120112 The Urban Tracker (In Cagayan Valley) : In The Eyes of Aetas of Gattaran

Fogs dodged our way to Gattaran for an outreach agenda.
ogs sprawled as morning lit our path to a relatively peaceful but promising agricultural town of Gattaran. Roaming around the downtown market, locals greeted us with warm, welcoming and dignified smile. Their come-ons reflected how they tried living a rural way of simple joys. 

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Snapshot of Gattaran welcome arch
But it’s another case as our party reached Kapisayan Sur, a village in the side of the mountain. There were native settlers here who caught sight of our arrival, some of them just greeted us in resistance while some shied away. But soon their unwelcoming face faded as they learned we were part of the party that's almost here every week. The Immanuel outreach has been here for a weekly conduct as part of their dedication to cheer up and reach out to this small village of aetas – making them feel unburdened and unforgotten somehow.

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Raising a hog - an aeta way of life
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A typical household of an aeta
About handful of aeta families have chosen to settle for sometime in this side of the mountain where daily  activities revolved around  planting, hog raising/harvesting crops. The aetas of Gattaran originally came from the mountains of Cordillera and were constantly spreading out to find an ideal mountain spot adequate to plant and harvest for a living. They are nomadic in nature as they constantly abandon mountains but history can explain this.

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Aetas build their huts preferably in more elevated parts.
History of land grabbing and agrarian issues due to urbanization have further drove the aeta communities from the lands they claim they have ancestral attribution. In the end, they become squatters of their own land and they are left with no choice but move out and find another place. While tendency still holds true that most aetas shun city life for fear of being discriminated and prefers to return to their old backward ways, there are some of them who are open to changing realities.

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The Immanuel Outreach party in the mood of regaling the children.
In face of all these changes and challenges, The Immanuel outreach program has come to realize that in order to help the Kapisayan Sur aetas adapt to this, the first step is thru education. A learning center was set up here some 3 years ago for the disadvantaged children of the Kapisayan Sur including the aetas to make education somehow accessible to them.

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Teacher Madeline, and her unquestionable dedication to the aetas.
Thanks to the voluntary spirit of Teacher Madeline who shares her testimonies of the heartening real state of their place. Now the aetas children who are slowly picking up are learning to mingle with locals. They also have learned to write their names/ speak the language/ and even sing some tunes for after all this children of the underworld should not be deprived of their right to education and save them from illiteracy and ignominy. But she claimed after 3 years,  she has been strengthened on the challenges of her calling and dreams of having improved facilities, supplies in God's grace.

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Locals and aetas mingle to hear lessons and teachings.
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The feeding session with an aeta on the floor.
The Immanuel church workers were now engaged in regaling not only the aetas but also including the local underprivileged kids in teaching them about a word of God through storytelling, Bible verses and songs. The kids both locals and aetas have shown good and cooperative behavior as they waited for their turn to the feeding session that came after the fellowship.

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The aetas who have become part of Immanuel Outreach Program.
Looking at these kids, I couldn’t help but melt and fear for the survival of their heritage. They are blessed with the outreach people of Immanuel who has the genuine heart and concern boosting their morale, fueling their love for life and their special image, making them feel so deserved and loved  because they regard the aetas as brothers and sisters deserving hope and help amid their underprivileged and disadvantaged state. 


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Hope floats for an aeta facing the valley.
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