When traveling, a lot of us resort to visiting other countries, mainly for leisure. I’m all about activities that give back to the community. I love experiencing how certain people live their everyday lives. My friend then recommended MAD Travel. They encourage social tourism and have tours available where you can immerse yourself in activities that give back to the community. We decided to join their Tribes and Treks tour in San Felipe, Zambales. Rest-assured by the end of our trip, I had a new perspective in life.
Being working people, we took the night bus to San Felipe, Zambales. Victory Liner Cubao has buses going to Zambales every day. Our only mistake was that we didn’t get to buy tickets early as to why we got the very last trip going to Iba, Zambales. You need to tell the conductor that you will be getting off at San Felipe, Zambales (Sa may “bayan” if I may specify). From there, you’ll already find the tricycle terminal just beside the bus stop.
Tell the tricycle driver that you will be going to Circle Hostel. Most of them already know the place but just in case, it’s in Liw-Liwa area near the pier. The Circle Hostel is the jump-off point for the Tribes and Treks tour. We got there at around 1AM and it was dark indeed. Sorry to the people in the room who were bothered by ‘Ate’ opening the lights at 1AM when we came in. So yea, if you’re in a hostel with other people you know the etiquette.
The Circle Hostel couldn’t be more laid-back. The beds were simple and they give you that province feel. I am happy to say that The Circle Hostel is also Eco-friendly! Here you can see that they have “Eco-Bricks” made out of plastic bottles stuffed with more plastic inside. What a great way to make use of plastic waste!
The Tribes and Treks tour usually starts as early as 7:00am. From the hostel, we rode a jeepney for about 20 minutes to get to the starting point of the trek. Here are the very helpful Carabaos (Water Buffalo) getting ready for the long journey.
We trekked along the ‘Lahar’ or volcanic ash for about an hour to get to the Aeta Village. The trek is quite easy if you are walking on bare foot or flip-flops. You will be passing by rivers as to why your feet will get wet. The heat can be absurd too because of the open fields, so do wear sunblock.
During our trek, a little girl named Eliza kept me company. She told me stories on how they walk to school for an hour every day, and if they find themselves running late, they would run. She was also so enthusiastic as we exchanged stories about our families. She told me she had brothers and sisters she would introduce once we get to the village.
There are rivers where you could take short breaks because the carabaos needed their rest too of course. That feeling of putting your feet on the cold water after walking through the scorching heat of the sun is one of the best feelings ever.
We then arrived at Yangil Village. We were welcomed with smiles and greetings. As soon as Eliza saw her mother, she then introduced us. We had taro chips and lemongrass tea as snacks. I gotta say I loved the lemongrass tea to bits. Nothing beats the traditional way of making tea. Smack the plant you will infuse into boiling water and bam! Best tea ever! The ‘nanays’ (mothers), boil the lemongrass, which they planted by the way, into one big pot to make this lovely tea.
After the short briefing and snacks, our group then went on to learn archery. There were quite a few people who hit the target. For me, I still couldn’t get it after numerous tries. It was still indeed a fun activity and a chance to interact with the Aetas of the village.
Before having lunch, we helped the ‘nanays’ prepare the dishes. Being the culinary graduate that I am, I volunteered to do the cutting of the vegetables. Some volunteered to read books to the kids.
Later on, I had a coloring session with the kids. It all started with me and two kids until others saw and joined us. It was really nice to be teaching kids some color combinations and how to do outlining. If I had more time, I would love to teach them more. There are so many things I wish to share to these kids.
Our lunch consisted of various dishes such as adobo, chopsuey and fried fish. The Aeta people of Yangil village could never be more hospitable to us. There were dishes available for our vegetarian and vegan friends. Also, gluten-free! Please do inform them beforehand though.
It was great to do an immersion where you could meet new people. Our group consisted of students from Australia and it was nice to hear stories from them and their thoughts about life. I also met a fellow Filipino who was traveling alone. Activities like this will open your eyes and amaze you that people from other parts of the world can come together for a great purpose.
We were having a quick break when one of the Yangil girls asked if she could braid my hair. Without hesitation, I said yes. I was having a chat with Princess while she was braiding my hair. She told me they had a cat named Sapporo. The name rang a bell, then I asked her if she’s seen the movie “Kita-kita”, and indeed she did. Princess did an awesome job with my hair. I couldn’t be more thankful because it was so pretty.
After that, the kids then had a braiding session with the other girls.
The Aeta people then showed us their traditional dance and later on people joined in all the fun. The kids had their dance too and Eliza pulled us in to dance with them. Princess then sang a song which stuck to us for the whole trip. We all had a fun time sharing laughs with the Aeta community as we thanked them for their hospitality.
We left the village to proceed to the nursery where we planted seedlings. The Aeta community have been planting them to restore the forests and also for their daily needs. This is where we come in. Just by helping them plant these seedlings, you will help generations of Aeta community. I could only imagine the number of seeds our big group planted. I felt a sense of fulfillment after that.
It was hard to say goodbye to the people of Yangil. I’ve somehow become attached especially to the children. I was bid farewell with hugs from the children telling me that I should go back and visit them again. I told Eliza to do good and study hard in school so that she could achieve her dreams. I wish to see them all again someday, all grown up.
Before heading back to the hostel, we had dinner by Chieftain’s house. Again, the aeta people were very hospitable to us. I personally loved all the vegetarian dishes during dinner. We taught some Filipino phrases to our new Australian friends. We also watched the sunset near Chieftain’s house. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.
This trip will leave you with a newfound perspective in life. I’ve also learned some things from the Aeta people. If they care about the welfare of others by building new forests and a better community for the future generations, I don’t see why we shouldn’t do the same. It is indeed a ripple effect. By doing this one small thing, we can help other generations in the future. Through immersing myself into their community, I’ve realized that sometimes all they need is company. Our presence together with a bit of a helping hand can change lives. It all starts with you. Will you go on an adventure that matters?