Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reaching out to the Aetas: What shall we put in the goody bag.

Once in a while, I get communication from people who stumbled upon my blog interested in coming up to the Aetas for a day of outreach activity.

There has been the slippers, the toothbrushes, the folding fans, the body scrub nylon, etc.

I hated to say NO to people who wanted to help; It’s hard to reject ideas from genuinely generous people who wants things better. But then again, after that, there’s still yet another bigger regret. 

Fact is, that brush, that scrub, that slipper, it would be left sitting somewhere for time they would not even bother; Whereas, this could have sufficed for some rice over one meal; Or a pouch of ketchup which they’d be so happy about to top and add flavor to a mere rice bowl.

They may have slippers, but the same dirt we want to keep them away is somewhere else too, cheeks or hands perhaps. They’d leave it that way, they won’t even realize it’s there. It’s cold, and it’s a long way down to the stream to bathe. They’d rather sleep with that dust and dirt and keep it warm for the night.

Worst, after wearing it the first time, they may leave it somewhere, and not even realize they were wearing slippers, just because they have gotten so used to walking barefoot.

The toothbrush; It’s too tiring to get water, for them to even use water to brush. It’ll make them hungry to get rid of that lasting flavor from their last meal in their mouth. They won’t even have toothpaste for it.
The fan.. it’s not even warm there. It’s perpetually breezy to cold.. They’d probably use a jacket more.
This is the reason I ask these people, always, what they want, and what they need. So, I’d like to share what I heard from them so future concerned individuals can be well aware.

Rice is well received. Without water source up there, they can’t grow rice. Their only source of carbohydrate are the sweet potatoes and bananas, mixed and mashed together. If they have money to buy rice from a 3 hour return trek away, then it would be a feast.

No sardines.
The sardines has been a major character within the relief goody bags. It’s been taken as a poorman’s fallback. Surprisingly, I heard from these people that they get bodily reactions from it. I don’t have a postulate until now.

I was thinking it might be that their bodies are not accustomed to Sea based diet, but then again, they are ok with and love TUYO. They normally boil the dried fish and mix it with some greens for soup.

Salt and ketchup. These people would be so happy to have rice for a meal. For them, it’s better than their usual banana or sweet potato. It’s an added grace to have something else on top, soup, or anything.

In these times they don’t have anything else, mixing rice with Salt, or topping it with ketchup will do. I assume they would love the lechon sauces too.

Coffee and Sugar. It keeps them warm, especially during the night.

Instant Noodles – They boil it with Malunggay or other leaves and work as a viand.

Books? No, they don't know how to read (except for a few students). Perhaps those with images would be good.

Medicines? perhaps OTC ones and multivitatmins? And leave them to someone who knows the indications of these medicines. Antibiotics? Perhaps not. 

Send in your comments on what else you think will be good. Ask if you may :-) so we can brainstorm.

Overview of Sitio Banaba, Brgy Sapang Uwak, Porac, Pampanga

Up until the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, the Aeta tribes of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga were living humbly scattered within the mountain range of the region. After the eruption, evacuations, and resettlement programs of the government, some have decided to embrace city living, some have resettled into the foothills, to have access to both services and their farmlands, while a small fraction have insisted on living the old mountain life.

ACCESS: Sitio Banaba is under the jurisdiction of Brgy Sapang Uwak, which is the community in the foothill.

Before reaching Sapang uwak, there is a Private Checkpoint by LLL Holdings. At this checkpoint, guests are required to submit a waiver (see blog post for copy of the waiver), register, and leave an ID. Guests are also prohibited from taking pictures in this checkpoint (because of their illegal checkpointing activity, as per ruling from CHR).

In sapang uwak, outdoor enthusiasts en route to the waterfalls (3 hours past Sitio Banaba) are required to register and pay 30 pesos per head + guide.

Back during the Lapid's town administration, an access road has been made for 4x4s all the way to Mount Pinatubo. However, as the overlying land is a loose covering from the ash and lava throw from the eruption, the road easily eroded during the heavy rains. Hence, it is not advisable to travel to the area during rainy season.

Also, around 2kilometers from the community in the foothill, en route to Sitio Banaba/Mt Pinatubo, there is a steep, with a very rough ground, ascend that is not recommended for first time (4x4) drivers to the place. 

Sitio  Banaba is reachable, 2-4 hours by feet, or 30mins by vehicle (4x4, tricycle, or single motorbike).

There are 4x4 jeeps that may be rented. These jeeps are the same dealers who buy crops from the aetas in sitio banaba (at a very, very low price)

From previous outreach programs, because of the volume of goods we will be dristributing, I have borrowed the Municipal Government truck. However, it rained 2 days before the event that made it impossible for the truck to reach the community. We manually ported every item from foothill to the community.

There are around 80 families scattered in the surrounding mountains of the sitio. The center of the community (2.5 hours average on foot), where we hold our programs, has around half the population.

The houses on the outskirts are the families that are most nomadic, where some of their houses are just made of banana leaves. 

The current crops in the are puso ng saging, camote, gabi and ube.

As there is an abundant number of bananas growing in the area, Their income is mostly from Puso ng Saging. These bananas are the 'butolan' type so they can't be sold as fruits. Instead, it is the sap that is sold. One individual earns less around 160 pesos out of a full day of work to fill up 2 sacks of puso ng saging. A sack would have more than 50 Pusos stacked.

Rice price in the area is around P60 per kilo, and with 4-5 individuals in a household, what they earn in a day is not even sufficient to buy enough rice. Hence, their diet is mostly banana and camote boiled and mashed together. Having rice in a meal is more than enough, and will be lucrative to have salt/ketchup as an added flavor.

Water is scooped from the river at the bottom of the hill, about 150m below, an hour up and down to trek. It is the same reason why taking a bath is not routinary for them, especially for the kids. Plus, it gets cold at night, so some dirt serves some warmth.

At the moment, there are about 15 from the whole sitio community who are attending classes. 14 are in grade school, and 1 in high school. These kids attend the grade school from the Sapang uwak vicinity. 

Some of them, those residing very far away, goes down on the sunday afternoon, and live near the school for a week, before coming back home on the friday afternoon. 

They either live with their relatives there, or stay in a vacant hut they have there. 

For high school, they will have to go to town proper.

contact: Angeline: (0919) 832 5178
-resident of Sitio Banaba

see here for other aeta related articles

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