On MMK’s recent episode: The true story of Roman King revealed
On Maala-ala Mo Kaya’s (MMK’s) recent episode which aired on March 24 2018, we were promised a dramatization of the life of Norman King, the first Aeta who graduated in the University of the Philippines (UP). The achievement of Norman King received positive reactions by the general public and on social media; Despite the reality such attainment is never the usual case for an Aeta because of systemic and socio-economic factors, we are among those who were pleased with the education that Norman King attained, as we also believe that all Indigenous People have a right to higher education. But in the actual episode, instead of merely celebrating Norman King’s achievement, the limelight and the lead role falls unto Norman’s father, Roman King, portrayed as a hero.
Here we had to draw a line and expose the truth, for as much as we are glad of Norman King’s achievement we cannot allow a notorious Aeta community traitor and cheat, to be portrayed as a hero.
The King family attempted to use the fame that Norman attained, and with the help of MMK’s episode, portray his father Roman King as a hero of the Aeta people. The outraged Aeta people of Central Luzon will not allow this unjust portrayal to pass. Because no matter how much they try to cover up the stench, the rotten truth will reek and spread throughout the air.
Who is the real Roman King?
The Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA), a regional organization of Aeta people in Gitnang Luzon—which was awarded a Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan (Hero of the Environment Award) by the Center for Environmental Concern (CEC) for being one of the exemplary organizations in asserting the right to ancestral land and foremost defender against the plunder of natural resources—recently released a statement on this matter. According to CLAA, Roman King’s name is known in the vast mountain ranges of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga, not as a hero but as a scourge upon their tribe.
CLAA’s statement rings true especially since even at the onset of MMK’s episode, it was shown that the King family relied upon foreign soldiers, and even boasted that their surname was christened upon them by a general of the United States Armed Forces. Can we imagine our history of indigenous tribe who did not allow themselves to be conquered by past colonialist revised and suddenly portrayed to be in happy alliance with foreign soldiers?
Additionally, the King family look upon themselves as messiahs. They erased the role of collective action of the mass movement of indigenous people for liberation, instead, painting only themselves as superheroes akin to the Avengers and sole key element in defending the rights of the Aeta masses.
The truth according to the Aeta of Sitio Burog, Roman King was foremost in the selling of their ancestral land to capitalists, in alliance with various government agencies that violate the rights of the Indigenous People.
An example of this is in the selling of ancestral lands in San Vicente, Bamban, which was converted into private resorts. When some families opposed his ambitions to be a broker of ancestral land, those families were massacred.
The most documented case that will show us Roman King’s true colors would be his agreement to the construction of the Puning Hot Spring high-class resort in Porac, Pampanga. Rather than allow the ancestral land to remain in the hands of the Aeta people, around 130 Indigenous People were turned into workers who earned a very low salary of PHP 259.00 per day. In contrast, if they remained as owners of their ancestral land, they would have earned more than PHP 259.00 on farm produce like buko (young coconut), guyabano (soursop), bananas, kamansi (breadfruit), and sweet potatoes—all of which are native to that mountain range. Roman King, who represented the Porac Aeta Ancestral Domain (PAAD), signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to allow construction of said resort on ancestral land. While his fellow Aeta set up pickets and barricades, he was already in bed with the capitalists.
According to the episode’s script, the Aeta were celebrating the PHP 40,000.00 every month in exchange for their right to cultivate their ancestral land. The Kings look upon this as a victory and something the Aeta should thank them for. But are all Aeta’s concern only for compensation and not for the right to the control of the lands? Roman King’s idea of victory is distorted.
King worked hard to have various Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC) named after him in order to possess his much anticipated Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT) which would be his ticket to opportunism by way of underhanded and anomalous transactions to sell the collective rights of the Aeta. From Bamban, to Porac and other towns, he strived to initiate the facilitation of documents. If the property had no CADC, he would apply for one. It would have been good if it were done for the defense of ancestral land. However, mafia-like, he would peddle the properties once he gained possession of CADT.
This fact would be reinforced in MMK’s episode by a scene showing Roman King being approached to sell or broker the sale of ancestral land for the construction of a Geothermal Powerplant. In truth, there is the looming construction of the Aboitiz Geothermal Powerplant from the mountain ranges of Florida Blanca, Pampanga to the mountain ranges of San Marcelino, Zambales. According to the show’s narrative, Roman’s refusal was not due to the fact that it was wrong to seize the ancestral land; rather, it was due to the fact that he did not possess the CADC/CADT of the ancestral lands in the aforementioned locations. If he was recognized as a leader by the Aeta communities there, he would have allowed the project in exchange for a certain fee.
In 2017, in order to defend himself from the anger of various people whose dealings with him had gone array, an estimated 60 high powered armaments were purchased by Roman King to arm his newly established private army.
Which is the truth?
Whose narrative is the truth? How do we connect the various knots of wickedness that Roman King has perpetrated upon the Aeta people on three provinces of Central Luzon? Why do the stories match? Who committed perjury? The Aeta masses? Who profits from the projects? The Aeta people?
Perhaps it is not MMK’s intent to author a puffery sanitizing Roman King’s name. However, it is disappointing to think that those who were behind the episode’s production seemingly did not get their facts straight.
For those who wish to know the true story about the Aeta in Tarlac, they may contact us in order to schedule a trip to the sitios and learn firsthand about their stories.
What the Aeta are Facing.
We reiterate that we are not belittling the achievements of Roman’s son, Norman King. In truth, we continue to push forward gradually in order to assist the Aeta in their quest for higher education. But right now, there are various projects that pose a greater threat to the Aeta people and their ancestral land. These are: New Clark City, Balog-Balog Dam, Crow Valley Military Complex, and the Aboitiz Geothermal Powerplant. In addition to these are the wide-scale mining of rock and sand for use as primary sources in the construction of these projects.
Due to the airing of Roman King’s life as a broker in the sale of ancestral land, this can be used as an excuse for the promotion of further sales of ancestral lands in exchange for the aforementioned projects.
Let us not allow revisionism to sully the true stories of the Aeta. We enjoin those who wish to write about the Aeta struggle to research and learn directly from the vast Aeta masses. It is our hope that we can all join hands and support the Aeta people in their struggle against those projects and for their right to self-determination.
Photo above courtesy of ABS-CBN