Before, when I hear the word Aetas? A curly man with dark skin in g-strings comes into my mind. I remember how I usually imagine their lives beyond civilization. Hunting and gathering to get food, tribal dances done around a bonfire, killing chickens for rituals, for me it was a very barbaric way of life. But don’t get me wrong, that was before.
Last February 8, 2014, as a part of the requirement given to us by our NGO, Alyansa Tigil Mina, we went to Sitio Maporac in Zambales to experience a day with the Aetas. I was very excited before the trip, not because of the wonders of immersing into a different culture. It was simply a field trip for me.
When we arrived, I was caught off guard. I was not informed that we have to cross a river in order to get to the community. And that was the start of everything. My feet wet, we immediately climbed a dusty steep into a pathway surrounded by different greeneries. From the distance, you can see colossal mountain ranges looming ahead. It was not a long walk. Few moments later, we reached the chieftain’s house. His name was Ka Badong.
What was expected of us after the fieldwork is a community profile. We interviewed some of the community’s elders in order to collect information. And it was very burdensome to hear stories about their struggles as Aetas. The problems in the Aeta community are not only confined in terms of economics, I can say. I was definitely burdened by the discrimination that is still experienced by our Aeta brothers and sisters, and the continuous threats of land grabbing to their ancestral domains. With that I suddenly feel that we have to pay attention to this kinds of problems because these are human rights violations in its purest sense.
All my life, I have been making my own misconceptions about the Aetas, but after a day with them I learned a lot of things. They are like us, and should enjoy every right that any person should have.