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  • Writer's pictureThe Katig Collective


Updated: Nov 17, 2022

Batak [bya] is a shifting language (EGIDS 7) in Palawan spoken by the Batak people. According to a 2005 UNSD report, there are 360 speakers left (as cited in Eberhard et al., 2022), and the user population is decreasing. It is important to note that Batak speakers highly associate their language with their identity and thus show a positive attitude towards using the native tongue (Tajolosas, 2015). Aside from using Filipino [fil], Tagbanua [tbw], and Cuyonon [cyo], they also speak other Philippine languages spoken in nearby areas (Endangered Languages Project, n.d.).

The Batak people

Batak communities are located in the northern and central parts of Palawan, each consisting of less than a hundred members (Lobel, 2013). Some inhabit the mountaintops of Puerto Princesa near river valleys, and Bataks seldom leave the mountains because the forest provides basic resources for the people (Jagmis, n.d.; Wongaiham, 2012). However, like other indigenous groups, the Batak people are also faced with problems such as poor health and malnutrition, lack of access to proper education, lack of a steady source of income, and even lack of a permanent farming mentor for the adults (Wongaiham, 2012). The lack of access to clean water and medical aid also aggravates their living condition (Batak Craft, 2017). In addition, they have long lost their original territory to the loggers in the region, and such displacement has disrupted their traditional farming (kaingin) and resource-gathering practices (Jagmis, n.d.). The onslaught of typhoons such as Odette in 2021 also shows how natural hazards affect indigenous communities (Laririt, 2021; GMA News, 2021).

Works about Batak

Aside from online resources that focus on Batak culture, there is a considerable amount of work written about the language, mostly done by linguist Rosemary Rodda. Rodda conducted in-depth studies on Batak’s phonemes (1960), phrases (1965b), clauses (1965a), and sentence structure (1968), and also prepared primers designed to introduce reading to Batak speakers in Latin script.


Batak Craft. (2017). Project Bamboo: Help the Bataks of Palawan. StartSomeGood.

Eberhard, D. M., Simons, G. F., & Fennig, C. D. (Eds.). (2022). Batak. Ethnologue: Languages of the world (25th ed.).

Eder, J. F. (1987). On the road to tribal extinction: Depopulation, deculturation, and adaptive well-being among the Batak of the Philippines. University of California Press.

Endangered Languages Project. (n.d.). Batak.

Global Recordings Network. (n.d.). Batak language.

GMA News. (2021, December 26). Batak tribe in Palawan appeals for food, water after Odette onslaught.

Graceffo, A. (n.d.). The vanishing Batak tribe. Omniglot.

Hammarström, H., Forkel, R., Haspelmath, M., & Bank, S. (Eds.). (2022). Spoken L1 language: Batak. Glottolog 4.6.

Joshua Project. (n.d.). Palawan Batak Negrito in Philippines.

Laririt, P. (2021). Batak IPs in desperate need of blankets, food, and water. Palawan News.

Lobel, J. W. (2013). Philippine and North Bornean languages: Issues in description, subgrouping, and reconstruction. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Hawai'i at Manoa]. ScholarSpace.

Open Language Archives Community. (2021). OLAC resources in and about the Batak language.

Rodda, R. (1960). Phonemes of Batak [Draft]. SIL International.

Rodda, R. (1965a). Batak clauses. SIL International.

Rodda, R. (1965b). Batak phrases. SIL International.

Rodda, R. (1968). Batak sentence structure. SIL International.

Tajolosas, T. D. (2015). Predicting the survival of the Batak, an endangered language in Palawan, Philippines. BIMP-EAGA Journal for Sustainable Tourism Development, 4(1), 35-46.

Wongaiham, H. (2012). Mountain people: The Bataks of Palawan. Rappler.

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