Last October 2012, I experienced one of the most memorable events in my life. I had the chance to interact and live with the Aetas, or Agta, indigenous people who live in scattered, isolated mountainous parts of the island of Luzon, the Philippines.
Our team chose the central part of Luzon and visited Sitio Manabayukan. It is one of the many Aeta communities situated in Capas, Tarlac.
After a 2-hour bus ride from Manila to Tarlac, a jeepney and tricycle, we rode the traditional Carabao cart. It was a bumpy travel as we cross rivers and mountains. But the view is breathtaking. In the sitio, each of us were assigned to different families. It means we have to stay with them and treat them as our real family. We even call them “tatay” (father) and nanay (mother). They gave us shelter, cook food and treat us as their own kids. I remember what we ate on our first dinner as a family – bayawak (monitor lizard).
During our stay, we helped them harvest and plant trees, we swim with the Aeta children in the river. And on our last day, around the bonfire we altogether swayed on their ritual folk dance.
On our way home to Tarlac, we only traveled through our own feet. The sun was shining so bright and we only relied on our umbrellas and handkerchiefs. We almost staggered along the way. It was a 3-hour walk. To say that it was the longest and most tiring walk of my life is certainly an understatement.
Three days without electricity, proper bathroom and phone signal was quite rough but indeed a pleasurable experience. I wouldn’t trade this for anything else. The Philippines is really a beautiful place rich in culture.