Text and Photos by Euden Valdez
IT’s not every day that ordinary Filipinos like us meet our nation’s indigenous peoples. As in personally interact with them, and not just treat them with disdain whenever they board a jeepney playing makeshift instruments to ask for alms—like how we would normally encounter them in the big city.
But IPs who are leaving their ancestral domains and local communities in the hopes of finding better life in the urban jungle that is Metro Manila is a whole different matter altogether, one that I am not capable of writing about yet.
This story is actually meant for the Aetas of Sitio Pokis at Brgy. Papaac in Camiling, Tarlac. The community of 34 households used to be part of Dueg Resettlement, which was formed after Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991.
As we all know, the powerful natural calamity—of what was once believed as a dormant volcano—affected the lives of thousands of Filipinos in Tarlac, Pampanga and even Zambales. Heavily affected was the Aeta Magnache of Capas.
In 1992, members of this tribe were relocated to Dueg where they lived and thrived again. However, other Aeta tribes and even the unats, what these IPs call the Ilocanos from the lowlands, transferred to the resettlement area as well.
The increased population resulted to limited resources. Some original Aeta re-settlers decided to look for nearby areas to live, thus the formation of Sitio Pokis in 2002. By 2007, the sitio was officially recognized and registered as an extension of Dueg.
This data, Random Act of Kindness (RAK), a group of outdoor enthusiast and outreach volunteers, gathered from an ocular at the sitio in January. The group targets to adopt the sitio as the beneficiary of its upcoming outreach project.
Being part of RAK, this blog’s author did not miss the chance to visit Sitio Pokis in March as part of a training climb at nearby Mt. Damas in San Clemente town.
In fact, the climb’s guide Kuya Gary is an Aeta from Sitio Pokis himself. Moreover, he also lent the group his backyard to camp for the night the second time around. RAK received his generosity at the climb and ocular in January.
After RAK’s much needed rest from the tiring climb, the group enjoyed a hearty breakfast of sinampalukang manok (tangy chicken stew with fresh sampaloc and vegetables) cooked at Kuya Gary’s.
Then, it was official business before going home: A visit to the house of Robert Sanchez, the respected and trusted chieftain of Sitio Pokis. Interrupted in his lunch with the family, the chieftain nevertheless welcomed us to his humble hut. He was glad to finally see us after having word that we climbed Damas.
Chieftain Robert also shared many stories like how the sitio got its name Pokis, which is an Ilocano word meaning haircut. According to him, there was one elder who used to stay at Mt. Damas. Every time people passed him by, he would shout “Pokis! Pokis!” and oblige them to get a haircut.
A true-to-life story that really made a mark was how even up to this day, unats, which really are us, still look at them as an inferior race. But as a proud chieftain, Aeta and Filipino, he never let this bring him down. In fact, all his children are studying and well on their way to becoming professionals.
Beyond his own family, it is also his wish to uplift the lives of his fellow Aetas at Sitio Pokis.
This is where RAK wishes to intervene. To support the Aeta community, it is our goal to donate solar lamps, seeds for farming, and other basic needs like school supplies and clothing.
Help us in this cause by joining our fundraising climbs or by donating cash or in kind. If interested, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Here are more photos from Sitio Pokis and Dueg:
is a former dyarista,