A good thing happened in 2020 – we got to know the Ati indigenous tribe in the Philippines

As the year draws to a close, I’ve been seeking out pictures to create a year-end video of our lives, our (limited) travels, our discoveries, our new friends. For us, there is a good thing that happened in 2020: we got to know the Ati indigenous tribe in the Philippines.

I’m in a melancholy kinda mood. So this post is mostly pictures, with a few explanations of what is shown.

What’s not shown: my biggest lesson in 2020. It was first suggested by Theo’s friend Jerry when he came over for dinner one evening. It’s not about the places as much as it’s about the people.

Let’s be clear: 2020 sucked for everyone. But for us world travelers – Earth Vagabonds stuck in one spot most of the year – I thought it sucked more for us. Until.

Until I recently realized that if slow travel of one month or two lets you get to know an area, ‘slower’ travel of six months or nine months lets you be a part of an area’s tribe, whether that’s Ati or Italians, Moroccans or Mexicans.

Slower travel enabled me to connect with humanity, not just observe it.


Earth Vagabonds’ friend Glory, her daughter, and other young ladies guide Ellen down steep terrain on Ati land in Malay, Aklan, Philippines in 2020.
Earth Vagabond Mom Diane (Theo’s mom) hikes on Ati land with friends in 2020. The terrain where some villagers live is quite steep, as you can see in this photo.
Earth Vagabond Ellen smiles with two young ladies who led her up steep trails on Ati land in Malay, Philippines, 2020. She first met some of the indigenous tribe members fishing on the coast.
Ati women share a coconut with Earth Vagabond Mom Diane after a hot hike on tribal land in 2020 on Panay Island in the Philippines.
Ati men carry supplies in Cogon, Malay, Philippines. There are no paved roads to the area where some villagers live in Aklan Province.
Earth Vagabonds and overseas donors like Huma sponsored the rebuilding of the Ati henhouse in Malay in 2020. Their henhouse was destroyed by the Christmas Day typhoon in 2019. All supplies for the structure – wood, wire, cement mix and more – are carried up the mountain on Panay Island.
The largest expense on the henhouse was the payroll. Ati men seek work as day laborers in the region for the equivalent of $5 a day. But for the chicken coop construction in 2020, they were paid to better their own community.
Heavy rain caused muddy trails on the day of the chicken delivery in 2020. With no paved roads, Ati men carried the egg-laying hens to their new home as rainwater washed down the mountainside.
Ati men carrying chickens to the new henhouse take a shortcut from the main trail in 2020. Theo has walked up the mountainside so many times, he uses the same shortcuts.
Theo hauls up supplies to the Cogon village on the mountainside in Aklan Province in 2020. He frequently worked alongside Ati indigenous tribe members.
Children of friends of Earth Vagabonds hold a ‘thank you’ sign for one of the overseas donors who helped rebuild the Ati henhouse in Malay, Aklan, Philippines, in 2020.
Ati children check out the chickens in their new henhouse in 2020. Earth Vagabonds had very little input on the construction process. The Ati tribe managed most of the details themselves.
Ati men work on electric connections for modest nipa huts in their mountainside village in Malay in 2020. The local power company was a great help in this endeavor.
Ati men ready heavy cable to be carried up the mountainside to the upper village in 2020. The Ati Chief stands second from the right in the turquoise shirt. Chief Ernesto was involved in every aspect of every project.
Ati women and children help pull electric cable that will bring power to the mountainside village in Cogon, Malay, Aklan, Philippines, in 2020.
Friends Nelo and Mercedes are happy to have electricity hooked up to their home on the Ati mountainside on Panay Island in 2020. Earth Vagabonds were invited to attend their granddaughter’s cotillian.
Three grateful Ati men thank a friend and overseas donor who helped get electricity to the mountainside village in Malay, Aklan, Philippines in 2020, and rebuild the henhouse, pictured behind them.
An Ati home in Cogon, Malay, Aklan, Philippines, on Panay Island, in 2020. This nipa hut is reinforced with metal, but many are not.
Theo and Ati Chief Ernesto pose at the water collection spot on the Cogon mountainside village in 2020. Villagers must walk down the mountain, get water, and carry it up to their huts. Improvement on this situation is an ongoing project.
Earth Vagabonds Ellen and Theo take a selfie on the cool riverbank in Nabaoy in 2020, a Filippine community near Ati villages.

4 thoughts on “A good thing happened in 2020 – we got to know the Ati indigenous tribe in the Philippines

  1. I love reading all the stories of your travels. I have been thinking of being earth vagabond but worried as I am over 70 and single. Stay safe anywhere you are and telling us your experiences.
    Thank you.

  2. You were right where the universe needed you to be this year. Thank you for sharing these photographs.

  3. Thank you for reading, Alicia! We know a few older people who travel alone. Good health allows them that freedom – so yes, stay healthy for the future!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.