BAMBAN, Tarlac – The aeta culture may be slowly fading away, but tribesmen remain optimistic on the future.

During the “Araw ng Katutubo” spearheaded by the UST Office for Community Development of last October 25, Fernando Mallari, 50, leader of Sitio Haduan, told the Varsitarian that many in the younger generations of their village no longer want to practice traditions inherited from their ancestors.
“Dahil sa impluwensiya mula sa kapatagan, nahahati kami,” Mallari said.

One of the reasons for this is that younger aetas want to imitate the way the “unats” (straight-haired) wear clothes, especially those they see on TV.

Despite this, he still sees hope for their culture and traditions. Elders are starting to take measures to preserve their way of life, like greater use of the ethnic dialects, Mag-antsi and Sambal, in conversing with each other.

They also teach their children age-old rituals like sacrificing “dagaw” (an offering) to Apo na Malyari (God) and paying the “dote” to the family of a woman being courted.

Carlito “Ka Carling” Dumulot, leader of a locale in Zambales, cited instances when younger aetas refuse to wear the “bahag” (for men) or the “tapis” (for women). Children often laugh when they see their parents wear the native costumes, he said.

Dumulot urged his fellow aytas to continue to fight for their rights and preserve and recover their lost ancestral domains. “We are all from Pinatubo,” Ka Carling said in Filipino.

He reminded his fellow aetas not to give up their rights for promises of money, noting that some had sold their land for as much as P50,000 per hectare. “Let us not peddle our rights.” Dumulot said in Filipino as he exhorted fellow tribesmen.

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Cultural preservation through education

The aetas are beneficiaries of the Distance Education Program of the UST Office for Community Development.

Under the groundbreaking extension program, each sitio has a learning center and a radio receiver. Lessons are broadcasted from UST to five learning centers. Each learning center has its own “mala-guro” (para-teacher) to facilitate the program.

Lessons given to the aetas cover practical topics they like livestock raising as well as basic writing and reading skills.

Merlyn Capis, 49, touched a pencil for the first time in 2006 when she joined the UST distance education program. Since then she has learned to write and read the abakada.

Nanay Merlyn said the program has helped her a lot even if studying is hard. Her daughter helps her in her studies: “She teaches me to read,” Nanay Merlyn told the Varsitarian in Filipino.

Delia Mallari, 48, writes her name slowly and shaky but this is a big improvement.

She was only able to enter Grade 1. She joined the UST program in 2006 and has learned to write and read since.

Nanay Delia has represented Sitio Haduan in an essay-writing contest, competing against contestants from other sitios.

When the program began in 2001 through the efforts of Prof. Evelyn Songco, it only had 15 participants, said Marielyn Quintana, a faculty member from the College of Education. It has since expanded to 157 “learners” in five sitio learning stations.

Quintana joined the program five years ago, and is now one of the radio voices of the distance education program along with Arts and Letters Prof. Arlene Domingo, who joined the project in 2005. A.M.P. Dagcutan and A.R. Morallo

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