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The Aeta Village Project in Batangas

In late January 2020, RIMM was informed about a 64 family AETA tribe relocating from the beach because the present resort owners apparently were reluctant to continue their presence there and also because of tsunami concerns pertaining to earthquakes related to the January 10 Taal Volcano eruption.
The AETA tribe had finalized the purchase of a small and steep hillside plot subdivided into 61 lots as if on level land. Removal of coconut trees, other vegetation and leveling of the tiny parcels by individual families left the area vulnerable to extensive erosion. The site is presently also only accessible by a footpath along and through a stream bed marked as a future barangay road and will therefore be extremely dangerous to access during the rainy season. Children are then not able to go to school for at least two months and are forced to “study” at home w/o electricity while the men only face limited employment in the construction and service industry during this time period.

Feb. 19 – During RIMM’s initial visit, we also visited the former village location and offered assistance with reconfiguration of the lots on the new mountain parcel along with effective erosion control as the lots had been laid out as if the site was flat land. The offer was declined by the AETA council as some families had already constructed homes along with the feeling of ownership security and thought that they could handle it.

Feb. 28 – RIMM conducted its first support mission with Rotarian (Sergeant) Jun, Pres. Henry, PE Lito, and PP Klaus driving the van filled “to the gills” with clothing, rice, vitamins and tarps largely donated by DSWD for this purpose and supplemented by RIMM with other items such as floor mats, etc.

Feb. 29 – Supported by the Mayor of Alfonso, RIMM provided further assistance to the AETA village. Gina. Vedan, Municipal Social Officer (MSO) of Alfonso, Cavite (Department of Social Welfare & Development -DSWD) and the Mayor’s uncle Fred drove in the city’s king cab truck filled with food, school and hygiene supplies, buckets, dippers, blankets, etc. Rotarian (Sergeant) Jun, Pres. Hide, and PP Klaus drove in the RIMM van, also overloaded with supplies. On site at the AETA village was already an energetic and dedicated group of Catholic nuns who supplied water, medical supplies, some clothing, etc., while also running an effective soup kitchen as well as a medical mission.
Discussions were held with the village chief and village council pertaining to further needs such as a generator, a chainsaw, more reliable metal roofing they desired and further housing needs.

March 3 – PE (President Elect) Lito writes letter to a nonprofit, requesting assistance with solar for the AETA village. “Rotary Club of Multinational Manila is currently and actively involved in helping/sourcing/facilitating assistance for an Aeta community comprising of 64 families largely displaced as the result of the recent eruption of Taal Volcano and are now relocated in San Luis, Batangas.”

March 7 – The bamboo discovered for sale on Feb. 29 along a Batangas roadside was subsequently purchased by RIMM for further AETA village home construction. With Rotarian (Sergeant) Baurile leading the way in his own car, 100 pieces of good quality bamboo about 15 feet long were delivered to the AETA village drop-off site in a rented truck along with P15,000 cash.

March 11 – A large cooperative effort before the Covid-19 lockdown between DSWD, Alfonso Mayor Randy and our club who paid for the P8,000 rental of the large truck, brought needed supplies not only to the AETA village but also primarily to about 600 families in Agonzillo whose barangay was heavily affected by heavy ash fall from the Jan. 10, 2020 Taal Volcano eruption. For the AETA villagers RIMM provided a small generator, a 10 liter gas can with gasoline, a 20-inch chain saw, 2 liters of small engine oil, and six small cans T-2 oil for a two cycle engine (chain saw). P5,000 was also provided in cash for further direct purchases of needed materials by the villagers such as requested hollow tile for initial “permanent” erosion control measures protecting the newly constructed tribal meeting hall. 13 metal drums, toys, 64+ banigs (floor sleeping mats), tarps, etc. were also provided from Alfonso’s emergency relief supplies. Club Rotarian Jun demonstrated how to operate the generator and chainsaw. One of the villagers is a chainsaw operator on his part-time job. Emergency supplies were also provided to nearby families as well as members of the AETA tribe who had not yet relocated to their new village.
With the bamboo and part of the cash provided on March 7, the villagers had already purchased needed materials for their new tribal meeting hall while waiting for some of the ordered metal roofing sheets to be delivered. Because of the sudden Covid-19 lockdown, RIMM could not visit the site for further purchase of the roofing sheets not could it send money by wire.

March 30 – IPP Raymund was finally able to wire P60,000 for further purchase of additional metal roofing sheets as desired by the tribe to complete the basic roofing of 37 homes already partially constructed on site. P50,000 was a Rotary District grant received by RIMM from Governor Liza for this specific purchase. The additional P10,000 from RIMM were immediately used to buy materials for the continued construction of the tribal hall and payment for their Aeta laborers.

May 13 – The first roofing sheets were finally delivered after a temporary easing of the lockdown. Out of 37 Aeta households a total of 26 were given 5 roof sheets each while 11 are still waiting for their roof sheets to be delivered to them because of the lockdown. Additional bamboo needed for clipping the bamboo to the roof sheets, for flooring inside the house, for walls to insulate further the house, and for making tables & chairs could not be purchased by RIMM yet and delivered because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

With the lockdown still in effect in Lemery, the village is still waiting for the delivery of metal roofing sheets for the remsining 11 of the 37 homes already contructd on site.

July 11 – Honorary Rotarian Jun drove to Lemery and Taal Batangas, investigating the quality and price of 150 pieces of bamboo inclusive of delivery and ordered 150 pieces at P45,000. Despite the still Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) still in effect, he was able to finally initiate this mission, As a FRONTLINER (A frontliner is an individual whose call of duty and expertise is needed & appreciated during the Covid-19 pandemic in all its aspects one can think of), he was the only person authorized to pass through the tight checkpoints. The needs are great now because the rainy season had already started a while ago.

July 15 – Rotarian Jun delivers P22,500 from RIMM for ½ the cost of the bamboo to start the selection, cutting and storage for pickup on July 18.

July 18 – Rotarian Jun delivered the final 22,500 from RIMM for the purchase of the bamboo. He supervised the loading of the rented truck and, driving his car, guided it past four checkpoints through Batangas and Lemery to San Luis. Non-residents are required to coordinate with the Local Government Units (LGU) of Lemery and Batangas to provide necessary documents such as travel passes from the Phil. National Police (PNP) that must also include health certificates, etc. in order to enter or pass through their jurisdictions. But as a frontliner and a member of the Philippine Army Reserve Command, he was able to pass freely and deliver the bamboo to the indigent Aeta tribe at Brgy. Banoyo in San Luis. The LGU in San Luis had also given him permission to deliver the bamboo provided it is unloaded without talking and that after unloading he and the delivery truck driver return immediately. The LGU has to protect the indigenous Aeta tribe from being exposed to and becoming infected with Covid-19 due to their small population.

Scholarships

RIMM’s RY2020-2021 Scholarship program focused on finding out the needs and interviewing senior high school and college-bound students in the three indigent camps (Camp Hope, Usting 1, Usting 2) it was supporting as well those at the new AETA village project. As the number of deserving applicants grew to 32 students, RIMM’s initial P100,000 earmarked for the project was matched with another P100,000 in personal funds by Rotary District Governor Liza. The number of students was subsequently reduced to 30 because of personal circumstances of two of the students. Raymond Orio of Usting 2 whose parents preferred him to stay in Samar due to the fear of the high Covid-19 infection rate in Cavite and Lhea de la Luna of Aeta who is suffering from a curved spine due to Tuberculosis (TB) bone disease were removed from the scholarship list and are being provided with financial support instead. Lhea is being assisted with her medical needs and Raymond’s family with roofing sheets for their Samar mountain nipa hut home.
Because of the Covid-19 lockdown and on-line classes, it was suggested by incoming Pres. Manilito Mondejar and supportive teachers that providing computer tablets would be the best competitive learning environment for the students. After exhaustive research that included making sure that all sites were internet accessible, receiving feedback from each student, and searching the market for the best computer tablets at a reasonable price, it was decided to purchase 22 Samsung 2019 tablets and provide them to students as an initial loan to make sure that the students diligently pursue their studies, to be finalized as a gift a year later.
Another eight students preferred financial assistance which will be P2,000 per semester or P4,000/school year depending on needs. A minimum of P32,000 has therefore been set aside from the Scholarship fund for the financial assistance of the said 8 students. Also, of the eight AETA Scholarship recipients (six in senior high school and two in college) five preferred tablets while three, inclusive of Lhea, preferred financial assistance.

The above photo of six of the eight AETA scholarship recipients was provided to RIMM on July 31, 2020, for inclusion in this report. It shows the students standing in front of the AETA mountain village tribal meeting hall being completed. Two additional students are not shown in the photo as they were working.

On July 31 RIMM also wired another P15,000 to the AETA secretary for the purchase of rice for all the families as they were running out of food during the continued lockdown despite many of the men working.

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