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Breathtaking Photos Capture the Relationship Between Indigenous People and Marine Life in the Philippines

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Spear fisherman in Olango Island, Philippines © Jacob Maentz / Offset

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Octopus drying in the sun © Jacob Maentz / Offset

For Cebu-based photographer Jacob Maentz, the Philippines is ripe with both environmental and cultural diversity. Although much of the country has surrendered to the pressures of modernity, sequestered coastal regions are home to indigenous communities that continue to live according to centuries-old practices and traditions.

Because the country is composed of thousands of individual islands, fishing is critical to the lifestyles of many of the one hundred plus indigenous groups spread out over the archipelago. The native peoples use a wide array of fishing techniques to cultivate everything from lobster to octopus to seaweed, including spearfishing, gleaning, and aqua farming. Modern systems like trawling are also employed, admits the photographer, but mostly these people fish on a far smaller scale, fishing only to feed their families or to sell or trade at market in exchange for rice and other goods.

Although many indigenous peoples of the Philippines remain, their heritage is threatened by increasing urbanization. Where the Agta, Badjao, and Tagbanwa groups were once able to live nomadic lives, following the patterns of the land, they are now being absorbed and settled into metropolitan regions. Those surrounded by the most flourishing marine habitats are able to continue for now, but due to the increased use of commercial fishing practices like cyanide and dynamite, resources are becoming depleted, risking not only the future of the wildlife but also the people who rely upon the land for survival. Fishermen, reports Maentz, must move farther into the water in order to gather fish that are diminishing both in size and population. Central to Maentz’s practice is the exploration of the bonds that tie man with the land; here, he tells a story of great urgency, one that reaches across cultural boundaries to touch on the interconnectedness of mankind with the depths of the sea.

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Woman collecting seaweed in seagrass bed in Mindanao, Philippines © Jacob Maentz / Offset

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Woman sorting through thousands of starfish in Visayan Islands, Philippines © Jacob Maentz / Offset

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Tagbanua boy on a floating balsa looking for octopus with his spear gun © Jacob Maentz / Offset

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Young Agta men from Maconacon head out early in the morning to look for lobster © Jacob Maentz / Offset

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Agta man looking for fish on the coast of Isabela © Jacob Maentz / Offset

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Bajau fisherman coming up for air from a free dive © Jacob Maentz / Offset

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Bajau fishermen heading out to spearfish © Jacob Maentz / Offset

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Fisherman holding seaweed © Jacob Maentz / Offset

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Badjao fisherman underwater with spear gun © Jacob Maentz / Offset

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Local boy cooling off on Coron Island © Jacob Maentz / Offset

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Traditional Agta homes © Jacob Maentz / Offset

All photos featured in this post can be found on Offset, a new curated collection of high-end commercial and editorial photography and illustration from award-winning artists around the world. Offset is a category partner on Feature Shoot.

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