Yes, they still exist. The Aeta or Agta are indigenous people who live in scattered, isolated mountainous parts of Luzon, Philippines.
Aetas are often found in Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga, Angeles, Olongapo, Panay, Bataan and Nueva Ecija. But because of the Mount Pinatubo eruption, some of them moved to resettlement areas in Pampanga and Tarlac.
Some of you may think that they are long gone or that they’ve coped up with the modern world, but no. They are still living peacefully in the mountains of Luzon.
I’m lucky enough to personally experience their culture. To feel them, talk with them, and help them. I really thought that I will have a hard time getting along with the Aeta tribe since I’m an outsider in their place. But it was really the opposite.
I’ve met different tribes of Aetas in Pampanga, Tarlac and Isabela. And all of them are very welcoming to the point that I felt that I belong with them.
I’m not an expert about their culture and history, but the short period of time that I’ve spent with them gave me a clear idea about Aetas.
Whenever you greet them, they will just smile at you as a welcome. In a conversation, they will just listen and observe for a while. But when you gain their trust, you will instantly be part of their tribe.
The Aeta children were very lucky because they grew up in an environment where they are safe and loved. Some of them don’t have any ideas about internet and gadgets, they only play with a piece of bamboo stick with a small wheel under and run as fast as they could.
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Their laughter and their smiles are so innocent that I felt jealous. Because I didn’t experience this kind of childhood, it was so pure that I felt their happiness as I watch them; laughing while running barefoot under the sun.
Aeta children also loves to dance especially if the song is budots. They just form a circle and dance any steps that they could until their feet gets tired.
The adult Aetas are the most humble of all, their policy is “children first”. I was very touched in their way of prioritizing children, even if it’s their own child or their neighbor’s child. Children will always be their priority.
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I remember when we asked them to fall in line for us to distribute some food, they accompanied their children to form a line then the adults went back to their seats. After giving food to the children, the adult Aetas sit back quietly and smiled when they saw their children eating.
No one asked if we have food for adults or if there’s a spare. Because for them, it is enough to see their children eat. When we asked them to fall in line, they smiled at us and shyly form a line. That’s when I realize that they are very down-to-earth people.
They don’t have any electricity and their water supply is very limited yet they welcomed us wholeheartedly. Their clothes are old and some of them don’t have any footwear yet they are the happiest.
After my visit to different Aeta tribes, I learned life lessons that definitely changed my perspective. First, your happiness should not depend on material things. Second, appreciate what you have and always be thankful for it. And lastly, rich people doesn’t own luxurious stuff, rich people are those who have the purest hearts and contented souls.