Kyoto University Professor Himoru Shimizu emphasized that although the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 caused a crisis to the indigenous peoples group Pinatubo Ayta, it also served as a driving force for their rapid social formation.
Shimizu, an anthropologist who specializes in Philippine cultural case studies of Ifugao and now Pinatubo Ayta, presented his research entitled “Eruption, Exodus and Ethnogenesis: Anthropology of Engagement for 40 Years with Pinatubo Ayta” and shared his experiences with the Ayta affected by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.
Shimizu revealed that during his service mission in the areas surrounding Mt. Pinatubo, Ayta lived an agricultural lifestyle by “cultivating rice, corn, bananas, beans and roots crops.”
Hunting birds and bats, fishing, and collecting wild vegetables was their secondary way of living.
However, the eruption brought about fatalities: 103 of the Ayta got burned to death from refusing to evacuate to lowland towns while 600 died from diseases acquired in the evacuation centers.
“At that time, there were total dependencies on relief goods and food-or-cash-for-work programs by the government and NGOs for a couple of years,” Shimizu stated.
However, the tribe succeeded in the rehabilitation and the reconstruction of their lives.
Aftermath of the eruption
Amidst the aid received from the authorities, 10-20 percent of the families went back to the mountains to resume their previous style of living.
“Many remained in the resettlements sites provided and became wage laborers in construction sites, informal sectors and lowlanders’ farm lands while the remaining periodically went back to mountains to conduct shifting cultivation as supplementary subsistence,” Shimizu stressed.
He also added that those who remained acquired job opportunities in redevelopment projects in Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base, which were returned to the Philippine government in 1992 due to the eruption and termination of Base Treaty. Some sold products to visitors in village, became beauticians, and teachers, adapting to the people in the villages near the resettlement area.
Shimizu heeded on the crucial role played by international organizations, NGOs and foreign governments, acknowledging the efforts of government authorities.
“Their ethnic and consciousness as indigenous Pinatubo Ayta was strengthened with katutubo and kultura as key words through frequent interactions with lowlanders, journalists; seminar workshops conducted by NGO for empowerment, community organization and the establishment of Central Luzon Ayta Association (CLAA),” he said.
Aside from that, Shimizu admired the resilience of the Ayta and noted it as a “guiding principle for the Japanese people” whenever massive calamities hit their country. He reminded that though the Pinatubo Ayta went through suffering and adversities, they remained “positive that such sustainability will prevail.”
The forum was conducted last August 5 in the Finster Auditorium as part of the Social Sciences Lecture Series and the 2nd Plenary Forum of The Contemporary World.