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Trees that bring hope and happiness to the Aeta Community

July 23, 2014 ·  By Julia Elfert, German volunteer

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Photos by: Donardo Angeles

July 21, 2014 – Monday

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Julia (German Volunteer) with Aeta Family, Sitio Lumibao, Barangay Buhawen, San Marcelino Zambales

During my five weeks stay at the PREDA foundation I helped out at the tree-planting several times.

 

One of the PREDA’s projects is the Pro-fairtrade department. PREDA distributes kinder trees and vegetables to impoverished communities (a lot of indigenous communities) in order to boost their farming, earnings and with that their quality of life. In addition, PREDA holds seminars to teach the people how to do farming with the most efficiency and how to treat and prepare their harvest and products correctly.

 

PREDA offers to buy the harvest of the farmer’s in an appropriate price, much more than other facilities paid in the past. This protects the farmer’s from exploitation and they get paid a fair price.

 

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The Pier (as the aeta address) as they head to the Aeta Community. Lumibao Mango Farmers, Sitio Lumibao, Barangay Buhawen, San Marcelino Zambales

It helps them to establish their primary needs: water, food, clothes, electricity and schooling for their children. Thanks to PREDA especially the Aetas (Tribe can be found in Zambales) communities have a chance to think outside their tradition and to broaden their horizon. PREDA teaches the Aetas also on human and children rights and undermines the importance of education.  Most of the adult generations of the Aetas don’t know how to read and write. When we do the attendance list, to check if every farmer part of the program is present to receive their share – most of them ‘sign’ with a fingerprint.

 

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Alibang Aeta Community with Pro-fairtrade Staff and Agriculturist Roger Hermogino, Sitio Alibang, Barangay Naugsol, Subic Zambales

What made ‘tree-planting’ so interesting to me was meeting the indigenous communities. This is an opportunity I was very grateful for. We were invited in their homes, they showed me how they lived and I got to taste a lot of different fruits which we picked just outside of their houses/hats. They always treated me with great respect and generosity. Especially the women were very curious about us – the volunteers. Elaine, another volunteer, luckily speaks Tagalog so she was able to translate. We shared our different experiences and perspectives about giving birth, family planning and household duties.

 

The village chiefs sometimes gave a little speech before having lunch, thanking PREDA and explaining how drastically their life standards have changed since they are part of PREDA’s fair-trade program.

 

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AKBAY Volunteer, Home for Boys Children with German Volunteer, Maporac Aeta Organization, Barangay San Juan Sitio Maporac, Cabangan, Zambales

It was so interesting to see how the people can be so happy and grateful for life. One of the biggest problems I see in the Western society is the constant need for more. Nobody seems to be satisfied with what they have anymore. To see and interact with the Aetas taught me to see the world in different eyes. It is crazy to realize how severely different our lives really are while we are all the same: eating together, laughing together and sharing stories.

 

When we arrive, after a long ride up to the mountains, in the communities we start distributing the trees. Everyone gets their share. Afterwards we take the trees up to the fields where we plant them. It is just beautiful to make your way, with these heavy seedlings in both hands, through the forest, through river’s and mud – up to the ‘fields’. It is the perfect postcard picture while the reality is that the community has to work extremely hard to establish a living – a living which barely covers the primary needs.


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