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Pampanga Aetas face discrimination over ‘bat diet' amid COVID pandemic

The indigenous Aeta group Mag-Indi in Porac, Pampanga have experienced discrimination over their diet that includes bats.

In a press briefing on Sunday, a study by the University of the Philippines and the United Nations Economic, Social, and Cultural Organization presented challenges of the IPs in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that reportedly began from bats in China.

“…Sinasabi ng mga taga-patag na sa Aeta nanggaling  ang COVID-19 na naka-ugat  sa diskriminasyon,” one of the researchers July Sumayop said.

According to the report, some Kapampangans alleged that the virus actually came from the Aeta because they eat bats. Thus, they  are avoided when they go downtown or o the lowlands.

“The non Aytas of Pampanga were reportedly spreading the rumor that the COVID-19 virus came from the IPs as they too eat bats, where the virus is reported to have emanated from in China,” it said.

Even the Aetas already have reservations in making contact with outsiders as they believe they are more prone to the infection, which they do not want to carry back to their community.

Aside from the discrimination, Aetas also faced challenges in getting help from the government and accessing personal protective equipment to protect them from COVID-19.

Sumayop noted that a cash subsidy for only 27 families were given to 250 Aeta families from the Social Amelioration Program, a cash assistance of the government to households affected by the pandemic.

“Hindi rin lahat ng katutubo ay nabigyan ng tama at sapat na ayuda. Sa Barangay Planas, pinaghatihatian ng mahigit kumulang 250 na pamilya ang ayuda  na dapat ay sa 27 na pamilya lamang,” he said.

He added that Aetas lacked of access to PPEs required by the local government. Due to this, they have resorted to creating makeshift banana leaf face masks just to comply with the regulation.

According to Sumayop, the Aytas were also left behind in education as the learning modules provided to them are not written in their own dialect.

“Dahil na rin sa programa  ng DepEd na blended learning program  na isinusulong ngayong pandemya,  ay isinantabi nito  ang department order na nagpapatibay sa kahalagahan  ng Indigenous Peoples (IP) education curriculum integration,” he said.

“Ang mga module ay nakasulat sa Ingles, Tagalog, at Kapampangan, ngunit walang module  na nakasulat sa Aeta Mag-indi,” he added.

The study of UP’s Center for Integrative and Development Studies, Program on Alternative Development with the UNESCO covered the accounts of Aetas from Barangays Camias and Planas in Porac.

Aside from the Aetas, the report titled “Marginalized Societies and the State in the time of Pandemic: The Philippine Case” also conducted a study on the impact of the pandemic to a Lumad “Bakwit” School teaching staff, urban poor community, women’s social enterprise cooperative, and community health worker’s group. —LBG, GMA News