Aeta families of the Sitio Alunan community
The aeta families of the Sitio Alunan community
by Carm S. Tanhueco
It was the Summer of 2012. I remember sitting on a cart with three other people while it was being pulled by a carabao, which is a domestic water buffalo that can be found in the Philippines. I beamed as I watched the sun kiss the still dust sky with its orange and pink hued rays. We were greeted with a view that can only be described as breathtaking. Trees danced elegantly in the wind, and birds chirped sweet songs as we passed through a path that consisted of a vast land area of lahar with several stream crossings. The sun peeked over the horizon, and in that very moment, it became real: a new beginning was ahead of us.
In an area around Mount Pinatubo, a volcano that erupted in 1991, lies Sitio Alunan – our destination. The aeta (indigenous people) who lived there thrived on agriculture and livestock. This remote area has a population of 698 and has adopted its own language that has diverged over time. My aunt, who is the head nurse of a community health project that addresses the absence of health care delivery systems in rural areas, invited me to go on this trip with her. I recall the hike as laborious, but the smile on the aetas’ faces when we arrived brought us a sense of fulfillment.
As I was about to eat my lunch shortly after we distributed food baskets and medicines to families, a little boy approached me. In a careful attempt to communicate with him, I gestured eating motion with my hands. He shook his head and without a second thought, I handed him my meal. It contained one piece of tilapia and a cupful of rice. He gave me a smile and turned to call out to three kids who were hiding behind the trees. They ran toward him and with the light of newfound hope in their eyes, watched as he divided the food among them. The little boy did not eat, but was satisfied to know that the others did.
I believe that each of us has a life-defining moment that changes the way we view things - a moment when something inside us shifts and causes us to find ourselves realizing what we are truly passionate about. The story that I shared with you was mine. The little boy’s small act of kindness represents what social work means to me. It is imparting hope to others and giving them a fair chance to empower themselves. We live in a society that is often shaped by inequity, ruled by social injustices, and sometimes manipulated by a biased system. However, once in a while, we get those little bursts of inspiration. We gain triumphs over voices that doubt our ability to succeed for others. These moments are what we, social workers, live for - the moments that make every fight, sleepless nights, and endless amount of paperwork all worth it.
Carm Tanhueco obtained her BSW degree at NEIU last spring and is currently an MSW Advanced Standing student specializing in Leadership and Development in Social Services at Loyola University Chicago.