Indigenous Wisdom; Experience with the aetas

As modern and civilized people, academic title are but things to boast. Formal education is a necessity. And to where University did one study is a status symbol. All those kinds of abbreviations that comes before or after our names (Atty., Dr., Phd etc.) are but sources of pride. Sometimes they define the respect that is to be accorded to the bearer.

On the other hand many of us view the tribal/indigenous people as savages, uneducated etc. We consider them as inferior humans. But I had this experience with them that made me think otherwise.

I was on vacation on my grandparent’s province back then. One time I persuaded my relatives there to join them in their trekking activity. I was even more excited learning that we will pass by a village of aetas (natives in the northern part of Philippines) to barter some of our can goods with either dehydrated/smoke meet, probably deer and other items from the natives and at the same time take a native to serve as a guide. On that small village, I do not understand the natives dialect, but in their faces they really like the sardines. An old radio, which im not so sure if they understand what it is saying also amazed the young ones.

As we proceeded with our trek to the forests (Sierra Madre Mountain Range), the two native guides walk ahead to lead us. We passed through rivers; there we tried to catch some fish for our food. Trying to survive out of those that nature provides is but an exciting activity. The natives are indeed spectacular. They make some booby traps to catch wild pigs. In one instance, they caught two wild pigs, but they let go of one, the two natives said, we only need one for the journey. They would rub some plant leaves on us to drive away mosquitoes and other insect. One companion got wounded and the native took some herb to stop the bleeding. It was as if every solution is just around us. In one instance one of the native put his ears on the ground, he dug a little hole, and put his ears again and with a picture of worry in his eyes, he order us to hide in the bushes, one went up of a tree and the other one stayed close to us from time to time putting his ears on the ground, then after few minutes they told us we can now proceed. My friend later told me that they heard a big group passed by very close probably some rebel groups.

Along the trek we passed by some wild strawberries, as common reaction we run towards the wild berries and get as much as we can even collecting more trying to fill a plastic container. The two natives smiled, they took and ate as much as they want, took a handful and then lay idle to wait for us. Wondering I asked them (through an interpreter) if they don’t like to get some more of the berries or they are just used to it. The older one replied, and said that the wild strawberries taste good and they really like it, but they have eaten as much as they could and are no longer hungry. He said they need not take so much with them as along the way they will find more. And then he ended by saying, that most important is that they don’t have to take all the fruits, as there will be some other people who will pass in that route and may need those fruits to eat as well. We need to share the gift of nature, for wild animals and people are brothers alike created by the Great One, the native said. In that instance I felt so ashamed, I realized how selfish I was trying to get all the fruits. That mountain trek weas an experience of a lifetime.

These natives have not seen nor even set foot on any university or even in a formal primary school, but they have their own way of learning. They are intelligent in some other ways. They knew many things that cannot be learned inside the formal school, something that no number of diploma could par. Their lives are but proofs of lifelong learning, not just in a native’s own life, but a memento of the lives of those that precedes him.

They do not know the wisdom of Socrates, the philosophies of Plato and of the other modern philosophers, by their philosophy is likewise far reaching, simple but practical.

Their wisdom cannot be measured. The Earth is intertwined with their lives. If we in the civilized world have dissected our self apart from nature, for them, nature is with them, and in them is nature.

It is therefore a big question to me, is it really important that they have to go and study in the mainstream education system or we start to acknowledge their own system of learning is something that is of equal footing than ours. Should we force them to live our life style or should we allow them to live a life of their own?

I personally believe, that they are not savages as as we define them to be, but in some instances are far better than us.


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