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The Aeta (Ayta, pronounced eye-t? ), or Agta, are an indigenous people who live in scattered, isolated mountainous parts of Luzon, Philippines. They are considered to be Negritos, who are dark to very dark brown-skinned and tend to have features such as a small stature, small frame, curly to kinky afro-like textured hair with a higher frequency of naturally lighter hair color (blondism) relative to the general population, small nose, and dark brown eyes. They are thought to be among the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines, preceding the Austronesian migrations.  The Aeta were included in the group of people termed Negrito during Spanish colonial rule asNegritos. Various Aeta groups in northern Luzon are known as Pugut or Pugot, a name designated by their Ilocano-speaking neighbors, and which is the colloquial term for those with darker complexions. In Ilocano, the word also means goblin or forest spirit.  However, these terms are considered by fellow Negritos of northern Luzon as inappropriate and offensive. HISTORY The Aeta people in the Philippines are Australo-Melanesians. Today other groups of Australo-Melanesians are the Aborigines in Australia, Papuans and the Melanesians of the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, New Caledonia etc. The history of the Aeta continues to confound anthropologists and archaeologists. One theory suggests that the Aeta are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Philippines, who, contrary to their seafaring Austronesian neighbors, arrived through land bridges that linked the country with the Asian mainland. Unlike many of their Austronesian counterparts, the Aetas have shown resistance to change. The attempts of theSpaniards to settle them in reducciones or reservations all throughout Spanish rule failed. The Aeta are an indigenous people who live in scattered, isolated mountainous parts of the Philippines. Aetas are considered as the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines, preceding the Austronesian migrations. They are nomadic and build only temporary shelters made of sticks driven to the ground and covered with the palm of banana leaves. The well-situated and more modernized Aetas have moved to villages and areas of cleared mountains. They live in houses made of bamboo and cogon grass. Aetas are found in Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga, Angeles, Olongapo, Panay, Bataan and Nueva Ecija. But because of the Mount Pinatubo eruption, some of them moved to resettlement areas in Pampanga and Tarlac. Mining, deforestation, illegal logging, and slash-and-burn farming has caused the indigenous population in all parts of the Philippines to steadily decrease to the point where they number in the thousands today. The Philippines affords them no protection. In addition, the Aeta have become extremely nomadic due to social and economic strain on their culture and way of life that had previously remained unchanged for thousands of years. Demographics The life expectancy at birth of the Aeta is just 16. 5 years, with only a third of children surviving to adulthood at 15 yearsÃ¢â¬â at which point life expectancy is still only 27. 3 years. Young women reach full adult height (average 140 cm (4 ft 7 in)) at age 12 or 13.  The most thorough longitudinal study done of any Aeta group (or any ethnic community) is available on the Web. Language All Aeta communities have adopted the language of their Austronesian Filipino neighbors, which have sometimes diverged over time to become different languages.  These include, in order of number of speakers, Mag-indi, Mag-antsi, Abellen, Ambala, and Mariveleno. Religion There are different views on the dominant character of the Aeta religion. Those who believe they are monotheistic argue that various Aeta tribes believe in a supreme being who rules over lesser spirits or deities, with the Aeta of Mt. Pinatubo worshipping Apo Na. The Aetas are also animists. For example, the Pinatubo Aeta believe in environmental spirits such as anito and kamana. They believe that good and evil spirits inhabit the environment, such as the spirits of the river, sea, sky, mountain, hill, valley and other places. No special occasion is needed for the Aeta to pray, although there is a clear link between prayer and economic activities. The Aeta dance before and after a pig hunt. The night before Aeta women gather shellfish, they perform a dance which is partly an apology to the fish and partly a charm to ensure the catch. Similarly, the men hold a bee dance before and after the expeditions for honey. In the mid-60s missionaries of the American-based Evangelical Protestant mission group New Tribes Mission, in their effort to reach every Philippine tribal group with the Christian Gospel reached out to the Agtas/Aetas. The mission agency provided education including pastoral training for natives to reach members of their own tribe. Today, a large percentage of Agtas/Aetas of Zambales and Pampanga are Evangelicals.  Jehovahs Witnesses also have members of the Aeta people. (See 1993 Yearbook of Jehovahs Witnesses) Clothing Their traditional clothing is very plain. The young women wear wrap around skirts. Elder women wear bark cloth, while elder men wear loin cloths. The old women of the Agta wear a bark cloth strip which passes between the legs, and is attached to a string around the waist. Today most Aeta who have been in contact with lowlanders have adopted the T-shirts, pants and rubber sandals commonly used by the latter. Practices The Aetas are skillful in weaving and plaiting. Women exclusively weave winnows and mats. Only men make armlets. They also produce raincoats made of palm leaves whose bases surround the neck of the wearer, and whose topmost part spreads like a fan all around the body. Medicine Aeta women are known around the country as experts of the herbal medicines. Art A traditional form of visual art is body scarification. The Aetas intentionally wound the skin on their back, arms, breast, legs, hands, calves and abdomen, and then they irritate the wounds with fire, lime and other means to form scars. Other decorative disfigurements include the chipping of the teeth. With the use of a file, the Dumagat modify their teeth during late puberty. The teeth are dyed black a few years afterwards. The Aetas generally use ornaments typical of people living in subsistence economies. Flowers and leaves are used as earplugs for certain occasions. Girdles, necklaces, and neckbands of braided rattan incorporated with wild pig bristles are frequently worn. Music The Aeta have a musical heritage consisting of various types of agung ensembles Ã¢â¬â ensembles composed of large hanging, suspended or held, bossed/knobbed gongs which act as drone without any accompanying melodic instrument. The original people of the Philippines were ancestors of the people known today as Negritos or Aeta. They are very small people with a dark skin and curly brown hair. The Aeta came 13000 10000 years ago from the Asian continent. In earlier times they lived widespread throughout the Philippines. Today they are living in the remote highland areas of Luzon, Palawan, Panay, Negros and Mindanao. About 2300 years ago Malayan people arrived from the mainland in the Philippines and brought a more advanced culture; dairy, iron melting and production of iron tools, pottery techniques and the system of sawahs (rice fields). The Aeta live in the northern part of the Philippines on the island of Luzon. Historians and anthropologists debate precisely when and how they migrated here, the consensus being that they crossed from the island of Borneo between 20 and 30 thousand years ago, using a land bridge that was partially covered by water around 5,000 years ago Ã¢â¬â the remaining part of which is now the island of Palawan. Whatever the migration path was, they are without doubt among the first Ã¢â¬â if not the first Ã¢â¬â inhabitants of the Philippines. One area of that country where the Aetas had lived for thousands of years was Mount Pinatubo. An active volcano, it erupted in June of 1991. The eruption was one of the worst in history and was devastating to the nearby Aeta population. Around a quarter million people lost their home Ã¢â¬â many of them Aetas. Although the Filipinos are still cleaning up the ash to this day, the Aetas have long since re-settled in urban areas of Luzon. It is doubtful they will ever return to their former homeland. Traditionally a hunting/ gathering people, the Aetas are still among the most skilled anywhere on earth in jungle survival. This skill was not overlooked by the US military. During the American war in Vietnam, the US naval base at Subic Bay was conveniently located close to the Aeta village of Pastolan. Many Vietnam veterans were trained in jungle survival here before they ever went to Vietnam. Other modern influences on the Aetas include inter-marriage with Filipinos and the games of pool and basketball. That last one is a surprise when you realize that many Aetas are less that 5 feet tall! Although the Aetas were among the first inhabitants of the Philippines, natural disasters and exploitation of their land for natural resources have acted over the years to displace many of them. However, the government has recently paid more attention and respect to their heritage and way of life through organizations such asThe Indigenous People Development Plan. As recently as February 2nd, 2001 the Aetas in these pictures were granted Ancestral Domain Title to their land. The official certificate reads that this title was granted in virtue of their having continuously occupied, possessed and utilized [the land] since time immimorial. Interestingly, it is written neither in Aeta Ambala, their tribal language (for which a writing system was developed only in the second half of the 20th Century, and which few Aetas speak any more), nor in Tagalog, the most widely spoken language in the Philippines, rather it is written in English. Aeta children go to school these days. Here the curriculum is no different from that followed by their Filipino peers. The subjects taught include English, culture and good manners. The school in the village is desperately short of materials though. The Aeta (eye-ta) are one of the ethnic tribal groups in the Philippines. Alternatively called Agta, Atta, Ita, Ati, Negritos, or Pugut, they are a dark-skinned people with curly hair, big black eyes, and short statures. These people are believed to be the descendants of the original settlers of the Philippines. Like the Spanish negrito, or little black one, the term Aeta (and its many variations) is often believed to be a reference to the peoples skin color. Etymological research suggests that the name may come from the word it, which can be extended into itim or itom, meaning black in various Philippine languages. The word Pugut, meanwhile, means forest spirit, alluding to the Aetas lifestyle. The Aetas native religion is quite interesting. For example, they believe in a supreme being but also worship numerous deities who may or may not be under this supreme beings direct command. Anthropologists also suggest that the group are animists, praying to spirits of the trees, forest, and so forth. Until recently, the Aeta have preferred their traditional dress of simple wraparound skirts (women) and g-strings (men) to conventional modern clothing. They also liked to participate in body scarification, which they viewed as marks of beauty. Nowadays, however, they can be found garbed in t-shirts and rubber sandals, and most young people no longer see this type of body modification as necessary.