The indigenous people of the Philippines

Filipinos are very attached to their culture, they also dedicate the month of October to their indigenous people. Aetas, Badjaos, Igorots … about 10 million Filipinos are of Aboriginal origin.

Kanawan, un village Aeta

The aetas are negritos people whose origins date back long before the beginning of the Spanish colonization in the sixteenth century, even before the Austronesian migrations, maybe 30,000 years before the rise of the oceans. They are one of the original tribes of the Philippines. In Kanawan, Bataan near Subic, the former U.S. Army base, west of Luzon, the main island in the northern Philippines, is a aeta community. Residents were able to return to live to their ancestral lands after the U.S. military had closed the nearby base. While many of them works in Subic, we find in them the desire to develop their village, which, however, is not even served by a road! The suspension bridge, strategic access, has also been restored shortly before our second visit with the Philippines Center for Photojournalism.

The village is very organized with a day-care center, school, theater, church and basketball court. The basket-ball is the most popular sport in the Philippines, including in so isolated indigenous villages…

For the purposes of PCP photojournalism workshop, I made this little visual story about the relationship of Aetas with water through various examples, including the water point where they cook, as well as wash dishes… or puddles of remaining tropical rain, bathing in the river below.

For a second visit more than a year after, we see the development of the village, faces are already familiar, children grown up, the bridge has been rebuilt with the help of some associations or foundations, there’s a new church building….

Aetas from Tarlac

If aetas often lives scattered, isolated in the mountains of northern Luzon, following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, many were resettled in villages in areas of Pampanga and Tarlac. Eg Sito San Martin, one of the 2000 villages created by the association Gawad Kalinga, very active organization in the fight against poverty. Sitio San Martin

A few kilometers away, there is Sitio Batchon. At a different level, more isolated, it’s a hamlet of a few dozen houses.


Ifugaos are an ethnic group in northern Philippines, part of the Igorots, mountain people in Tagalog.

Banaue. A city worldly famous for its rice terraces, it is easy to meet people dressed in traditional outfits for the pleasure of tourists and photographers.

It is also possible to discover a strange culture for us Westerners, keeping bones of their ancestors


In the southern Philippines, the Sulu archipelago and western Mindanao, many Badjaos, or Bajaus, have fled their region, plagued by fighting between Muslim separatists and government forces.

Often very poor, nomadic people, fishermen, can be found along the rivers, in their village with houses built on stilts, as here, near Malitam in the province of Batangas.

Pierre-Emmanuel Michel, global and local professional freelance photographer and art director, visual artist, based since 2011 in his Existences studio in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, near Pau and Lourdes, at hte foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, travel regularly the Philippines islands since