Author’s Note: Trusted relatives, who live directly across the street from us, provided me with the details of this visit about a week after it occurred. They delayed relating their account of what happened that night to me out of a consideration for my possibly becoming frightened, upset or displaying some other form of strange reaction. After all, episodes such as these are extremely rare (the last occurring a few years ago) and they didn’t want to test my sensibilities right away. At the time of the visit, I was fast asleep, courtesy of some prescribed sleeping aids.
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Baket ko (Asawa ko) [My wife] Emy and I were spending a little time relaxing and chatting with relatives and friends a night or two ago. Here in the province, especially away from the town proper, there isn’t much excitement or activity going on after dark. After eating and before bedtime is a nice, quiet time of day when the breezes are cool and enjoyable. Friends or relatives will gather for a chat session and pass the “local news” around as well as just entertaining each other with tsismis [idle talk].
One nephew had something he wanted to tell us, and directed his comments toward me. I listened as best as I could and he spoke as best he could – mostly English but some Ilocano. Knowing that I understand just a little Ilocano, he spoke a little slower than he would have, given the little excitement in his voice.
The conversation went something like this:
Nephew (N): Did you see them, Uncle?
Me (P): Who?
N: Your visitors the other night.
P: Which night?
N: The night with no moon.
P: The new moon?
N: Wen, wen (o-o) [yes, yes] the new moon.
P: Sabado [Saturday]?
N: Wen, Saturday night.
I thought for a second – I couldn’t remember having any visitors last Saturday. Emy and I had spent the day in Laoag City. After we returned home, we ate then spent some time outside enjoying a nice cool breeze and chatting with the katulong. We turned in for the night early, as our day was a bit tiring. No, I couldn’t recall any visitors arriving on Saturday.
P: What time was this?
N: When all the dogs started barking – about midnight. Didn’t you hear all the dogs barking?
P: Saan (hindi) [no] – I was sleeping.
N: Dogs barking woke me up. You didn’t wake up from dogs?
My nephew was surprised that I could sleep through all the barking that went on. Those prescribed sleeping aids really do work. I didn’t awaken for anything. Emy said she did and that she nudged my elbow and asked me about the dogs. Getting no response from me other than a possible snore, she rolled back over and tried to get back to sleep.
N: Then you missed them.
P: Wen, I guess I missed them.
N: I heard all the dogs barking so I got up, went outside to see why. That’s when I saw them.
P: Who was it?
N: The little people.
P: The little people?
N: Wen, you know, the little people.
Now I’m wondering what in the heck goes on while I’m deeply asleep. What adventures do I sleep through?
P: Little people; you mean like dwende [mythical dwarves]?
N: Saan – dogs don’t bark at dwende. All the dogs were barking. Those weren’t dwende.
P: Who could they be?
N: People from the mountain, we call them “Pugot” [a nocturnal creature in Ilocano mythology; a slang term given to small people or spirits of the forests and mountains] but they’re really not pugot. They’re like people from the volcano in Pampanga.
P: Mt. Pinatubo?
N: Wen, Pinatubo – small people, very dark.
N: Wen, that’s it – Aeta people. I saw them at your gate. They were looking in. When they heard me, they all ran away. I think they were running back to the mountains. But they were there, looking into your gate. Maybe three or four of them. Then they ran away.
My nephew then went on to tell me about what he saw. He was kind enough to let me know that these Aeta were not in their traditional costumes and didn’t have any weapons that he could see. They were wearing t-shirts, shorts and rubber flip-flops. They were very dark skinned, had curly hair, and ran real fast. Their clothes were dirty so they must have come down from the mountains – about an 18 km walk.
He continued to say that three or four years ago, when there were some typhoons passing through and flooding a couple of Aeta relocation centers (where some of the Pinatubo Aetas were taken after the 1991 eruption), the government started to “redistribute them” in other provinces. He said that his friend saw a government dump truck unload about fifteen Aeta here, north of Pasuquin proper. If true, then there appears to be Aeta in the area, AND I MISSED SEEING THEM.
Aeta (a collective name given to these people – different tribes have their own names that they prefer to be known by – the Spanish called them “Negritos” or little black ones) are the descendants of the indigenous people of the Philippines. Their numbers are dwindling, and they are the most discriminated against people in the Philippines. Traditionally, they are from the mountain forests (though at one time they did inhabit the lowlands) and are nomadic. They literally live off the land and are experts in jungle survival. They were the top instructors at the Air Force Jungle Survival School near the old Clark Air Base – many servicemen passed through that school on their way to Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.
Here was a chance for a nocturnal, cultural adventure, AND I SLEPT RIGHT THROUGH IT!