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Aeta: the wandering men of philippines

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in Botolan, Zambales in June of 1991 had devasted a lot of Aeta community not just in Zambales but most of the Luzon region. This had forced them out of their territories situated near the mountain ranges to live in the rural and urban areas. Five settlements were created by the government for the Aeta People affected which gave them free housing (Seitz, 1998). In 1996, around 2″,000 Aeta families were relocated to the settlement sites. A total of 6″,000 families are living in settlements and off settlements by 2000. Aeta People were given the least attention in these settlements. The government failed to provide them adequate water supply and materials to build their own bungalows (Seitz, 1998). The flora and fauna need for the primary livelihood and survival of Aeta People is gone. The relocation had devasted their lives and the burden that the Pinatubo eruption had cost still plagues the new generations of Aetas. Most of them were forced to beggar on the streets. This also transitioned them to become agricultural laborers, tenants working in their ancestral domains that they previously owned and making handicrafts as their main source of income. They became agricultural laborers and

Aetas, especially Aeta women, have a vast and inextinguishable knowledge about plants and animals. They are considered the experts on herbal medicine in the country and had influenced the majority of Filipinos in Luzon with this practice. They resort to using different parts of the plant to relieve body pain, for coughs and fevers and other illnesses. Oregano and Lagundi leaves were made into herbal teas to soothe fever and sore throats. They are also known for their survival skills. During the U.S-Vietnam war, Aeta people coached U.S soldiers on how to survive in the wilderness.

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Aeta People relies on oral tradition and lack of documentation of their practices and traditions. Due to this, they were not able to teach the new generation of Aeta their language Ambala. They, however, still practice the dances they perform before and after hunting as a ceremonial performance.

Because of the shy nature of the Aeta community, they lack in presence in mainstream Filipinos. Most of the Aetas seen in the mainland are only there to sell their crops and products. Most of them still live in their ancestral areas. There are no special regonition or any trophy of acknowledgement for the Indigenous Aeta. They had just held an event where a lot of people came to participate, however, there are no annual festivals held to acknowledge their Indigenous presence.

The relationship of Aetas and non-Aetas is very bad. Even today, they are discriminated and marginalized mainly due to their physical appearance. Most of Aeta people are less than 5 feet tall with dark brown skin, flat nose, and tight curly hairs. This discrimination originated from when the Spanish and American invaders had turned Filiponos against their own fellow countrymen ingraining to them the European standards. Until this day, the media still represents the physical characteristic of Aeta people as ugly and unwanted. This is most especially true when the mainstream media advertises whitening products and champions celebrities who have the physical attributes of European beauty standard. The lack of representation of Aeta People in mainstream media definitely contributes to the marginalization they continue to experience.

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Most Aeta People are not able to go to school, some only finish elementary level and if lucky, finishes high school. This caused the non-Aetas to perceive them as uneducated and burden to the government which furthers the discrimination they struggle with. A lot of non-Aetas barely pay the Aeta People the attention they deserve. Most of the conflicts in the Aeta community that were broadcasted are shrugged off by most mainstream Filipinos. There are barely any groups or movements as an ally for their community. Filipinos nationwide do not care about the struggle of the Aeta People. The historical marginalization and discrimination they had experienced during the Spanish and American colonial eras are still very relevant and felt until this day.

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