By Mutya Valenzuela
Our initial plan for our first visit to Zambales province was to meet with the indigenous Aeta community in Sitio Lahong, Barangay Cadmang Reserva in the Municipality of Cabangan. The crew was made up of us at HAPI National and the leaders of HAPI-Zambales in partnership with the Cabangan Bushwhackers, led by Amonskee Sindanum.
Unfortunately, due to the sudden imposition of lockdown in the province because of the alarmingly high cases of COVID-19, we were stopped at a checkpoint. The authorities explained to us that the ocular would not be possible at the moment due to the situation and for the safety of our Aeta brothers and sisters, we complied.
120 packs of bread rolls from Rabang’s Bakery (owned by HAPI-Zambales leaders Van and Garry) were left in the care of Barangay Chairman Bo Alinea and his team. Later that day, they distributed it to the people who were affected by the lockdown.
Together with HAPI Zambales and Cabangan Bushwhackers, we had a short but efficient meeting under a mango tree. We were lucky to have Amonskee with us who happened to be the person that helps our Aeta brothers and sisters. During a discussion about what kind of help we could provide them, HAPI suggested a sustainable project that could have an educational component for the Aetas to be able to help themselves in the future.
During our trip, we also visited a boy living with HIV to show our love and support. We gave him chocolate drinks, biscuits, and some art materials. It is said that art activities improve the mental health of one person, so this was lovely!
Because of the sudden lockdown, a lot of struggles happened during our first day in Zambales, but we were still happy with the experience, as we met a lot of good people in the end. And that is always priceless!