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2) (Kroeber 1974, pp.36, 39) ; Ayala Museum exhibit labels; National Museum of the Philippines exhibit labels.
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