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       The Batak is one of the indigenous people of Palawan. Since ancient time they have inhabited a series of river valleys along the 50 kilometers stretch of coastline Northeast of what is today Puerto Princesa City. They are considered to be of negrito stock. Their physical attribute shows short structure, dark skin and curly hair, that earned these distinctive looking people their name. Their economic activities revolve mostly on swidden farming Kaingin (Slash and burn method), hunting, and natural resources products gathering, primarily almaciga resin-tapping, rattan pole collecting, and honey gathering. Their foods came exclusively from the forest rivers, creeks and sometimes from the sea. They were highly mobile people. This is the primary reason they are not motivated to cultivate permanent land areas for crops productions. Traditionally they only plant cassava, banana, sweet potato, ube, gabi, and coconuts.The Bataks’ religious faith continue to be based on the spirits of nature whom they believe to reside in big rocks and trees. The spirits possess the power to cure severe sickness when called upon by their baylan. Their system of political governance is headed by Masiricampo designated by the over-all Masiricampo from the Tagbanua, an age-old practice observed.

The population of the Batak at the turn of the century is estimated at 1,000. But the latest census made in 1990 placed them at only 450. They are currently settled in eight communities namely: sitio RiandacanBarangay Maoyon, sitio Kalakwasan and Calabagyog, Barangay Tanabag, sitio Tagnaya, Barangay Concepcion, sitio Manggapin Barangay Langogan, all is in the jurisdiction of Puerto Princesa City, then at sitioTagnipa, Barangay Tinitian, sitio Manabo Barangay Caramay and sitio Timbuan Barangay Abaraoan of Roxas Palawan. Before they resided in the said communities, their original territory has been lost to powerful loggers, minor forest products concessionaires and lowland settlers pushing them from their original settlements to the higher altitude forest interiors. These significantly reduced their swidden farming and hunting activities as well as the minor forest products gathering area.

The Customs and Traditions of the Batak tribes are the following:

Social Laws

       ALYOG is a process to determine if the parents of the boy agrees to his marriage to a chosen girl. The parents of the boy will bring their son to the house of the girl and talk with her parents. Usually, the parents of the boy bring an elder or Ginoo, to witness the conversation and final agreement between both sides. TheGinoo as witness is usually a member of the recognized traditional leadership.

LIWAG is a fine upon a son-in-law who twice committed disobedience of his in-laws.

SALA   is a fine upon a boy given to the parents of the girl who has been deflowered by him. Marriage will follow.

SURUGIDEN is a process whereby the traditional leaders usually meet together with the involved parties for purposes of discussing/hearing of conflict cases among the Batak such as marriage, adultery, disrespect to in-laws, thefts, and other violations of traditional laws and to imposed penalties to the guilty.

Ritual Conducted by the Batak’s

LAMBAY is the Batak honey festival marking the onset of seasonal honey gathering, usually done in the month of March. The purpose is to make bee colonies to produce plenty of honey. This ritual is traditionally done by their baylan. They will also effect “lambay” ceremony to ask for rain if there is long dry-season and to ask for sunlight if there is long rainy season. In the ceremony they will offer live chicken for the spirits.

SAGKAT is a ritual performed by the baylan for the kaingero, prior to field clearing, to give respect to the goddess spirits within the forest, considering that the Batak believe that big trees are homes of forest spirits. In this process they will talk to the said spirits to ask permission to clear the area. If, within three days and nights they could not dream of any signs of disagreement, then clearing will be done, if there is, then they will not pursue the clearing.

The Batak Marriage System

       The ancient Traditional marriage system of the Batak still exist up to now. Before person can be married, the boy with his father or elder relatives will attend a “surigiden” for consultation of the prospective marriage partner with her elder and family of the groom. Upon consensus of the elders that marriage should be consecrated. The boy accompanied by a Ginoo or Tribal leader will make arrangement with the brides parents. The brides parents will ask a certain amount from the groom called “bandi” as guarantee. The groom also will provide the elders who witnessed in the Surugiden a certain amount as gratitude and thanks to their presence. Then drinking of rice wine, “tabad”, will follow to celebrate and facilitate good luck for the good future of the newly wed.

About the Author:
Noel Jagmis obtained his graduate studies at the Manila Law College Foundation. He works as Special Investigator and Hearing Officer for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Sta.Monica, Puerto Princesa City.