Aeta People: The wandering men of the Philippines
I am born and raised in Pampanga, Philippines until I was 16 years old and migrated here in Canada. The Philippines has three main island regions; Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Luzon being at the northern part, the Visayas at the center and Mindanao at the southern part. Both of my parents are from the Visayas region but moved to Pampanga in their late teens. My mother has a Chinese and Spanish lineage while my father is of Spanish descent. Pampanga is part of the Central Luzon region that has its own dialect similar to its neighboring provinces. This paper is about the Indigenous group Aetas or Aeta People that populate some parts of the Northern Luzon but mostly the provinces of Central Luzon which includes, Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales. Aside from the fact that Aeta People occupies Pampanga, the reason why I chose to do my paper about them is because I saw firsthand how Aeta people were mistreated and discriminated by non-Aetas. Upon doing this paper, I hope to gain more knowledge about their history and the present struggles of the Aeta People in the country where they are the first inhabitants.
I have learned about Aeta People through my parents at a young age. Aetas in my region were commonly called ‘Negritos’ and ‘Negritas’ due to their dark complexion and afro-hair. My parents warned me about the use of that word because some Aetas are not keen with being called names other than Aeta. I grew up hearing the phrase, “basta kulot, salot” which translate to “curly-haired people are pests” which I thought was a stupid and useless insult. Why would they care about someone else’s hair texture? Then it dawned on me that this phrase specifically targets the Aeta People who have tight curls, like an afro hair. My knowledge about them continues to progress when I was in elementary school. My history class for the first five years was heavily focused on teaching the different prominent Indigenous groups in my country. They taught us their origin, religions, culture, and traditions. The curriculum, however, did not include how Indigenous People in the Philippines are heavily discriminated and marginalized.
I can still vividly remember my first encounter with an Aeta People, it was with an Aeta mother and her children with one infant wrapped onto her back with a blanket. They were all barefooted. I saw them on the streets begging for money and food. I saw them carrying plastic bags with recycled cans and plastics that can be sold to a “junk shop” for some quarters. My older relatives told me that Aetas live in the mountains and only comes down to the mainland to beg for money and food. My second encounter with Aeta people was on a field trip to a zoo and a butterfly sanctuary that was located at the foot of Mount Arayat Pampanga. I saw Aeta People begging for money from people passing by, all barefooted. The tour guide of my group told us that we should treat Aetas with respect as they are one of the first people to inhabit the country. As a nine-year-old, I did not have an opinion of my own yet. I was still on the process of gaining as much knowledge and wisdom to cultivate my own opinions and beliefs. During that time, it was, and it still is, especially interesting to me how my older relatives and this tour guide; who probably knows more about the history and the indigenous people in the Philippines, have an opposing opinion towards Aeta People.
As I grow older, I learned that Aeta people did not want to live in the mainland to avoid conflicts with other non-Aetas. I also found that they are passive people who do not like to engage with conflicts that when threatened with invasion or violence, they will flee and run to the deepest part of the mountains. However, this changed on June 15, 1991, when Mount Pinatubo erupted that ultimately threatened their safety and had forced them to live in the urban and rural areas of the Luzon region.