Negritos are indigenous ethnic groups found throughout Southeast Asia. They are short, dark-skinned and resemble African pygmies. However, they are genetically more closely related to Southeast Asians. Negritos migrated into the Philippines about 30,000 years ago.
Photo: Book illustration of a Negrito (Creative Commons: Antiguo de la Biblioteca).
Negritos in Southeast Asia
The Negrito peoples can be found in India (Andaman Islands), Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines. They were hunters and gatherers living in isolated parts of these countries. Their hunting and gathering lifestyle only supports a small population. Thus, their populations numbered only a few thousand.
Over time, they have been slowly absorbed into the larger cultures. In Taiwan, they are now an extinct cultural group. The Negrito groups have similar physical traits. However, genetic research indicates no common ancestry between the Andaman, continental Asian and Philippine groups.
Negritos in the Philippines
There are several Negrito groups living in the Philippines. The Aeta are centered on the island of Luzon. They may be the oldest of the Negrito groups in the Philippines. The Ati Negritos are found in the Visayas (Panay, Cebu, and Negros). The Ati are thought to have originally come from Borneo.
Batak Negritos are concentrated in Northern Palawan. Fewer than 500 are left. The Mamanwa are found on Leyte and northern Mindanao. The Mamanwa are thought to have common origins with peoples from New Guinea and Australia.
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The Negrito and allied types in the Philippines, David P. Barrows.