HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 46 no. 1 - 4 (2000)

Mula sa Viewfinder: Ang Mga Agta ng Silangang Sierra Madre

Sabino G. Padilla Jr.

Discipline: History



The Sierra Madre is the longest mountain range in the Philippines, forming a mountain barrier between the easternmost side of Luzon and the rest of the Island. It stretches from its northeast tip in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, to as far south as Mauban, Quezon. This is where the narrowest section of Luzon in the Southern Tagalog separates the Lamon Bay from the Tayabas Bay.


Today, the Sierra Madre is ancestral home to a number of indigenous cultural communities, particularly the Agta who live on both sides of its watersheds and along the stretch of its coastal areas. With the passage of RA 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Area Act of 1992, a large part of the range has been declared a protected area.


In 1994, 1996 and 1998, AnthroWatch organized a cultural mapping and survey of the Agta in the area. The three expeditions generated a large number of photographs capturing their environment, subsistence strategies, and relationships with other people. This paper will try to portray the current situation of the Agta based on these expeditions. It will primarily utilize the works of Worcester (1912), Vanoverbergh (1937, 1975, and 1984), Bennagen (1977), and Griffin (1985) to illustrate how the Agta society is confronting and adapting to the myriad changes brought about by various social interventions.