Against all the odds, this Badjao or "Sea Gypsy" child still affords to give a smile after having eaten her breakfast along the sidewalk. (Click Photo for a larger view)The Badjao or "Sea Gypsies" inhabit the shores and waters of Sulu archipelago. They can be found today in many coastal settlements dotting the archipelago, particularly in Jolo, Tawi-Tawi and Sitangkai. Others are scattered in Davao, Surigao, Zamboanga, Basilan, Bohol, Cebu, Manila and now in Dumaguete in search of livelihood. Their livelihood is totally dependent on the resources of the sea - fishes, seaweeds, shells and so forth, either for food or to sell/barter for other necessities such as clothing, materials for boat construction, and fishing equipment.
Their physical features are distinctively attributable to their environment and their mode of life. They have sturdy built dark brown skin and bronze hair. Their manner of walking is affected to a large extent by their crouching on boat stern while sailing or fishing.
A sea ritual makes the Badjaos childbirth practice somewhat peculiar. The newly born infant is thrown into the sea. Other people dive after it to rescue it. This ritual is simply an initiation into the reality of the Badjao life which is based on kinship with the sea.
The Badjaos are oppressed tribe. They are referred to as palao or lumaan (God forsaken) by the Tausugs. Badjaos developed an inferiority attitude towards the Tausugs and the Samals who always look down on them. Originally, they used to live on the land but the constant pressure on their safety by the other Muslim tribes forced them to seek the sea. They eventually found that the sea afforded them greater avenues of escape in the event of attack.
Today, they roam the city of Dumaguete as beggars, still oppressed and ignored, a very sad reality. At times they become annoying to the public being shouted at and driven away as they desperately ask for your mercy hoping that you give them a small amount from your pocket.
Our local city officials has been making extra efforts to promote Dumaguete as a tourist destination for both domestic and foreign tourists but has overlooked this problem. How are we going to impress our tourists if what they encounter in every major street or corner they walk by are Badjaos begging for alms.
Whoever wins in this election, you should give attention to this emerging problem and come up with socio-economic development programs to help these people. And as good citizens, let us know their history, learn their culture and respect them as a human beings.
"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."
-- Vincent Van Gogh