Rain or shine for the previous eight years, Lucia Salazar Ramos, 30, who belongs to the Aeta tribe, has unfailingly walked the four-hour journey up the mountain to achieve sufferers’ houses.
Rather than the typical white or blue uniform of a health worker, she wears plain black T-shirts and shorts, which she mentioned helps as a result of some Aetas worry medical professionals and hospitals. They belief her.
After graduating from Dominican College of Tarlac in 2013, Lucia became a health worker for a global nongovernment group (NGO). She is liable for the roughly 5,000 indigenous Mag-antsi and Abelling Aetas dwelling in Tarlac and Pampanga. She treats widespread illnesses like cough, fever, or diarrhea from consuming contaminated water.
“It’s a simple job, but I’m happy knowing that I’m enriching my land,” she mentioned.
From daybreak until nightfall
Lucia says that being one of solely two health employees for these many individuals could be tough. She typically has to work from daybreak until nightfall and attributes the lack of medical practitioners in her space to Aetas’ aversion to schooling.
Many younger Aetas select to work as farmers or begin a household early, somewhat than proceed their schooling. She approximates that the majority girls begin having youngsters once they’re 13 and most households find yourself having 5 to seven children.
Aetas as younger as 12 will work three to 4 hours serving to their mother and father harvest banana hearts as a substitute of doing their homework. She says generally quitting college is extra out of necessity somewhat than disinterest since households find yourself incomes solely P100 a day, possibly P200 in the event that they’re fortunate.
Many Aetas don’t communicate Tagalog or know how one can rely, making them liable to getting exploited when promoting their produce at lower-than-market costs. “At syempre mas nababawasan kami ng pera at pagkain galing sa mga crops kapag nagkaroon ng bagyo (We lose our money and food from our crops if a typhoon hits),” she provides.
Unlike most Aeta households, Lucia’s household was supportive of her ending her schooling. She recollects getting impressed by her grandfather, who additionally completed his schooling.
But even when Aetas like Lucia select to pursue their schooling, roadblocks reminiscent of underresourced faculties and discrimination stand of their approach. She recollects academics having to take seven-hour commutes simply to go to their college in the mountain, so most academics will solely be capable of maintain courses from Tuesday to Thursday, somewhat than the common five-day schedule.
She additionally confronted discrimination when she needed to depart her mountain to attend a highschool in a close-by barangay, on account of the lack of excessive faculties in the mountain. She was known as a “baluga,” a derogatory time period used to explain dark-skinned members of indigenous tribes, by different college students. She says it implies that she’s a “lazy, small person, eating most of the time and useless to the world.”
Lucia thinks that these hardships considerably contribute to many Aetas’ resolution to give up college. She approximates that just one % of Aetas in her tribe ultimately enter faculty.
These didn’t cease Lucia, nonetheless. After graduating highschool, she labored at a global NGO for 3 years. The NGO, she says, helped her tribe by constructing faculties and granting faculty scholarships to coach Aetas to turn into academics, health employees, or different essential jobs for his or her neighborhood. “Ngayon na mas marami na ang paaralan sa mga taas ng bundok, naniniwala ako na mababawasan ’yung discrimination dahil mas maraming Aeta students ang papasok. May mga Aetang teacher na ngayon, kaya mas hindi nahihirapan na maglakad ang mga Aeta at nagkakaroon sila ng mga role model. ’Yung mga katribo namin na kapareho ang salita ay makakatulong sa paghikayat sa mga Aeta na mahalaga ang kanilang edukasyon (Now that there are more schools in the mountain, there’s less discrimination. Teachers themselves are also from the Aeta tribe, so there are more role models for Aetas. Someone who is of the same race and speaks the same language can really help convince young Aetas that education is important),” she says.
Lucia was a recipient of a university scholarship herself. “Hindi ko naman ginusto maging health worker, pero gusto ko lang naman talaga makatulong sa aking tribo. Kailangan ng may magsakripisyo para sa kapakanan ng lahat (I never wanted to be a health worker, but I wanted to do what was best for my community. There has to be that person who makes the sacrifice for the greater good),” she says.
Lucia remembers how, whereas she was rising up, ambulances needed to journey seven hours to achieve her tribe, and by then, they’re too late to avoid wasting the affected person. This is the place she performs a particular function.
“Kailangan kong baguhin ’yung pag-intindi ng Aeta para magamot ko sila agad at hindi sila matakot. Pero kailangan ko rin bantayan ’yung mga emergency cases nang makatawag ako ng ambulance. (I have to debunk the fears of many Aetas toward medicine to treat illnesses. But I also have to be vigilant for emergency cases, so that I can immediately call an ambulance),” she explains.
Lucia says that 10, 20 years from now, she will be able to nonetheless see herself strolling the four-hour-long distance up the mountain to do her half as a health worker for her tribe. “’Yung paborito ko sa pagiging Aeta ay hindi lang ’yung mga tradisyon, kundi ’yung simpleng pamumuhay. Para sa akin, masyadong marami ang pinagkakaabalahan sa lungsod katulad ng pera at gadgets. Mahalaga na hindi mawala ang mga simpleng bagay sa ating buhay … katulad ng pamilya at komunidad. (My favorite part of being indigenous isn’t the traditions, but the simplicity. City folk, I feel, are too busy with their gadgets and are too greedy for power and money. I just think we must not lose sight of the simple things in life … our family, our community),” she says.
Lucia receives a notification on her telephone, packs her gear and hurriedly places on her raincoat. Another Aeta wants her assist. —CONTRIBUTED
For each P50 you donate, you save one Aeta from fever, cough and diarrhea by serving to Lucia buy the essential drugs. Send donations via her GCash account 09304378351.