It was in mid-June when Ramir and I went to an Aeta community in Pampanga, specifically in Sitio Target, Angeles City, for a two-day immersion. We were doing a project for UCA News, a Catholic website, which shall focus on the community’s healthcare needs, livelihood, and education. It was Ramir’s first time in the place and I was excited for him to meet the people I have previously visited. But as for me, though it was my fourth time, there are still a lot of things I learned after the immersion–things that gave me more enlightenment, and a better and concrete understanding on their plight and how we, people in the urban area, can be of great help.
*All photos from RAMIR G. CAMBIADO
Sitio Target is the farthest sitio in Angeles City, and is mostly dominated by Aeta. About 700 people are living in the area, which was formerly the American’s shooting range, thus the name.
When one would go around the place, you will see some unfinished houses–which were started by Gawad Kalinga, but was eventually halted due to some reasons. Some of the houses were made of cement while others remained made of light materials.
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Children, mostly are malnourished according to the sitio’s social worker Ate Rhea, can be seen playing by the school’s playground or receiving candies from Korean visitors from the nearby Puning Hot Springs.
It was also interesting to note that there a a couple of Christian churches there, though the community is actually divided into different religions aside from Christianity–Catholic, Baptist, Iglesia ni Cristo, and Protestant.
Majority of the fathers there are working for the hot spring resort. The resort’s employees are 90 percent consisted of Aetas–which is considered as the main source of income for the community. Some would tend to their farm in the mountains, and sell their crops on Sundays in Sapang Bato where they were given a small area to sell.
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The females are mostly at home, tending to household chores while taking care of their kids. The families there are mostly consisting of 4-7 kids. Some, meanwhile, make accessories out of bangkal and binggala seeds which they get in the mountains. I interviewed Ate Merlyn, who has been creating nice pieces even when Mt. Pinatubo erupted. Sometimes, Sister Angela of Holy Family Academy would order rosaries from her, which they will exhibit and sell during Buwan ng Wika. This adds to her daily income from her little sari-sari store, of which she got a capital from the government’s Pantawid Pamilya Project.
In my third visit in the community last year, I met Ate Jonalyn Abloy. She is a 25-year-old mother-of-five. She lost her two children last year and the year before due to complications. In our recent visit, I was not able to see her because her son was confined in the hospital due to high fever and consistent vomiting.
I remember she told me before that she wanted to be a teacher. But because she married at a young age, and got pregnant with her first child after, she was discouraged by her mother to pursue schooling. That is, for Ate Jonalyn, is the dream she might not achieve anymore.
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During our immersion, we met Aries de Vera. He is the first to graduate with a college degree among his fellows in Sitio Target. His education was funded under the Benedictine Student Assistance Program of Holy Family Academy. He is now a teacher and the sitio’s purok leader.
For years, he had struggled with discrimination in the city–from people looking at him while mumbling derogatory words, to the challenge he has to face in dealing with a computer.
He says that what he aspires for his fellow Aetas is the same education that he also attained.
While he knows that Sitio Target still has a long way to go when it comes to being at par with other sitio’s in Angeles City, Aries believes that one day, they will get there.
Would like to visit this Aeta community in Pampanga and conduct an outreach or immersion there? You may see the details of conducting the outreach in this PAGE or better yet, e-mail at email@example.com.