Building a dream

Building a dream

I am an Aeta, and our life is in the mountains. This is our cycle: we get married, we farm, we raise a family. School was never an option, for the forest and mountains sustain us. But I am an Aeta, and I have longed to go to school.  

When Mount Pinatubo erupted, everything changed.

Botolanwa, our community, was devastated. We had to leave behind everything - our homes, our crops, our livelihood. Additionally, lowlanders alienated and discriminated against us. They insulted our appearance and our lack of education. Our children were bullied and teased. The adults couldn’t find decent jobs.

My people’s suffering opened my eyes.  

After Pinatubo, we had to adapt. My fellow Aeta leaders and I underwent training from an NGO called Education for Life. We learned about leadership, networking, and how to expand our worldview.

From then on, I began to dream more for our people’s future. I dreamt of our children studying and growing in our own community school. I dreamt of them learning and preserving our indigenous knowledge and practices.

In 2012, LAKAS high school finally opened. This school was a fulfillment of our dreams, where our youth could be educated in a system rooted in our culture. We started with 28 to 50 students. Now, about 179 Aeta students attend the school.

Our elders have realized the need to rethink our customs in these changing times. We should not push our children to marry early.  We need to value their education. We need to learn how to interact and engage with lowland communities, without losing our identity and culture. We need to prepare for their future and not just have “sapat”, or enough, for the day.

We are now a respected people.

Our decisions are heard, and we make our own choices, without the dictates of politics or religion. Our community and culture continues to grow strong.

But I still dream. Where there was once the dream of a high school, there is now a dream of a college - a place for young Aetas to continue to cultivate our customary law and culture, in this evolving world.

Already we reap the benefits of education. We have successful Aeta professionals: teachers, accountants, IT experts, and even an aspiring lawyer. There are young Aetas who travelled and studied abroad, with the help of our partners. They begin to rethink solutions for our community needs. They come back to help our community.

I was a school dropout, but it never stopped me from dreaming. I know who I am, and who we are as a people. I have less money, but I am rich in knowledge. I am an Aeta. I stand tall and proud.


Ka Carling, community leader and dreamer, passed away last February 2, 2019. He dedicated his life in service of the Aetas in Botolan, and he also served as a voice for indigenous communities in our country in various fields. Carling’s dream is to create a space for young Aetas to continue to cultivate their customary law and culture in this evolving world. We hope to help his community make this dream a reality. If you would like to learn more on how you can support this advocacy, contact our team. 


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  • Douglas Yballe

    Having helped the tribal pilipinos, T’boli, Aeta, Nangyan, Dumagat etc. Thank God we have National Commision on Indeginous People that gives free education, land and medical help! They are intelligent and natural survivalists!

  • Douglas Yballe

    Having helped the tribal pilipinos, T’boli, Aeta, Nangyan, Dumagat etc. Thank God we have National Commision on Indeginous People that gives free education, land and medical help! They are intelligent and natural survivalists!

  • Angelina L. Pacinabao

    I was crying as I read about Aetas and their STRUGGLES for their IDENTITY as Filipinos & as Children of God….I could relate with You them as I have worked as " IP COORDINATOR ", for my Beloved TBOLI TRIBE ( am a Retired Teacher now),…like you,… they suffered a lot!
    However,… they have now Tboli Town, an only Indigeous Town in South Cotabato..
    I would love to learn of your own " AETAS’ TOWN " someday,…that would SHOWCASE the UNIQUENESS of your own INNATE CULTURE, CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS! GOD BLESS US ALL!

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