Feature Story

 

Andy Mádrigáléjó and Dárlán Páléncìá Bárcélón

 

www.philexaminer.com

 

Mining, deforestation,  illegal logging and slash-and-burn farming has caused the indigenous population in the country to steadily decrease to the point where they number only in the thousands today. The Philippine government affords them little or no protection, and the Aeta/Ati have become extremely nomadic due to social and economic strain on their culture and way of life that had previously remained unchanged for thousands of years.

 

The Atis of San Isidro, Santo Domingo, Albay

The Ati Elder, Letecia Barun sits on the ground with younger Ati. Photo by The Philippine Examiner.

The Aeta/Ati Elder, Letecia Barun  79 sits on the ground with younger Ati. Photo by The Philippine Examiner.

In the onset, Ati community in Barangay San Isidro, Santo Domingo, Albay was composed with three families who settled before Typhoon Reming hit the province of Albay in November 29, 2006.

Today, the community has increased in numbers to 15 families and is composed of 50 persons inhabiting informally on the vacant lot adjacent to the dike overlooking the Basud River channel in Purok 1 of Barangay San Isidro.

The area where they are settling now, is classified by Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology [PHIVOLCS] as hazard area. Due to the constant threats of erosion of old pyroclastic deposits in the upper-to-middle slopes of Mayon Volcano, the area is practically unsafe to live in.

Their increase in population has prompted their eviction.

I am Luis Barun, I am Ati

The Bracelet Vendor,Luis Barun, 35 years old.Photo by The Philippine Examiner.

The Ati Bracelet  Maker/Vendor,Luis Barun, 35 years old. Photo by The Philippine Examiner.

Traditionally, the Atis of Panay Island were nomadic and food gatherers. However, Luis was born in the modern-day and he can not pursue anymore his forefathers’s culture as it is impossible to practice the old tradition as there were no ancestral domain to speak of.

Like his fellow Ati who had opted to live in lowland areas, they have to adapt a means of livelihood in order to subsist. Resiliency is the name of the game.

According to Luis Barun, 35 years old, he came  all the way from Janiuay, Iloilo and rejoined his mother Letecia after I separating  with my wife who eloped with another man, he quipped.

Mother and Son Handcrafted Pulseras. Letecia Barun and her son, Luis Barun, skewing the bracelet’s beads.Photo by The Philippine Examiner.

Mother and Son Handcrafted Pulseras. Letecia Barun and her son, Luis Barun, skewing the bracelet’s beads. Photo by The Philippine Examiner.

Luis source of revenue is bracelet making. He sells his products outside San Isidro. The small bracelets are sold in downtown at PhP35.00 a piece and the big are sold at PhP50.00.

The bracelets [pulseras] can cure skin disease according to Luis. Luis widowed mother, Letecia Barun, 79 years old helps his son in skewing the beads was probably the eleder in the community.

He also concocts herbal medicine for his additional source of income and for treating ailments.

“I make herbal medicine out of tree barks and roots, but I have to get it from the mountains of Iloilo,” Luis admitted.

Boy’s Dream

This young dreamer wants to be a policeman someday.Photo by The Philippine Examiner.

This young dreamer wants to be a policeman someday.Photo by The Philippine Examiner.

Amidst the difficulties of a person undergoing crossing a cultural lines – the  lack of tolerance and understanding that leads to misinterpretation, a young is clinging to his dream with so much pessimism.

Abel Barso, 14 years old Ati  and a Grade 2 pupil of San Isidro Elementary School gamely revealed his dream to be a policeman someday.

Gusto ko maging pulis, dahil gusto kung tulungan ang mga kababayan ko.” The boy said.

Abel who was born in Juban, Sorsogon wanted to finish his studies to pursue his goal in life like an ordinary lad.

First inhabitants, but Landless

Landless Ati family. Photo by the Philippine examiner.

Landless Aeta/Ati family. Photo by The Philippine examiner.

The Ati were the first ethnic inhabitants of the Philippines but their ancestral domains were never protected by the government. Like their cousins in Boracay Island, they too have been slowly displaced – the culprits of their dislocations, is the massive land grabbing.

According to the 2013 data, Panay Island including Guimaras Island has only a total approved and certified ancestral domain was 8,177.7 hectares. Comparatively, only 0.6% of the island’s total land area were granted to the Ati’s ancestral domain.

Their cultural and economic dislocations is the epitome of present day urban migration for the cultural minorities – the Ati and other cultural minorities in the Philippines are in their modern day of exodus.

Promised Relocation

Sto. Domingo Municipal Hall. Photo by The Philippine Examiner.

Sto. Domingo Municipal Hall. Photo by The Philippine Examiner.

The local government unit of Sto. Domingo, Albay has promised a relocation for them in Barangay San Andres as the demand of the lot owner is pressing to evict them as soon as possible.

The plan in providing them a permanent shelter is underway. But, Luis has displayed his cynicism towards the promised relocation in San Andres by saying, “Bahala na niyan si William.”

The guy simply ended by saying, Pag  indiMauli na lang  ako sa Janiuay.