Carabao Island is known for its raw beauty, white sands, lush coconut trees and warm hospitality. A home of diverse culture and tradition, that have been preserved to this day by the simple-living islanders. A brief history of the island began from the belief of the original settlers to have been the Aetas or Ati of the Malay Peninsula in mainland Asia.
Carabao Islands population are mainly of Aetas or Ati and migrants that came from Panay Island. Most of the islanders speak Onhan or Inunhan also known as the Hambilanon dialect. The ‘Katutubo’, another term that the locals refer to as the ‘Aetas’ or ‘Ati’ believes, that their ‘ninuno‘ or ancestors, came to the island around the 1930’s. The term Aeta refers to one of the Indigenous people in the Philippines. Depending on the geographical location, history, and relationships the name reference would change. The Aetas distinct features and unique characteristics are dark skin complexion and black kinky hair and nomadic.
The Aetas are skilled indigenous people, especially in jungle survival. One of their greatest strength is their knowledge of using the natural elements around them. The customs the Aetas have started are still practiced by some to this day, especially in Carabao Island.
Hunting for food is an essential survival skill for the Aetas. During the earlier times, the Ati in the island have traditions to prepare for harvest. A ritual is done in exchange for abundant harvest and catch. To do this, they would refer to the phases of the moon. During a full moon and a low tide, a ritual is done to reap a good harvest. They offer an item to the spirit in exchange for this abundance. New moons are the perfect time to fish for the Aetas, for it will bring abundant catch for the fishermen.
Aetas are known for their familiarity with herbs and medicinal plants. The ‘Siruhano’ a term referred to the Ati as the traditional doctor is believed to heal sickness immediately. The Siruhano’s way of healing is through the use of available local herbs and medicinal plants.
The use of sustainable materials is a common practice amongst the Aetas. Their shelters would compose of dry coconut leaves and bamboo referred to as Nipa Houses. The Ati also uses coconut shells, wood, stone and bamboo for kitchen utensils and other things. Such as stone for grinding corn, bamboo for hunting animals and making tuba or coconut wine.
An estimated total population 1,745 Indigenous People are in Carabao Island, specifically in barangays Pinamihigan and Lanas. Some of the Ati tribes migrated and some stayed that can be distinguishable into two kinds, the full-blooded Ati called the ‘AtiTumandok’ otherwise called the ‘Kalibugan.’ The Ati’s in the island is full of simplicity, peace, and humbleness. The way they live although altered to the modern ways remains the tradition and culture that reflect in them. They are known for their strong ties between their families, contentment in their way of living and giving off warm smiles to the visitors of their island.
An exciting project will be happening in Carabao Island called Gintong Katutubo. The project will be in ties with Oceans Edge Resort and San Jose Rural Health Unit and Family Planning Center, providing free medical and dental check-ups, at the same time hygiene and family planning seminar for the Ati communities in the island. This will be held in Lanas Covered Court on December 15,2018.