Powerful Oppressors In Aurora

December 7, 2012

Friends,
It is sad that there is so much controversy around what is going on in Aurora, Philippines. For anyone who cares about human rights (certainly, at least their own), it should not be that difficult to understand that APECO is not upholding justice. It is truly strange to read some of the comments at the news articles as they criticize the Agta and the peasants who don’t want to have their land taken away from them. Are we really supposed to accept the demand that they give up their ancestral land (see my dad’s article below), as well as their livelihood, just so others can take the land and make a profitable empire for themselves? Why should the land be given to those who, under the name “APECO”, are the ones who are set to gain even more wealth and power and control?

Let me put this as personally as I can: Let’s say that you, dear Reader, have been told to get off your land by those in power who want it. On that land, you fish and hunt and provide a livelihood for your family. So do all of your relatives, for you have all lived there for over two thousand years. Now, you’ve been approached by those who are politically powerful who say the land should belong to them. And why? Because, they say, they are going to use the land for better purposes. They say that you and your relatives will be given jobs, yet you know that this means that only a few of you will be hired, and only for the most menial and low-paying jobs, if that. The high-paying jobs will be given to all those who helped the politically powerful yank the land away from you. So, in truth, you would be left with nothing. Would this be fair? Would you not be appalled if a debate arose as to whether or not this should be allowed? If it was happening to YOU, I’m sure you would not consider it to have any ethical grounds whatsoever.

What does God say about such things? Well, in Isa. 1:17 we hear Him saying, “Learn to do right! Seek justice, reprove the oppressor. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Is it understood that the Agta have been so poverty-stricken that when they become malnourished or sick or injured they have virtually no medical help and they usually just die? And that because of this, there are many widows and widowers, as well as numerous parentless children? What does the New Testament inform us regarding this? We are told that God considers our religion to be real only if we look after such people in their distress (James 1:27), and that negligence of such actions will keep us from inheriting eternal life. (Matt. 25:31-46) As Jesus says, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.” (v. 45)

What does it mean to look after oppressed people? It means to help them in any way we can –just as we would want to be helped. (Matt. 7:12) If that means defending their human rights from the rich and powerful who want to discard them as if their needs and feelings and well-being are of no consequence, then this is what we must do. The least we can do is to inform everyone we can so that they too can inform everyone they can. For when the world learns of injustices, it is much harder for the perpetrators to carry out their unjust plans.

More than this, we can pray. We should get on our knees and pray for those whom God cares deeply about –the poor, the mistreated, the fatherless, and the widow. We should pray that God’s will, not men’s will, will be done. And we should let the Lord know that we believe His Word –such as Ps. 140:12: “I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” If God tells us in Isa. 1:17 to plead the case of the widow, then even if we can’t plead it before human authorities, we sure can do it before God –and He commands that we do so. (1 Sam. 12:23 // Isa. 58:6,7)

Please inform the world of the injustice going on in Aurora. Here are two more news articles:

http://www.asiacalling.kbr68h.com/ur/news/philippines/2529-filipinos-reject-mega-project-in-pristine-area

http://www.rappler.com/video/17384-casiguran-locals-continue-march-against-apeco

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Here is my dad’s article:

How long have the Agta people lived on the San Ildefonso Peninsula in northern Aurora, Philippines?
(By Thomas N. Headland, December 7, 2012)

The short answer to this question is several thousand years. The Agta Negritos are called the aborigines of the Philippines. They are the descendants of the earliest humans to have entered the Philippines islands at least 30,000 years ago. (The first non-Negrito Malayo-Polynesian people entered the Philippines only 4,500 years ago.) Most scholars believe the Agta have lived on the San Ildefonso Peninsula since before the time of Christ. Because the geographical names of most of the rivers in the area are indigenous words in the Agta language, we can assume that the Agta people were there long before the first non-Negrito Filipinos began settling in the area only a few hundred years ago, with the date of the founding of the first town in northern Aurora, Casiguran, in 1609. This town (which is not on the Peninsula) was composed of non-Agta Filipino farmers. By this time Agta family groups had been living on the Peninsula for thousands of years.

The first known photos taken of the San Ildefonso Agta were taken in 1872 by a German anthropologist named Adolf Bernard Meyer, one of which is published by Thomas Headland in his book The Agta People: A Photographic Depiction (SIL, Dallas, 2011, p.v). The second set of photos of Agta on the Peninsula were taken by a U.S. Army pilot, Lt. George Goddard, in the 1920s, and were published in 1930 in National Geographic magazine, volume 58, pp. 311-342.

A Catholic priest and anthropologist named Father Morice Vanoverbergh did the first scientific study of the San Ildefonso Agta during a trip through the Peninsula in 1936, when he took a detailed census of the Agta there, numbering then 476 Agta. The names of all of these individuals are listed in Vanoverbergh’s report published in 1937-1938 on pages 139 to 147 in the journal Anthropos, volume 32 and 33. Vanoverbergh did not report finding any non-Agta Filipinos living on the Peninsula in 1936. This is not quite correct, however. The first known non-Agta family to settle on the Peninsula was at Disubek River in 1909, and by the 1930s there were around a dozen non-Agta families living on the Peninsula.

The names of over one thousand Agta who live presently on the San Ildefonso Peninsula, or have lived there at any time since the early 20th century, are listed in the Agta Demographic Database: Chronicle of a Hunter-Gatherer Community In Transition, published online in 2011 with facial photos of each person, each photo with the name of the person, date of birth, death, and names of the person’s mother, father, and spouse.

Thomas N. Headland, Ph.D.
Senior Anthropology Consultant
SIL International
Dallas, Texas, USA
WebPage: http://www.sil.org/~headlandt/

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