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Archive for the ‘The Philippines’ Category

Aeta

aeta

The Aeta, also known as the Agta or Ita,  live mainly in the mountains in the north of Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. They are Negritos: they are short with dark brown skin, woolly to curly hair, flat noses and, compared to most people in the Philippines, large, dark eyes. Most Filipinos look down on them because they are dark-skinned.

There are 40,000 of them left. They go to bad schools and live in poverty. Only a third of them live to see 15. And of those who live to 15, most are dead by 30.

The Aeta are like American Indians in America: they came there first but newcomers have been pushing them off their land into the less desirable parts of the country. They are seen as near-savages and do not receive equal protection under the law.

The government does not uphold their land rights. It stands by and does little to nothing while farmers, mining companies and others push them off their land. Neither does the government see to it that they have good schools. It was not any better when the Philippines was under American rule in the early 1900s.

The Aeta came to the Philippines from Borneo 30,000 years ago. They walked to the Philippines – because back then you could: it was the middle of an ice age and the sea was much lower. They and other Negritos were the main people in the Philippines till 5,000 years ago when the Austronesians, Asians from the north, began to arrive.

The Aeta have their own art, dance, music, etc. They used to have their own style of dress but that has been disappearing in favour of Western dress.

Some things they have taken on from the outside world: T-shirts, sandals, karaoke, gongs and, despite being short, basketball. Their languages too come from outside: they are Austronesian, not whatever it was they spoke in ancient times.

Religion: The Spanish tried to make them into good Catholics by forcing them to live in mission settlements. That failed. American missionaries in the 1900s did not have much better success. Most Aetas are not Christians. They believe in good and evil spirits that rule nature. They perform religious dances before they go on a pig hunt or gather shellfish.

Some say they eat men. That seems to be a stereotype: there is no proof of it. They also say they have little understanding of law, land rights or money. That sounds like a self-serving stereotype, but since many of them live off in the mountains and do not receive a proper education, it is not out of the question.

During the Vietnam War they were used to train American soldiers on how to live in the jungle.

Not all of them live in the mountains. Some live in towns and cities where they beg, sell things on the street or perform unskilled labour. They are almost never seen doing white collar work. They also do farm work – often on the very land that used to be theirs!

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