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pinatubo aeta
by: Khristin Fabian
      Aeta refers to the small, dark skinned, and kinky haired people with big round eyes who occupy the forest areas of Mt. Pinatubo. The Pinatubo Aeta are part of bands residing in mountanous , forested ares of the archipelago from Luzon to Mindanao. They are believed to be the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Philippines.

Social scientist consider the Pinatubo Aeta as important ethnic group. In addition to having retained their cultural identity through the centuries, they are the biggest in number.      


The ancestors of the presend-day Aeta, according to one theory, arrived through land bridges that linked the Philippines with the Asian mainland some 30,000 years ago. This ethnic group has lived in relative isolation from lowlanders, preserving a way of life not far from its indigenous beginnings and retaining much of their traditional customs, practices, values, and social organization.

An interesting aspect of the Pinatubo Aeta is their continuing resistance to the acculturation process, and their ability to modify whatever they borrow from the outside to suit their own culture. They assimilate only the cultural elements compatible with their social reality -- like some of the Sambal's techniques and rituals in agriculture, concepts of spirits, curing and burial rituals.

The Aeta did not take everything lying down. Until as late as the end of the 19th century, the aeta who refused to be subjugated by Spanish rule fought against the Christianized Filipinos. They were known as the noncoquestados, in contrast to the conquestados
or Aeta who were cordial and traded with lowlanders. The nonconquestados lived deep in the forests and periodically raided the lowlanders. The Christianized lowlanders retaliated by organizing expeditionary forces, led by the police called guardia civil, into the mountains.

By the late
19th century, the Spaniards conceived of and implemented a settlement plan which though not entirely successful, managed to minimized the growing antagonism between the Aeta and the lowlanders. However, the conflict between nonconquestados and lowlanders continued even during the American period.

While the Pinatubo Aeta have been the recipient of both government and private help in the form of better medical facilities and the construction of several schools serving the literacy needs of both children and adults, they have also been victimized by government land-use policies. These policies have limited the boundaries of existing Aeta villages and settlements.

Mt. Pinatubo's violent eruption in June 1991, after 600 years of slumber has imperilled the future and destiny of the Aeta. The eruption, the most violent to date eruption in the 20th century, rendered at least 100,000 people homeless, of which 56,721 were Pinatubo Aeta.

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Religious Beliefs and Practices

The Pinatubo Aeta believe in a most powerful spirit, Namalyadi, who rules over all other deities. Fondly called Apo Namalyari, he is believed to reside in Mt. Pinatubo. Some Aeta believe that Namalyari, angered by the diggings of the Philippine National Oil Corporation, caused Pinatubo to erupt.

Social scientists consider the Pinatubo Aeta animists since the also believe in enviromental spirits which are categorized

    First election
      into anito (good spirits) and kamana (malevolent spirits.) Anito inhabit the forests, tree trunks, bamboo, stream and caves. While they are benevolent, they may become angry at an erring human and cause sickness or misfortune. In such a situation, a compensatory langgad or gift should be made. To avoid the anger of an anito, the Aeta start an activity by offering gifts of tabacco, food, red cloth, and others to an anito. This belief in environmental spirits is one reason the Aete revere nature and are in close harmony with it.

They believe in the kaelwa or kalola(soul)  as a separate entitydwelling in the body. The soul may leave the body temporarily as in dreaming or permanently as in death. They have no detailed idea of the world after death. Some believe that souls go up to the sky whil others say they go to Mt. Pinatubo's summit, another reason they hold the mountain sacred.

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                The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo
      Visual Arts and Crafts

Household utenstils are usually made from coconut shells and bamboo. Basketry of bamboo or rattan is a common home industry. Some types of Aeta baskets are made with simple one-cover-one-under checker weave. The talin-talin and other more attractive ones are made with a diagonal two-under, two-over plait.

Example of baskets and their uses are the following: tubon, a round and depp basket with square corners at the bottom, carried by means of a head strap across the forehead; sakopit, a pack basket carried by means of shoulder straps; talin-talin, a small bowlshaped, all purpose basket; kampipi, large squre basket with a slip-over cover where personal belongings are stored.

The Pinatubo Aeta obtained mats from the Sambal and learned how to weave amak or sleeping mats from the Negrito school in Villar village.

The most attractive ornament of the men is the tagudi or neck band, which is wrapp[ed loosely two or three times. The basic material is light-colored rattan, green grass, and black bark woven together in a checkered design.

Tayad or chipped teeth done with a bolo or knife are considered a mark of beauty and maturity. It may be performed on young boys as soon as permanent teeth emerge. Either the upper or lower six front teeth or both sets are chipped.

The most common type of scarification is the tuktuk, in which the flesh is burned with a small piece of tinder placed on the skin and ignited. The burning is intensified and then the wound allowed to heal until a keloid is formed. Scars are round and confined at the upper arms.

Both males and females wear necklaces and beads of seeds and animal bones. The baggery, a neckband made of rattan and grass, is commonly used by males.

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      Literary Arts

Myths, folktales, and folk narratives preserved by oral tradition are among the known types of literature of the Pinatubo Aeta.Many of the stories and narratives concern spirits who either own or live in plants.

One story is about a pitcher plant considered dangerous, and concerns a couple during the time of the "firsst people." Unknowingly, the couple chose a bad spot for their dwelling since they did not know that it was near the pitcher plant, said to be the property of Binangunan, the god of danger, sickess, and death. At night, the couple heard the sound of a fly, then a loud hiss, and they saw Binangunan who looked like a horse with fire on its back. He drank from the pitcher plant. The couple decided to leave, but Binangunan trailed and killed them by pulling their nails and sucking their blood.

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      Performing Arts

Music is an integral part of Aeta cultural life, and rituals and ceremonies are incomplete without this art form. The native musical instruments that are played for entertainment are the tabengbeng, a two string bamboo zither; the kulibaw, a jew's harp made from bamboo; a five-string guitar carved from solid wood; and the bulongodyong, a bamboo flute.

The talipe is a dancing style used during the manganito seance. A space is cleared in the center of a house, and the patient placed in front of friends and relatives. When the guitar is played, the medium, who may be a woman, begins to dances around the clearing. The belief is that dancing facilitates contact with helpful spirits.

The anituan is a perfect example of an Aeta drama with music from the gitaha. It is a kind of group healing performance, in which sick people sit in a row on the ground, heads and shoulders covered by a long red cloth representing the ailment.

The pinapanilan is a reenactment of bee hunting. A variation of this dance is the talek nin Manguan nin pulot panilan among the Baluga, in which two men seek and find a beehive.

The sekuting is a mock duel dance performed by two men with sticks. The binabayani documented among the Baluga is a war dance with a different twist. An Aeta warrior kidnaps a woman working in the fields.

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CCP Encyclopedia of Arts