Monday, July 30, 2012

Dumagat Portraits: Faces from Maconacon and Divilacan

Dumagat of Maconacon Isabela IX
Soulful eyes convey a raft of emotions, no words needed
The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act has been put into motion 15 years ago but the Philippines' indigenous people like the Dumagats are still fighting for their place in the 21st century world.  As I write this, I waded through research articles and read a mixed bag of reports on the web; for example, one details the continuing struggle of the Dumagats to be free and another, the recent approval of the Environmental Compliance Certificate for the rehabilitation of the Ilagan-Divilacan road.  I guess when your way of life is closely linked to nature and the environment, you can't help but be in the way of so-called progress and development.
Dumagat of Maconacon Isabela III
A smile is a universal welcome
An earlier Philippine Information Agency report even stated that the Agta-Dumagats were at the forefront of pushing for the road project which will give them, along with the lowlanders, easier access to the world beyond the coastline and the Sierra Madre mountain range.  It's a classic quandary between keeping the old ways and adapting to the new ones; between continuing to live in the old, familiar world and moving on to a new, more modern (stranger? harsher? more competitive?) world.  As my favorite Philippine travel writer, Jens Peters, said in his definitive guide to the Philippines, it is unrealistic (and unfair, I add) to expect IPs such as the Dumagats to still be wearing g-strings in this century.
Dumagat of Maconacon Isabela XX
Agta mother and child
In any case, this post isn't about debating whether progress would forever alter the Dumagats' way of life or if the 80 kilometer Ilagan-Divilacan road is exactly what they need to keep their culture alive in a fast-changing world.  Though of course, a part of me wonders whether we Filipinos will collectively be poorer for this change and perhaps, consequent loss.  When I was younger, I thought homogeneity was the answer to keeping the peace and order of society.  I realized early on that it is really diversity that makes our heritage richer, for each differing culture makes the fabric of our being Filipinos more vibrant, more complex.
Divilacan Dicatian Dumagat Fisherman II
Dicatian, Divilacan fisherman
We encountered Dumagats during our recent foray into Isabela, in Maconacon and Divilacan, found on the eastern seaboard of the Philippines.  Certainly, one of the privileges accorded a photographer like me is to see first-hand and capture another culture, a people different in many aspects but similar to us in other ways.  I saw a people who are beautiful, not in the conventional, stereotypical sense as mainstream media define the concept of beauty so much so that I think and believe the portraits here need no explanation.   I guess they are among our last links to a culture more connected to the past, a people more connected to the earth.  
Dumagat of Maconacon Isabela VI
A Dumagat child we met in a daycare in Reina Mercedes
Some fast facts on the Dumagat:   The term "Dumagat" may have come from the Filipino words "gubat" (forest) and "hubad" (naked).  There are also some speculations that the term may have also been derived from "taga-dagat" (sea gypsies) since they are a semi-nomadic people related to other ethnic groups like the Aetas and Mangyans.  The coming of the homesteaders dispersed them into smaller groups and pushed them to the mountains of Sierra Madre and the lowlands.  The "pure" Dumagats called Agta live in Sierra Madre while the mixed or "mestizos" called "redemtador"  can be found in General Nakar and Infanta, Quezon.

• See more of my images of the Dumagats here.
• For more of the images of the Dumagats as well as other Indigenous People of the Philippines, I highly recommend Jacob Maentz's site
• To know more about the indigenous people of the Philippines, visit the NCIP site.
Lagalog thanks SkyPasada and Divilacan Tourism for all their help and assistance.

1 comment:

thepinaysolobackpacker said...

i envy you. i really wanna go there for my happy philippines project pero it's expensive, kung by land naman ilang days. :( saw it from Jacob's site too. The guy is a genius. Parang gusto ko tuloy bumalik sa pagiging anthro tuwing nabibisita ko site nya.

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