Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Last Refuge

The Aeta's of the Philippines have been around long before the Filipino settlers came. They are the first in-habitants of the Philippine Islands. They live in isolated parts of Luzon and are scattered in the forest of Philippines. They came to Philippines some 30,000 years ago and have a strong resistance to change, thus keeping their culture and life style. Historians however do debate on the how and when the Aeta's have migrated to the Philippines. General consensus though is that using land bridges—a migration that can only occur when the lands are still interconnected in some ways.

Artifacts found from areas where the Aeta lives suggests they may have lived in the lower areas of the land before gradually going up deeper and higher in-lands from subsequent immigrants like the Spaniards.

Aetas are very skilled with jungle survival and even though they are primary gathers their skills for jungle survival were sought by the US military during the Vietnam war. The US naval base at Subic Bay had an Aeta village nearby and many of the Vietnam veterans were trained in the jungle survival before they went to Vietnam.

This DVD called the Last Refuge—was premiered at the HAWAII INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. Available in DVD now for the first time. This powerful documentary depicts the struggle of the Aetas, believed to be the first inhabitants of the Philippines, to survive. Filmmaker Matthew Westfall intertwines rare archival footage, declassified US military films, extensive field shooting in isolated upland communities, and the only known film footage of Mt. Pinatubo before its catastrophic eruption in 1991, to trace the history of these tribal people from their present day struggle for self-reliance and empowerment to nearly 20,000 years ago when they came to the Philippines via land bridges from mainland Asia.

Weathering Spanish colonizers who attempted to eradicate these "uncivilized savages" after their refusal to be Christianized, the Aetas were granted reservations by the US Government in the 1920s to protect them from outside abuses. With the advent of the Vietnam War, the Aetas were tapped to lead a top secret US Navy jungle survival training program that helped save the lives of numerous US pilots shot down over the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Today, amid relentless forces of modernity and change, the Aetas struggle to maintain their identify and culture against all odds.

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