written by Guido Sarreal
It’s amazing how some people can be overwhelmingly generous. This was very much witnessed during a simple donation drive to an Aeta Community called “Katutubo Village” in Planas, Porac, Pampanga. What started out as an idea between two friends, Guido Sarreal of Trail Adventours and Ronald “Mac” Macapinlac of Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, became a collaboration of friends who met along the trails on a hike. It was an active effort especially for Trail Adventours’ participants. In a span of weeks, they were able to invite other friends and hiking buddies to join and support this simple cause. At the end of all the inviting and asking for support, the group had a total of 15 people who would join the actual donation drive on 15th January 2012, Sunday. More than 20,000 donations of cash and in kind were received by the group. Forty (40) hygiene kits were prepared for distribution to selected HS scholars of the Katutubo Village. A kit contains toiletries such as soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, alcohol, tissue paper and a face towel.
The group of 15 people set out early in the morning that day for Pampanga, but this was momentarily delayed by another surprise of generosity. What was supposedly a donation of 4 boxes by Jesuit friends turned out to be 8 boxes and 10 huge plastic bags of goods. We needed an additional vehicle to help us transport this stuff to Pampanga. After this, it was straight to Pampanga for a delicious Capampangan breakfast such as longganisa, tocino, kilawin, pansit and rice at the Macapinlac Residence in Guagua.
With tummies full and with much excitement, the group headed to their destination, the Aeta “Katutubo” Village in Porac. It was a scenic view of rice fields and lahar areas as we drove along the Mega Dike. After less than an hour of driving, a few inquiries and getting lost for a while, we finally arrived at the village. Welcoming the group was Sr. Lilia Malimit of the RVM Sisters. She gave us a brief history of the area. She explains that the village is a settlement given to the Aetas after Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991. It was originally discovered and helped by a Spanish Jesuit named Fr. Felipe Ortiz. Presently, it has around 200 families, with a total population of more than 1000 inhabitants. The Aetas are known to be a very shy group of people. Most of them stay away from the lowlanders, which they call “unat” (straight haired). Just like before the Pinatubo eruption buried their livelihood, a typical Aeta family in the village still source their living from planting and gathering crops such as rice, sweet potato and papayas. The village is a picture of simple life but an amazing place to commune with nature. The simple nipa huts were surrounded by the Mt. Pinatubo
range and green fields. After 20 years of being in the village, still the struggle of every Aeta family is to survive in this new culture brought about by the Pinatubo eruption. As they embrace this evolving way of life, they need support from the lowlanders to have a sustainable community in the future.
Upon arrival, the group had its first Aeta encounter – a very cute and memorable one. This Aeta kid was running around, laughing and playing. Everyone in the village seemed curious of the intentions of their visitors, but none the less, they were very welcoming of our group’s desire to play with them, and of course take pictures. The group then proceeded to the multi-purpose hall, where the group was not only to give out its donations but to also have a short program. The hall was full of life with Aeta children excited, playing around and happily joking around with the group. Assisting us were Community Development and Social Work students from UP-Diliman, who were there for their OJT. The program consisted of games such as the modified calamansi relay, stop dance, pinoy henyo and a singing contest. It was definitely a very fun time. All the kids were very participative, active, happy, noisy and very into the games. The pinoy henyo game was a particularly exciting game as it featured an Aeta kid-member of our group tandem. Hygiene and taking care of the body was also discussed briefly with the children. Lastly, everyone’s favourite part of the program was done, snacks! After sharing pancit and juice, it was finally time to bid goodbye to the community but not before many thanks from and to everyone, and of course photo-ops.
Tired but very much fulfilled, we headed to Guagua for lunch. Sisig, tinolang palaka, grilled bangus stuffed with onions and tomatoes, chopsuey and tokwa’t baboy was in the menu. Everyone heartily ate their share and savoured the cold drinks served. Now recharged, it was time for a favourite Filipino past time, Videoke! Each shared his rendition of his or her desired song. Some lower the original, other higher and still others with a different tune. The group’s day ended with a mass, perfect venue to give thanks for a wonderful, blessing-filled day to the Lord. Without everyone’s knowledge, our playtime with the Aeta kids was already our meaningful way of observing the Feast of Sto. Nino that day. Before going back to Manila, we were given a “pahabol” gift – cold and delicious Razon’s halo-halo.
With this initial visit and community assessment, the group is now thinking of more long term plans of helping the village. Together with the “katutubos”, we will assess their needs, plan programs, implement projects and evaluate the effectiveness of measures. That is sustainable development. We are inviting more friends, more adventourers and everyone to join us in this cause – to head for the trails, to leave footprints that make a difference.
Special Thanks to Paulo Bombase, James Villanueva, Adrian Pempena, Audrey Barilla, Jazel and her kids, Agnes Sarreal, Angelie Sarreal and Osep Reyes for joining the trip and their donations.
To Nong Prungtangkij, the Jesuit of the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Hye-Won and all other donors.