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Galpong on the beach: some thoughts on Agta

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Agta man on the beach in Nanadukan
Agta man on the beach in Nanadukan @ Bion Griffin, used with permission
Nanadukan, North Luzon, the Philippines. Photo by Bion Griffin (1981/82); photo retouching, BW conversion, and cropping by me (2009).
For some reason I have a whole bunch of Bion Griffin's old Agta photos in my hard drive. This one, of his friend the Agta leader Galpong returning from the hunt with his bow on his shoulders (arrows in hand?), has always been one of my favourites. (Bion commented that this is also one of his favourite photos.) It used to form a dramatic backdrop to Bion's office at the University of Hawai`i.
Yes, Bion was my professor and remains a good friend, but that's not why I'm posting this photo. I love the sunlight pouring in from the left, casting Galpong in dramatic shadow, and the lines of footprints going this way and that in the sand. There's only one person in the photo, but the tracks point to others and form a story in their own right.
If you've never heard of the Agta, hunter-gatherers of the Philippines and many other things besides (farmers, traders, tour guides, paramilitary guides, etc.), you should. Other versions of their name include Eta, Ayta, Aeta, etc. Anthropologists who have worked with Agta groups include the Griffins (Bion, Annie, and Marcus), Tom Headland, Navin Rai, Peter Brosius, Hiromu Shimizu, Jean and Warren Peterson, Tessa Minter ... producing a long list of materials to pick and choose from.

Here are a few more photos of Agta in my hard drive (most were processed by me):
Two Agta men and one American anthropologist on the beach with dogs and the products of the hunt
Galpong, Bion Griffin, and another man returning from the hunt @ Bion Griffin, used with permission
Agta woman with bow and arrow
Woman the hunter @ Bion Griffin, used with permission
Agta woman climbing a big old tree
Woman the climber @ Bion Griffin, used with permission

When I was a student writing my dissertation, it was very enlightening comparing notes with Bion. There were lots of similarities in Batek and Agta modes of hunting and gathering and relating to each other and the broader world, but lots of interesting divergences too. One thing I learnt: not to generalize from the specific features of one's own ethnographic work, but rather to look for those areas of divergence across different environments and socio-cultural settings, and figure out not only the how but to question why.
-- Original: written for Anthropological Notebook (my defunct blog) on 18/3/2009 10:53:00 PM

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Sep 08, 2023

I should get this to Agta now using smart phones. One or two may be able to access.

Sep 08, 2023
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Yeah, please do! They should be able to access. Batek do.

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