DepEd Textbook Claiming Aetas are natives of Mt. Province draws fire

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines–A book that is being used by Grade 4 students under the K-to-12 program is replete with factual errors that promotes misconceptions about ethnic tribal groups and should be pulled out from the public school system, critics and netizens said here.

“Where did the author or authors get the idea or information that Aetas are natives of the Mt. Province?” Jack Balloguing (not his real name) said. “This is a grave error and unpardonable ignorance of the writers about the real people inhabiting the Mt. Province.”

Balloguing was referring to the student’s workbook titled “Edukasyon sa Pagkatao” under “Kultura nga Mga Pangkat Etniko, Mahalagang Malaman.”

On page 214 of the book, there is an entry that says, in part, “Tinatayang may humigit kumulang 180 pangkat etniko sa Pilipinas. Sa Luzon ilan sa mga kilala ang mga Aeta sa Mountain Province, Bikolano sa Kabikulan, Gaddang at Ibanag sa Gitnang Luzon, Ivatan sa Batanes, Mangyan sa Mindoro, Tagalog sa Kamaynilaan, Bisaya sa Kabisayaan…”

“There was not even a mention of Igorot or Cordilleran, the collective name of the people living, not only in Mt. Province. but in the mountains or highlands in this part of Northern Luzon,” Jake Bengwayan said, referring to the cited paragraph.

“Had they conducted a little research, they would have found out that Mt. Province is inhabited by the Kankaneys that speak a language different from those used by other indigenous peoples in the highlands like the Ibaloi,” Bengwayan, a student from one of the universities here, said.

“It is an insult to refer to us as Aetas or even equate us with them,” a netizen, obviously a highlander, said in his Facebook account. “The Igorots have their own customs and traditions, their own dance, their own kind of attire.”

“Without belittling the Aetas who live in the lowlands, we are much taller and bigger than them; and we don’t have curly hair or dark skin,” a market vendor who refused to be identified, said in Ilokano..

In an email message to Northbound Philippine Online News, Fe Bacuteng Malucay, a prize-winning writer who works in Jeddah, said, “When I was still in college, people in the highlands were really underestimated not only in terms of physical appearance, but also in mental and social aspects, too. ”

“That maybe because of the misconception the school taught about us and what is written about us like what the Department of Education, in this particular book,tries to portray us, It really hurts,” Malucay, who is half-Ilokana and half-Igorota, said.

Jerson Malecdan, a netizen, said, “Throw away the book. The author should research–he should go all over the Cordillera and talk to the people. Reject the book. Reject the Secretary of Education.”

Other errors in the particular paragraph include the information that the Gaddang and Ibanag are indigenous to Central Luzon. On the contrary, they are mostly found in Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya, according to a college instructor in a Nueva Vizcaya college.

“It must have cost a lot of taxpayers’ money to prepare and print the book that is stupid and plain rubbish,” he said. “Surely, they will redo the book. What a waste of time and money. What is the education department teaching our students in the grades?”

A certain Daniel Feliciano, in his blog, the Cordillera Sun, said that the book, published in 2015, had a consultant, three editors, thirteen writers and examined by two people.

The consultant, according to a netizen, was then officer-in-charge of the Department of Education named Fe. A.Hidalgo.

“Command responsibility. This is another manifestation of the monumental incompetence of the one who sits smoking cigarettes in the Palace,” a Cordillera journalist, said, referring to the questionable and error-filled textbook of the education department.

Northbound Philippine Online News tried but failed to contact officials of the Department of Education. It is, however, preparing a letter addressed to the current Secretary of Education Armin Luistro. GUERRERO COLOMA/northboundasia.com