re and, more specifically, how a set of cultural traditions and understandingshelped the Batak navigate and recover from a difficult time in their lives. (It is case studies such as this one that have led me to think of culture as “people’s adaptive means.”) The third lesson is to illustrate the value of two of the principal tools in anthropological fieldwork, “participant observation” and informal interviewing. And the fourth lesson concerns whatanthropologists do with their observations—how they analyzethose observations and understand what they have seen.Before proceeding further, however, let me explain who the Batak are and how I came to know them. The Batak are an indigenous people of Palawan Island in the Philippines, one of many indigenous peoples today scattered in various hinterland locations throughout the nation. The Batak lifeway traditionally centered on the hunting and gathering of a variety of tropical forest resources, including wild pigs, wild honey, and wild yams. Never a large group, they once numbered on the order of 800-1000 people. Today only 200-300 individuals remain, living in eight small riverbank settlements in the northern part of the island. I first encountered the Batak as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching high school in Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan. I had brought with me to the Philippines an avid interest in hiking and backpacking, and the Batak were recommended to me as suitable guides for a mountain I hoped to climb in the island’s forested interior. One trip with them, and I was hooked. I decided to go to
graduate school in anthropology and to make the Philippines my specialty. I eventually lived with the Batak for a year and a half and came to know them quite well, but the events reported here occurred during my first “official” visit to them as an anthropologist, following my first year on the ASU faculty. I spent two months living with a local group of about 20 Batak households totaling about 60 individuals, at a time when I still did not know much about them at all.The Philippines is an island nation located east of Vietnam and north of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Palawan Island lies in the southwest corner of the Philippine archipelago, and the Batak inhabit a small interior portion of the island near the coastal community of Tanabag, as indicated by hatch marks on the map.Here is a simple kinship diagram that shows how these people are related to each other. Following standard practice, triangles indicate males and circles indicate females, and an “equals” sign indicates a marriage. I have shaded in the symbols for deceased individuals—in this case, Caridad and her father, Tubit’s husband.