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RPGawad Kalinga reaches out to Aetas
Posted by RP Tesoro on 3/3/2008 12:59:08 AM

In a Gawad Kalinga village in Burog, Bamban town, Tarlac, neatly dressed Aeta children gather inside a Sibol classroom, GK’s pre-school facility, listening intently as their teacher reads books and counts numbers.

Their parents, meanwhile, are out in the field, harvesting fruits and vegetables or tending to livestock.

A few years back, Aeta children and their mothers picked through trash for bottles, metal scraps and newspapers that earned them around P50 a day, while others simply roamed around the city begging for food.

For a time, Aetas in Tarlac have been used to living in poverty, with misery and ugliness all around them, and people paying little or no attention to them.

But today, things are different. The 100 Aeta families in this town now live in brightly colored, clean and sturdy homes and are beneficiaries of free schooling and sustainable livelihood.

Apart from this, Singles for Christ (SFC) and Couple’s for Christ (CFC) members continue to care for the Aetas through various “Kapatiran” and fellowship activities meant to “reinforce GK’s thrust on building not just homes but more importantly, relationships.”

CFC members conduct values formation programs among the Aetas.

Last February 12-14, SFC members from Zamboanga Sibugay, Metro Manila, Tarlac, Canada, Australia, United States and the Middle East spent three days in GK Burog to bond and interact with the Aetas.

After having built more than 150 houses for the Aetas, GK said that by bringing volunteers to the Aeta sites, they are able to show that GK genuinely cares for them.

SFC members like Delson Villanueva, an engineer from Qatar who participated in the event dubbed “Kapatid, sa GK walang Iwanan,” said they did not only teach the Aetas but also learned their culture, history and way of life.

“The event wanted to highlight the beauty and the treasure within the Aetas. It also aims to awaken participants on some social issues affecting the Aetas,” GK champion Tony Meloto said.

‘Survivor series’

The SFC participants did not just construct houses but activities, patterned after the “Survivor Series”, were integrated in the building process.

A total of 33 participants were divided into three tribes such as Manwelek, Oyha, and Abukay, Ayta Mag-antsi for a large forest rat, deer and civet cat, respectively.

Some of the workshops/challenges were the “Hunt”, where participants were taught how to use the bow & arrow used by the Aetas for hunting; and archery.

The participants were given an overview of the history and culture of the Aetas and were oriented on the Mag-Antsi language of the Aetas.

The indigenous people harvest and sell papaya, the main source of income in GK Burog, for only P10 pesos per kilo (farm-gate price).

‘Love the other’

Filipino-American Justin Claravall said he felt a profound calling to “love the other” when he spent time with Aetas in Burog.

“When I first got off the minicab and saw the children playing, shouting, rolling on the dirty ground, a thought invaded my head: ‘These kids are dirty.’ How embarrassing it was for me to judge these kids so immediately,” Justin said, recalling his first visit to a GK site.

He said he reflected on his guilt and asked for God’s forgiveness and this drove him to be close to the children.

“After a couple days, the Aeta children returned love in spades. Little girls followed me around, hugging me and telling me they’ll cry when I leave,” Justin said.

“From the initial prejudice up to the time we left, I felt more accepted and I cared more for the well-being of the villagers, especially the children, who lavished me with so much affection,” he added.

In totality, he said the whole experience brought him closer to God by showing him that to love Him, he must learn to love his neighbors.

Justine was raised in California and is a member of the GK Builders Corp for six months.

Delson, who also spent time in GK Burog, was introduced to GK by SFC-Qatar. As an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), he realized that GK was the perfect vehicle for him to express his love to his poor kababayans, particularly street children.

“Everytime I do GK work, I’m very inspired because I know that it is full of love – love for people, love for country and love for God,” Delson said.

“It’s a different experience for me. We were very happy to be welcomed by the Aetas. You can see that they were very willing to learn and improve their lifestyle. They do not want to beg but they would rather crave for attention, understanding and love,” Delson said.

“My commitment to GK is to continue to support their program and as an OFW, I will continue promoting GK in our area in the Middle East particularly in Qatar. By God’s will, I want to be a full time GK worker someday. We in SFC-Qatar have a GK pledge and that is going to GK San Martin every year, that’s the place we want to build a village,” Delson said.

The Aetas’ homes, free school education and livelihood programs are part of GK’s Indigenous People (IP) program, which aims to help indigenous communities build ecologically sound and sustainable villages, sharing a common vision that is economically progressive, promoting social equity and providing a good quality of life.

“So we are bringing in the programs for health, education, food production together with improvement of shelter that respects the history, tradition of indigenous peoples,” said Meloto in an interview.

Their goal is to preserve the beautiful culture and unique qualities not only of Aetas in Pampanga, Zambales and Tarlac but also of the Mangyans in Mindoro, the Dumagats in Aurora and Rizal, the Palawonons of Palawans, the Bilaans, Tibolis, Mamawons, Subanens and other indigenous peoples in Mindanao.

Source: Philstar.com (Gawad Kalinga reaches out to Aetas by Patricia Esteves dated March 2, 2008)
Photo taken from defendingcfc.blogspot.com

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