Profile Source: Asia Missions (AMNET)
Introduction / History
The Batak people are culturally primitive. They are peaceful, hospitable and shy people, In appearance, they are similar to the Negritos and have been classified as one of the Philippine Aeta groups. Their name "Batak" originated from an old Cuyunon word which means "mountain people". They are referred to by such a name because they live close to nature, having the mountains as their traditional habitat. Settlements are widely distributed in the mountains, river valleys and along the seacoast of the northeastern portion of Palawan Island. A settlement is composed of several bands which may be a hunting or food gathering group of Batak families. Simple dwellings are patterned after those of neighboring groups (Tagbanuas and Cuyunon)
In terms of clothing and ornaments, traditionally the male wear G-strings and the women wear "tapis" skirts of bark cloth. Recently, they have learned to sue lowland clothes. Adornment in women includes dried grasses, shells and beads to decorate their hair, bands of bamboo and shell on the arms and ankles, and rings of colored rattan strips on the waistband. The men carry a small bamboo or rattan containers on their waistband for their tobacco and betel chew.
During the past three decades, the Batak population and culture were critically influenced and affected by contact with the outsiders. There has been a continuing influx of settlers into the Batak area. Capitalists and politicians were also able to open the mountains of northern Palawan to logging operations. This has brought changes in customary attitudes and ways of some members of their group. Much of the Batak traditional culture is lost.
In addition, because of their very poor situation, they suffer from malnutrition and are severely affected by diseases. These factors have caused the Batak population to progressively decrease.
This group is now considered as one of the "vanishing cultural minorities" in the country.
The Batak are known as traditional hunters and good gatherers. They hunt for wild animals to provide meat in their diet. They also dig wild roots, collect succulent leaves and catch edible insects. These forest items, when available, are included in their meals. Bee larvae and honey is their favorite.
In addition to food items, they also collect forest products such as rattan, resin and honey which they bring to lowland traders to sell for cash or exchange for clothing, rice, salt or metal implements, Lately, they have begun to practice growing vegetables, fruits, root crops and rice.
In Batak society, there are only three (3) social groups: the family, band and settlements. Traditional leadership is found in the band. They have a chief called "kapitan" an elder chosen by the adult members based on leadership qualities and hunting or fighting skills. They also have a "masikampo" for each settlement elected from and by the group of elders based on expertise in customary laws. Social control and justice are handled by these leaders. However, since the national government instituted the barangay system of local government, complications and conflicts have arisen in duties and functions. This is because matters related to cultural preservation, protection of rights, and their ancestral domain have been placed under the jurisdiction of government agencies concerned with the Batak.
What are Their Beliefs?
The Batak are an animist group. They believe in nature spirits - good and bad, who dwell in trees, rocks and mountains. They also believe in good and malevolent deities. Spirits are feared and avoided. When favorable things happen, they feel indebted or obliged to feel grateful. Various rituals and ceremonies are performed to maintain links between them and the world of spirits or gods. The Babaylan functions as both medium and shaman.
* Freedom from the fear of the spirits through the liberating power of the Lord Jesus.
* Being considered one of the "vanishing minorities", there is a great need of Christian holistic ministries to preserve this people.
* If they vanish, may they vanish into eternity with the Lord Jesus. That Tagbanua believers (who live close to the Batak) reach this people for God.
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