From the greater memes of the internet, to the Christmas songs of Jose Marie Chan, our attention kept us focused only to what our social feed is telling us, but in those posts there are lot of stories we should be looking out for, like the desperate fight of the indigenous people to keep their ancestral lands.
Our lands are important to us, it provides us spaces to build homes, roads and more, but as we continue to delve further into the future, the more we destroy it for the sake of “development”. In Pampanga, the Aetas of Central Luzon continues to fight for their lands as a project called Clark Green City, a development plan into creating the Clark Freeport Zone into a “centers of economic growth” have them at disadvantage. The works in creating this center will cover a huge amount of land that the Aetas have been asserting their rights through number of papers to stop the construction that will destroy their home.
Our indigenous people are one of the most vulnerable people in our society, with many investors and businessmen take advantage of the natural resources in their lands. I was fortunate to visit Sitio Haduan in Mabalacat, Pampanga for a documentary we did on a hidden waterfall inside the town. It was there that the Aetas are the tour guides for local tourists to experience the lush green, untapped beauty of their lands.
The trek to Haduan Falls, have us to personally experience the quiet simple life of the indigenous people. Their dark coffee skins and eyes compliment the green leaves of the trees and the blue of the sky as if marking them one with the nature. The falls have been their source of livelihood with the flow of tourists, they are able to make trinkets to sell and help them support their people within the tribe, making the most of their lands to provide for their economic needs.
The development plan that will use their lands will not only destroy the natural resources but it will destruct the quiet living of the people. We have managed to stop the building of the underwater theme park in Palawan, with thousands share their complaints and thousands more share their signatures for petitions to stop the construction.
Palawan is home to many animal species and Clark Freefort zone is home to many indigenous people, what is the difference? There is none. Both are important, both involved living beings, but only one has been on the top of our social feed.
The indigenous people is a living proof of humans who values the gift given to them, they are a tribe full of Filipino men and women who are desperately trying to grasp the little resources left for them through the number of urbanizations and development in the country. RA 8371 or the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 was passed into law to give rights to our indigenous brethrens that highlighted the cultural integrity, economic stability, mandatory representation and ancestral domain. The act in itself stresses the importance of their rights especially to their culture, traditions and their ancestral lands.
Preserving culture and traditions should be on our lists of awareness aside from our changing nature to the continuous urbanization. The issue has been brought up to news sites, but only to be covered and left discarded in the internet. We have history of foreigners that tried to take away our lands, and we knew what it felt like to be robbed of our freedom in our own soil. This piece is not just a mere awareness telling the readers to see what is happening to our brethrens, but a call to take action on the right they have for their own ancestral lands.