Friday, July 9, 2010

Ati or Aeta Woman: Philippines Aborigines

Fr. Joe:
"We visited the Ati, the aborigines of the Philippines, who were sequestered in a ghetto on Boracay Island. The Daughters of Charity, a religious order founded by St. Vincent de Paul, friend of Francis de Sales, minister to these people. The Ati are called the “black people;” their skin tone is dark and their hair extremely wooly. They are classified as Philippine Negritos, first settled the Philippines, and were at one time a nomadic group of hunter-gatherers roaming freely in the wild without clothes. Modern society forced them in clothes as well as ghettos both of which are socially traumatic for the Ati., who now depend on charitable donations for subsistence. The Daughters of Charity have been their only advocates with the government and in the words of one sister “I will wear out my sandals walking to the local government to petition for these lovely people and to protest the expropriation of their land.” They now live on land belonging to the relatives of the Casa Pilar owners, our hotel on Boracay.

The children are attractive and charming. They learn the basics in a kindergarten that was opened the second day of our visit. We learned that it would be an insult to help them with any physical labor such as picking up trash and beautifying their areas. Francis de Sales and the spirituality of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales reminds us to respect people where they are and to treat them with dignity. Since food was a great need, we decided to purchase rice and other staples for the families. The Daughters supervised us as we respectfully distributed the food to the families. We also gave plantains (small bananas) to the children in the kindergarten and interacted with the teacher and the students".

"A full-grown Ati woman. I actually think she is attractive. She's definitely cute in a child-like way anyway. Note the classical woolly hair of the Philippine Negritos. This is not the same hair as the kinky hair of US Blacks. Other Negritos in the Andaman Islands have peppercorn hair like the Bushmen of Africa".


Dr.J said...

It is believed that the "Aeta" people settled in the Philippines about 30,000 years ago from the other Asian regions via the land routes that are now gone. Thus the similarities in appearance with the other aborigines in the Austro-Pacific region.

Ken said...

The story of the Ati you have in the picture is ... so full of irony. I actually took that photo during the 'Ati-atihan' festival in Aklan two years ago. 'Ati-atihan' means to be like the Ati - so everyone dresses like the Ati and parade around town. Dressing like the ati before was just smearing black soot or dye on the skin but since the festival has been commercialized in recent decades, the costumes have become more elaborate and fantasy-like. But back to the Ati in the picture - so she was going around town during the event that supposed to celebrate them - BUT - they are including she - are being laughed at, reduced and marginalized. She was actually going around begging, not caring that the festival is for them but caring because there are many people around to beg from - so she could buy alcohol. Like many other native peoples around the world, native peoples in the Philippines are marginalized and reduced to alcoholism. Things are a-changing though. They have formed groups (eg with the help of the Sisters) to fight for their rights and claim their ancestral lands. How successful they will be, remains to be seen. But it's a start.

Ken said...

BTW, here she is holding a can of beer taken a little bit later:

Dr.J said...

Ken!!! Thanks for the photo! We do want to start a fund raising project to help the Ati aborigines in the Philippines. The students are brainstorming right now on what project to do.

Larases said...

Hi Ken! Do you know if this woman is married or have children?

She really seems very cute, I really feel like going there asking for her hand.

cagayan de oro schools said...

That's a good idea. i think its about time to recognize this people. they are not other people, they're one of our ancestor. instead of persecuting their color, why not help theme? they are one of our national treasure.