The Aetas Land and Life


Part One


The ethnicity of the Pinatubo Aetas is the most significant aspect of their claim to their land and life. Like any other indigenous groups, their life has an important, and almost cosmic, link to their land. It is almost cosmic in the sense that their world consciousness and the continuity of their way of life are rooted in the land where they were born and have defined their humanity. Their land of origin in the mountains and forests of Mt. Pinatubo is not only the source of their sustenance; it is also home to their identity and culture.

The Pinatubo Aetas‘ situation, however, need not be confined to this perspective. The Aetas‘ well-being may likewise be addressed from the perspectives of their economic capability and their assimilation in the political diversity of the bigger Filipino
society. The human development of the Aetas, or for that matter, of any ethnic minority group, must consist of the freedom to assert cultural identity and the opportunity to pursue economic and political empowerment.

In the process of development, it is inevitable that the Aetas will confront even stronger influences. These influences may improve their living condition but they may, for some reason, also be intrusive of their indigenous lifestyle, which may cause damage to their cultural identity. Whether or not to accept these influences or how much of these influences will be tolerated is an internal decision on the part of the Aeta community, but how to help them grapple with these influences is a critical intervention issue on the part of the external entities, such as the government and other development agents.

The main subject of this paper‘s discussion is the claim of the Botolan Aetas in the so-called Puyat land and its important implications on their welfare and development. The paper is outlined as follows. The Aetas‘ socio-cultural profile and their experience during the Mt. Pinatubo eruption serve as a preliminary part. It contextualizes the discussion within the Aetas‘ indigenous world: their environment, culture, society, religion, etc. Part Three deals with the Puyat land issue and the available methods of action the Aetas can take to assert their right over it. Part Four then tackles the welfare concern where the Aetas‘ subjective sentiments on the issue were also presented. This is to emphasize that welfare provision must be viewed internally from the perspective of the community.