Thursday, March 24, 2016

This K-To-12 Book Is Teaching Students That Aetas Are From Mountain Province

It's not exactly a secret that Igorots are among the most misunderstood indigenous groups in the Philippines. A lot of non-Igorots harbor several misconceptions about us. We have tails. We live in trees. We have flat noses. We attend to our daily chores wearing our traditional g-strings and skirts. We have feet that are bigger than everyone else's. We have dark skins, We have curly hair. There's nothing wrong with having a dark complexion or curly short hair. But the fact remains that these are not typical features of Igorots in the same way that almond-shaped eyes aren't typical features of Americans or the Brits.

These misconceptions can be attributed to several factors. However, I strongly believe that the biggest contributor to these erroneous ideas is what's being taught about us in our educational system. I can still remember the textbooks we used when I was in elementary school (the 90s). The Igorot is often portrayed as a grizzled and half-naked man puffing on a pipe. If it's an Igorot kid, he's short, he has bulging muscles disproportionate to his body, and he has feet that equal that of Bigfoot. And yes, there's the ubiquitous bowl-cut haircut.

Anyway, we're marching through the 21st century and it's sad to say that these misconceptions still abound. And making matters worse, the Department of Education is still spreading inaccurate information about us. Take for instance an erroneous paragraph found in a book for Grade 4 students under the K-to-12 program.

The paragraph in question goes: "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, at iba pa. Sa Visayas at Mindanao ay kilala rin ang mga Subanon sa Zamboanga Peninsula, Bisaya sa Kabisayaan, Zamboangueno sa Kamindanawan, at marami pang iba."

The book just directly stated that Aetas are from Mountain Province. That's the very definition of false. Aetas are found in Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga, Panay, Bataan, and Nueva Ecija. The authors of the book have made a very common mistake. And that is equating Igorots to Aetas when in fact they are completely different groups.

The book in question is a grade 4 student's workbook titled Edukasyon sa Pagkakatao. The erroneous paragraph I quoted above is from a lesson from the book titled "Kultura ng mga Pangkat Etniko, Mahalagang Malaman". So yeah, the lesson is about ethnic groups in the country and their cultures. So this begs the question: Why does a blatant error like this happen in a lesson about ethnic cultures? This is like writing a lesson about classic English literature and claiming that Leo Tolstoy is an English writer.

I dug deeper into the book (thanks to Google) and found out that it's a first edition book published in 2015. And here's the shocker:
- it had one consultant
- it had three editors
- it had thirteen (13) writers
- it was examined by two people

I would like to think that these people at least consulted with someone who is knowledgeable about the different ethnic groups in the country. I'm also hoping that this is an honest mistake. Because if the writers truly thought that Aetas are in Mountain Province, then they have no business writing lessons about ethnic groups and cultures.
A mural painting of an Igorota during the La Trinidad Strawberry Festival.
Anyway, I sent an email to informing them of the erroneous paragraph. Here's to hoping that they do something about it. If you have time, send them an email as well. The more emails they receive, the more pressured they will be to correct the error. You can read the complete workbook here.