Since I posted about my life-changing trip to Pinatubo, I think I want to write about the people I met on the way. They looked really bedraggled and poor from afar but when you meet them, you don’t feel pity. Masters of difficulty, they've survived the worst conditions possible without my sympathy. My history professor once told me that the American military even hired Aetas to teach their soldiers jungle tactics.

They are Aetas (pronounced as “eye-ta,”). Indigenous people who are believed to be among the very first inhabitants of the Philippines. Characterized by their small stature, brown skin, and kinky hair. Their wild-eyed tattered exterior reveals very little about them. They are a fiercely proud people.

Even after the Aetas lost their ancestral lands because of the eruption of Pinatubo, some of them chose to remain on this barren land to continue a way of life they’ve had hundreds of years before the Spanish. Their resistance to change has preserved their culture and way of life. But today’s economic activities like mining, deforestation, and illegal logging have caused their numbers to dwindle to thousands.

The Aetas live a simple life. They care not for possessions or even permanent homes. They are nomads that are directed by necessity. They only take what they need. And that hasn’t changed for thousands of years.