Just another day of getting myself on a self-imposed dare. Bent on searching for Bikolano aetas, I went to Brgy. Curry, Pili, Camarines Sur which is a place located at the foot of Mt. Isarog. In this place resides an aeta community called “Tabangnon Agta Simaron” according to my research (read: Google).
If one would just follow through the almost one-way road up going to Brgy. Curry, the first sign of aeta existence would be a school for these indigenous peoples (IP) residing in this area called “Mother Francisca’s IP Learning Center”. The school, according to the signage, was built on May 13, 2005. It was closed when I saw it. No nothing, just an empty space. Not yet dilapidated or broke, though. Still looks good and solid. I went around to see what else was in store for me.
At the back of the school is a small hut where kids were playing. I do not seem to identify them first as aetas (according to what they look like in Google). Upon calling their attention, I was lead by one of the kids inside the hut and there was this old guy whom I have known to be Jose San Antonio (a not so ‘tribal’ name isn’t it?). He introduced himself to be the vice chieftain of the whole aeta settlement in the area.
He invited me to sit at the ‘hammock’ (duyan in local parlance). I felt at home.
Tabangnon, Agta and Simaron are three different kinds of aeta peoples according to Jose. I failed to remember what Tabangnon means but Agta are said to be from the original lineage of aetas – pure so to speak. The Simarons are accordingly ‘half-bred’ or ‘mestizos’ who have mixed lineage with the Spaniards.
I asked if Jose and his family are Christians and he said no. They don’t have Christmas then. I did not see any religious stuffs hinting Catholicism in and about their hut anyway.
Okay, back to the school, Jose said that the school used to cater children from Grades 1 to 3. And there used to be a female teacher who resides inside the school. But for reasons, which Jose do not specifically know, the school closed just this year. There used to be electricity in Jose’s hut as he was the ‘caretaker’ of the school, but because the school no longer operates, the electric supply had to be cut by the municipality. Accordingly, the school used to house 60 grade school students.
The kids playing outside the hut were aetas. Three of whom were Jose’s children. Jose’s wife was out at the farm at that time.
These kids were playing a local game called ‘tatsi or tatsing/tantsing‘. This is played by placing coins of equal denomination inside a circle carved on the ground and the players would, in the process, get these coins outside the circle by strategically throwing over a ‘bato or pamato’ which is also a coin held by the players with the goal to have the coins inside the circle tossed outside. Whew, and so on and so forth. lol
Unfortunately, I did not find any real aeta settlement. Like a community of aetas living in and about the area. But I got leads where and how and when and why. Very reliable leads. I might come back with a group of photographer friends. InshaALLAH