Boracay’s Ati fight for their land

Ati woman in Makato (Aklan)

At two hectares, the ancestral domain of the Ati community in Boracay is probably the smallest in the Philippines. The Boracay property sits on a largely undeveloped cove on the southeastern part of the hugely popular tourist destination, which explains why it is tied up in litigation and contested by three non-Ati families that are unwilling to let go of their claim.

Ati woman in Makato (Aklan)
An Ati woman sells home made herbal medicaments in Makato (Aklan)

Wedged between a serene mangrove swamp and an almost pristine stretch of powdery white sand beach, the land would have been an ideal setting for the 45 remaining Ati families in Boracay, which has exploded in uncontrolled tourism development in the last three decades.

Instead, the 200 or so descendants of the island’s original inhabitants are living in squalor on a small plot that has also been claimed by local politicians.

Ati women in Makato (Aklan)
Ati women in Makato (Aklan)

Older Ati of Boracay remember how they grew up getting their food from the abundant seas and coastal areas. They went fishing in their dugout canoes, and gathered shells from the rocky outcrops along the beach. On land, they hunted turtles and monitor lizards, and enjoyed the sight of monkeys frolicking in the forested hills.

The origins of place names in Boracay mostly come from the Ati: “Boracay” from the white sand and bubbling waters, their settlement “Bulabog” from a tree that was known as the dwelling place of spirits but had since been felled by a storm, and Barangay “Balabag” from the term for a place walled off by two mountains.

Continue reading on GMA Network Link

[Editor’s comment:] The Philippines problem with their Ati (also known as Aeta, Itay or Negritos) remembers the Australian problem with their Aboriginals. They were pushed back by arriving settlers or they fled from the intruders. And now they claim their own land. This is an extremely difficult situation, like balancing on knife’s edge. Which right applies – ancestral or modern?

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