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The Black Presence in The Philippines‏



Although the great majority of the people of the Philippines today are Tagalog, the country is not racially monolithic. In spite of their small numbers today the original inhabitants of the Philippines are the Diminutive Africoids, who still live in scattered communities in the Phillipines and are commonly and pejoratively called Pygmies, Negritos, Aeta, and a variety of other names based upon their specific locale. The word Aeta, a widely-used Tagalog term meaning filthy, is especially derogatory.

At least one group of Diminutive Africoids in the Philippines is known as the Agta (the People). I am, however, reluctant to the use the term Agta as a blanket term for the entire population of Diminutive Africoids in the Philippines, for fear of lumping groups together with a broadly similar phenotypes but not necessarily cultural similarities. Such an approach would only tend to perpetuate an injustice to an already wounded sense of humanity to a once proud people. In regard to phenotype, broadly speaking, these Black people can be described as short in stature, dark-skinned, spiral-haired and broad-nosed. They are an extremely ancient people and are no doubt modern representatives of the world’s earliest-known modern humans.

A BLACK WOMAN AND CHILDREN IN THE PHILIPPINESIn stark contrast to the Diminutive Africoids, the Tagalog majority seem to have only entered the Philippines during the last several thousand years, and while not enough is known of the early history of the Diminutive Africoids in the Philippines, it has been well-documented that they engaged in bitter martial conflicts with the Spanish invaders, whose presence in the islands began in the 16th century. It was the Spaniards who named the aboriginal people of the Philippines Negritos, meaning little Blacks.

These are the Diminutive Africoids—the first people of the Phillipines. Once a proud people, today, they are generally despised by their Tagalog countrymen. They were, however, at one time, for thousands of years, the masters of the land.

Collectively, the story of the first people of the Philippines—the Diminutive Africoids–is truly fascinating. Individually, the story of David Fagen, an African-American soldier in the U.S. Army stationed in the Philippines during the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1901) and who defected to the Filipino freedom fighters, is remarkable, especially in its symbolism.

A YOUNG BLACK MAN IN THE PHILLIPINES (1)In November 1899, when he was in his early 20s, U.S. Army Corporal David Fagen defected from the 24th Infantry Regiment and went over the revolutionary insurrectionist forces led by Emilio Aguinaldo. Working with the insurrectionist army, Fagen quickly distinguished himself as a guerrilla fighter against his former comrades and fought so effectively that he was referred to as “General Fagen” by his Filipino companions. Indeed, as his exploits became so widely known he was actually referred to as “General Fagen” in the New York Times. Officially, he was quickly promoted by the guerrillas from first lieutenant to captain. From August 1900 to January 1901 he was in involved in at least eight clashes with U.S. forces.

As pressure was brought to bear on the insurrectionist forces and the major rebel leaders dead or captured, Fagen’s position became more and more tenuous. Indeed, the U.S. Army became obsessed with his capture and put a substantial bounty on his head.

Fagen’s end is not clear. One account has him assassinated and decapitated. Another has him living long and peacefully in the mountains of the Philippines, within a supportive and embracing Diminutive Africoid community. The latter account is very pleasing to me.




*Runoko Rashidi is a historian, writer, lecturer and researcher based in Los Angeles, California. He has written extensively on the Global African Presence and leads tours to various sites around the world. This essay is culled from his most recent work African Star over Asia: The Black Presence in the East, published by Books of Africa in 2012. His upcoming tours include the African heritage in Mexico in July 2014, the African heritage in Europe in August 2014 and Nigeria and Cameroon in December 2014. For more information write to [email protected] or go to

What people are saying

19 thoughts on “The Black Presence in The Philippines‏

  1. every day i learn more on my African ancestry, which seems as if we existed in almost every country in the world.

  2. Theodora Anagor says:

    We were the world up until 5,500 years ago.

  3. They make "tabula rasa" of more than 100 000 years of history and present themselves as demiurge; in the end, ignorance certificates the lie

  4. Star Johnson says:

    Good article. It ticks me off that just because the black Filipinos don't look like other Filipinos that they are considered outcasts & filthy(????), truly unacceptable.

  5. John Lindsay says:

    We did…and the Human Genome Project and other studies have proven it.
    If you go to and type "out of Africa" in the search engine, several articles will describe the migration out of Africa to other continents…where their bodies very, very, very g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y transformed into what became known as Europeans, Far and Middle Easterners Pacific islanders, etc., etc., etc…..due to the various climates.

    Hence, there's no such things as 'races" of humans….because ALL people are descended from Africans.

    Here's a link to the "African origins of the Chinese:

    Nov 1999:…/eng20000715_45573.html
    New Genetics Evidence Proves African Origin of Modern Chinese

  6. Medina Farm says:

    The Article is very interesting, and Dr. Runoko pointed out his reluctancy to make similarities based on phenotypes. I say, from what I have studied and know of Physical Anthropology. As one notice in all the people of the Philippines, there are many, almost all, have phenotypic variations. Which is a fundamental prerequisite for evolution by natural selection. I say also, that the genetic drift which slowly moves each population towards genetic differentiation have made each population genetically unique. That could be the reason they all have similarities in phenotype, which are observable. I say, in my belief, if a mapping of the genotypes to the phenotypes in the populations would be done, we would find that they all are an evolution of Africa. Just my opinion. Thank you.

  7. Moe Rego says:

    Every time archaeologists dig they are finding us my sista Sharon. We have to embrace our blackness and our history worldwide. White people know who we are it's us who don't know who we are but we're awakening that's for sure.

  8. This is a very interesting article. Thank you for sharing Wayne.

  9. Alton Walker says:

    As someone married to a Filipino/Japanese woman, I have learned a great deal about things somewhat hidden. For one, I was competely unaware how skin tone plays an important factor for Asian and Pacific Islanders, as within the Black population. Nonetheless, while watching Hidden Colors and they touched on the different traces of Black within all cultures, when it came to the Philippines, she wasn't surprised. Instead, she paused the film and said, "We learned this growing up…how come you guys don't know about this?" Filipinos call them Negritos, Malaysians call them Semang, etc. Regardless if the label, they all fall under the umbrella of Negrito. When you want to rid someone of their history, you simply tell them it does not exist. If it does, only highlight the negative.

  10. Sami Sami says:


  11. Reggie Dapid says:

    Who the first people in philippines cant be proven. There the beyer theory and the jocano theory. The only fact is both pigmys and south east asian lived in what is now Philippines for thousands of years until the spaniards came. The spaniards even name my home island negros cause the vast majority of the tribes were pigmys

  12. Reggie Dapid says:

    Pigmys are said to be the farthest from africans dna wise but are said to be the first people in this world and originated in Africa. If thats true, i wonder where africans came from

  13. I am not sure what defines the "the world’s earliest-known modern humans". If I didn't know better I would think all humans are the earliest modern humans. Like a field of corn planted at the same time there cannot be a portion that's earlier than the other.

  14. Leah Pelina says:

    Good article to read, but can you please double check spelling of the Philippines? Some were corrected, but there are still a few misspelled ones. A critic might point out that if you're going to talk about certain people or their country, start by getting it right. And, with some references if you can. Thanks!

  15. Wanda Albano says:

    I'm sorry, but as Tagalog native speaker who has closely studied the language, I have to correct the information here: "Aeta" does not mean filthy in Tagalog. Aeta, as a word, does not even follow any conventional tagalog word structure; it is not Tagalog in origin. So while I will not argue that there is bias against these people, the word Aeta itself is not a derogatory term. It is simply a dialect form of Agta – they are basically the same base word rendered in different dialects/linguistic subgroups, in the way, for instance, that signore and senor are basically the same.

  16. John Thomas says:

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that mankind in the beginning was Dark or Black .For all of you who want to hold on to the European version go right ahead and continue to live in darkest while the rest of us accept the Most High's long awaited light!

  17. I have been to the Philippines many times and read many books on the Philippines and this is new information. I have heard the word Negrito used in a derogatory way but this is a new word.

  18. I also think from reading several responses that people place too much emphasis on the color of their skin. That means very little except for your own personal heritage. Color of skin doesn't make you who you are, you do.

  19. WOahh yeah I got my nose, butt & tanned skin from 'em.. >.<

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