Life with the sea tribe: Fascinating pictures show how Filipino islanders blend ancient tradition with the modern world


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Categories: On The Water
  • The Tagbanua are one of the oldest ethnic groups in the Philippines and have adopted a sea oriented way of life
  • Without any access to electricity, they wake up every morning to one of the most wondrous surroundings on earth
  • Photographer Jacob Maentz spent two weeks with the indigenous sea tribe capturing the be

They spend their lives on the water, waking every morning to some of the most wondrous surroundings on earth.

And though an existence without electricity and modern amenities may appear hard, the Tagbanua has adapted to make best use of the rich resources that the ocean provides.

Photographer Jacob Maentz spent two weeks with the sea tribe, capturing the beauty of their customs and shedding light on some of the issues facing them socially and economically.

Water babies: The Tagbanua people are descendants of some of the oldest people in the Philippines. It's likely they came from Borneo

The Calamian Tagbanua (those living on Coron Island and on mainland Coron/Busuanga and surrounding islands) have adopted a sea oriented way of life, living off the ocean and its resources



Today there are various subgroups of the Tagbanua throughout the province of Palawan. In Coron, the Tagbanua are distinct from the Tagbanua on mainland Palawan, not only in their language but also their general way of life


It is likely the Tagbanua originated from Borneo, but now there are several tribes that exist on the mainland Palawan or on Coron Island and the surroundings lands. 

The latter are known as the Calamian Tagbanua, who fish to provide for their families on a daily basis. 

The Calamian Tagbanua's methods of harvesting the ocean are as varied as the creatures and plants that thrive in the turquoise waters. 

From gathering seaweed and sea cucumbers, to spearfishing, net fishing and octopus fishing, there is a role for all to play in the community.

The tribe collect sea cucumbers, and dry them to be sold on the foreign market, which Maentz found would sell for the equivalent of $83 a kilo.  

Many of the buildings are constructed with native materials, which are erected on the beach or sheltered on rocky cliffs and as there is no electricity, the tribe use kerosene lamps after the sunsets.

'Like most indigenous peoples in the Philippines, these groups are some of the most hospitable and friendliest people I have come across,' Maentz said. 

'However the Tagbanua are some of the most marginalised people in the country. They're not well represented in society and they lack a lot of basic necessities such as access to health care and basic education. When available children will attend public schools or those set up by missionaries.'

Despite economic and social challenges these tribes are some of the most hospitable and friendliest people photographer Maentz had ever come across. Pictured are a father and son who were having fun on their floating balsa after harvesting seaweed beneath the ocean’s surface

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