The Aetas are considered as one of the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines. They belong to a general classification of Philippines indigenous peoples called Negritos, which means, black people, with reference to their skin color. They are generally called by the local people as “Kolot”, meaning curly, which refers to their kinky dark brown or black hair. Aetas are currently inhibiting the mountainous areas of Northern Luzon, and some are scattered in many parts of the Philippines archipelago. They are naturally small people with small frame and stature. They have small nose and big dark brown eyes. Aeta women used to chew “nga-nga”, a medicinal herb that puts a red color in their teeth and gums, but at the same time makes their teeth strong. The nga-nga is also functions as a medicine for some types of sickness.
The Aetas are one of the numerous indigenous peoples in the Philippines that are subject to exploitation and discrimination on the basis of their education and economic status. They have also been victims of various displacement brought about by illegal loggings, mining and political reasons. Their rich and well-maintained culture was preserved but it also has become a reason for them to refuse assimilation with the mainstream culture, putting them on the disadvantaged side.
Aetas however, are very resilient people. Their natural way of life is often hampered by calamities both natural and man-made. With numerous organizations composed of educated Aetas, they are now active in promoting and upholding their rights particularly to their ancestral domains.