MANILA, Sept. 29, 2015 – The Catholic conversion of an Aeta community in Zambales after it was displaced by Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991 was ushered in by an integrated development program that benefited the locals on a holistic level, a senior official of a religious foundation said in a recent interview.
“The various livelihoods that we initiated for them were instrumental in their conversion,” said Sr. Eva Fidela Maamo, SPC, Foundation of Our Lady of Peace Mission, Inc. (FOLPMI) president.
‘God of Christians’
“They saw the God of Christians in the people who helped them rebuild their lives,” she added.
Starving, sick, and shaken, the Aetas were relocated by FOLPMI to a 33-hectare land that the Jesuits donated to them, Maamo said.
“We gave them food, cloth, medicine and assured to help them rebuild their community and lives,” she said.
The foundation, in collaboration with government and non-government organizations and charitable individuals, gave them hogs, chickens, fish, crops to grow, and land to grow them on, Maamo, a surgeon, explained.
Cottage industry, including weaving, peanut butter-making, sewing were also introduced.
The livelihood programs
After about three years after the relocation, the Aetas began to abandon the practice of polygamy, she said.
Formerly worshipping Apo (Mt. Pinatubo), today the community of Aetas, 130 families or 700 people, are all Catholics. Children are baptized Catholics.
The chapel built for them is now too small to accommodate their growing number, Maamo said.
Pre-school, primary and secondary schools were also built.
On Sept. 7, the Aetas signed a Memorandum Of Agreement (MOA) on a Php 600, 000 government grant for a reforestation of a 100-hectare protected land in Castillejos town. (Oliver Samson / CBCP News)