Meet Joe Black – a literal Joe ‘Black’ our tour guide at Nagsasa Cove when we went for a hike towards an unnamed waterfalls (for guides not to pick up the name, then this waterfalls must be really, well, unknown).
i will write something about this guy because i felt the need for me to show the world what has been happening to the Aetas of Zambales as well as to the rest of the aborigines in our country.
while we were trekking i took the cue to talk to this rather indifferent boy who didnt speak the whole time. his silence was attributed to his shyness and his inability to relate to us, it was obvious that DSLR’s waterproof bags, trendy shades and even shorty shorts were alien to him…
i tried to make him feel comfortable w/ us by asking him questions. i found out that he never went to school (because the nearest elementary school was 2 hours away by boat). he didnt liked the ‘bayan’ where the school was, he didnt say why but w/ how uneasy he was when he refused to answer, right then i knew the reason why…he was most probably bullied by the much fairer, straight haired ‘kapwa pilipino’. i left it at that w/ an awkward silence. after a few minutes i tried to ‘interview’ him again and squeezed out some infos. i found out that there was not much root rops to grow in the area so they rely heavily on tourism. they charge 100P per guide per treck. they also get paid to accompany tourists during overnyt camp outs in the area, for 150P they can create bonfires and for a couple hundred pesos they can fish for tourists.
we also passed by a genuine aeta community of 3 houses and i found out they are also very much into pets. each house had 1 dog (askal). they didnt have electricity. they get water from wells.
a couple more minutes we arrived at the waterfalls, while we enjoyed the cold waters of the falls, Joe together w/ our second guide slept (whata guide haha). when it was time to go down i asked him
tof: ‘pre bilisan natin gusto ko makita yung sunset‘.
he didnt reply.
(realizing he must not understood what ‘sunset’ is, i asked again)
tof: ‘ pre ano oras lulubug ang araw, aabutan ba natin? gusto ko makita. nakikita ba dito?’
joe: oo paiba iba kasi ng lugar kung saan lumulubog ang araw minsan dito sa bukid na to (points at the east), minsan naman sa kabila (points at the north)
tof: ???? (ano to pa iba2x ng coordinates)
tof: pero lumulubog sa dagat?
joe: hindi…hindi pa lumulubog sa dagat ang araw…
tof: ah ok…may punto ka…(slows down w/ his trecking pace)
the night went on and while we were busy w/ our camping life i saw this group of aetas w/c gathered at the sole sari2x store in the cove. the cove has electricity from 6pm – 12mn from a generator to allow campers to charge their emergency lights. i learned that the sari2x store owner usually have film showings. that night the owner had a Chinese action film (bruce lee type) shown. i got quite sad when i saw how tuned the aetas were w/ the movie – even if they didnt understand a thing. they laughed at scenes which where deemed violent. they were just so into the movie that i too had to watch it for a few minutes out of curiosity.
the next day, we took a side trip to Anawangin Cove before heading back to the mainland. while enjoying our last few hours there, a man approached me and tried to strike a conversation w/ me. i was fine w/ it. medyo maangas sya. he talked about how Anawangin and Nagsasa Coves are now a big issue in Zambales courts as a certain family (name witheld) is claiming rights over these coves. he said by next year those ‘squatters’ (as he call those aetas) will be forcibly evicted as the court will decide in favor w/ the alleged family claiming sole rights on these coves.
i was taken aback w/ what i heard. i perfectly understand how the laws on real estate properties and stuff work. BUT then, in this case we have people termed as ‘squatters’ that will be affected.
squatters? really… as far as my basic history education has thought me, these what we term as squatters are actually the very first inhabitants of our land. and for hundreds of years, this has become their unfortunate state – their ignorance and their inability to comprehend are abused and used against them. panahon pa lang ng mga Datu at alipin, they have been suffering forced eviction of their lands which they toiled themselves, its already the 21st century and still they are suffering the same fate as their ancestors.
i believe our government (or at least the govt unit that oversees our indigenous people) should intensify their efforts to protect their rights. after all, sila nauna among everyone else.