The Aetas: Religious Beliefs and Practices

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  • Topic: Provinces of the Philippines, Mindanao, Regions of the Philippines
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  • Published : December 8, 2010
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All Aeta communities have adopted the language of their Austronesian 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 Mariveleño. II. CUSTOMS/ TRADITIONS

Religious Beliefs and Practices
There are divergent 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 rule over lesser spirits or deities. The Mamanua believe in the supreme Magbabaya while the Pinatubo Aeta worships Apo Namalyari. According to anthropologist E. Arsenio Manuel, the Agta believe in a supreme being named Gutugutumakkan. Manuel notes other lesser deities of the Agta; Kedes, the god of hunting; Pawi, the god of the forest; and Sedsed, the god of the sea. There are four manifestations of the "great creator" who rules the world: Tigbalog is the source of life and action; Lueve takes care of production and growth; Amas moves people to pity, love, unity, and peace of heart; while Binangewan is responsible for change, sickness, and death. These spirits inhabit the balete tree.

After the bride and the groom have fed each other with a handful of rice supposedly blessed by god, a “mabalian” or a priest conducting the ritual would gently knock the couples’ heads to perfect the marital vow.

The traditional clothing of the Aeta is very simple. Cloth wraparound skirts are worn by the women when young. Elder women wear bark cloth, and the elder men loincloths. 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.

The Aeta have a musical heritage consisting of various types of agung ensembles - ensembles composed of large hanging, suspended or held, bossed/knobbed gongs which act as drone without any accompanying melodic instrument. •Livelihood/ Handicraft

The most common form of Aeta visual art is the etching found in their daily tools and implements. This is done on the outer surfaces of various household containers/utensils and ornaments. Bamboo combs are decorated with incised angular patterns. Geometric designs are etched on arrow shafts.They are also skillful in weaving and plaiting. For example, the Mamanua, like other Aeta groups, produce excellent nego or winnowing baskets, duyan or rattan hammocks, and other household containers.

Aetas are found in Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga, Angeles, Olongapo, Panay, Bataan and Nueva Ecija. But because of the Mount Pinatubo eruption, some of them move to resettlement areas in Pampanga and Tarlac.

The basic culture is dry cultivation of a broad range of food plants including rice, supplemented by food gathering and hunting. Culture change is in an advanced stage. The B’laan language is classified in a group that includes the Tiruray and T’boli, which are distinct from the central Philippine group. The same pattern of scattered settlements exists among the group although the houses generally remain within sight of each other near swidden fields. Rice, corn, and millet are planted. Corn is gradually supplanting rice as the staple. Gardens are planted to sugar cane, bananas, and rootcrops. Each neighborhood is organized under a local datu who has autonomous authority over an area depending on his personal influence. The position is supposedly hereditary and follows a rule of the firstborn assuming the position. The lebe is the B’laan equivalent of the Bagobo magani.

B'laans adheres to sedentary form of agriculture and engage in other economic endeavors for their subsistence and development. Although many have...
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