Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Badjao in the City

Knowing their history, learning their culture and respecting them as a human being.

Badjao in the City
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.

Badjao mother preparing breakfast along the side walk.

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 Smile
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

9 comments:

Friend of Mr. Consultant said...

Wow, very interesting information on the local culture. Please continue sharing with us!

Friend of the PI said...

Hope the people in politics hears this voice! We all cannot just ignore people in need. It is the responsibility of the people in power to represent its people!

kahlil said...

My Thoughts on the matter:

Although there are efforts (in effect or otherwise) promoting the good will of these oppressed people in the Philippines, we have to understand and accept that until the political and economic system of the country sees better days, there will always be beggars roaming the streets, Badjaos or otherwise. Because, even in developed countries like America, there are still people who we can compare with the Badjaos.

Additionally, if an excellent socio-development program is created, is it enough for us to just learn of "their" history, "their" culture? Or is it also equally important that they be educated in "our" ways? Are we all prepared for such a change? Is the government prepared to spend for a cultural minority when it can not even give proper treatment to the majority? Is it just the responsibility of "whoever wins this election"?




Something else:

Although they are oppressed, sometimes they become very annoying. Though I'm not pointing to all of them (I personally know some, children mostly, who have learned to say thank you/salamat), sometimes they don't know how to say thanks.

I remember when a group went "caroling" in front of our gate, we gave them a few packs of instant noodles and around two kilos of rice, and what do they do? Grudgingly accept them! And this is not an isolated case, mind you, it's happened over and over again.

There were also times when I gave cash to a Badjao out of pity when all of a sudden, a pack of them pounced upon me with arms and hands outstretched, "'Limos po..." Sometimes I would just give five pesos to one so that I would have enough to give to any other Badjao who will pounce on me... but it has happened more than once after giving them Php5 that they turn around with an air of aloofness (sometimes saying, "Kuripot"), without so much as a thanks.

And of course, there are times when you really don't have anything to spare, and you tell them, but they still keep pestering you, pulling your sleeve (shirt bottoms for young Badjaos)... We "educated" ones should know better than to shout and drive them away, but sometimes, that's all one can do to make them stop for the meantime.

The Technophile said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and personal experiences. I do agree that some of these badjaos have become annoying and ungrateful, and yes, sometimes we can't help but shout at them to make them stop pestering.

kahlil said...

All we can do now is try to make things work for everybody. I know a Utopia sounds too farfetched, but hey, at least we tried.






(whew... ingles ako ng ingles... nakakaubos ng ingles! haha! salamat din sa pakikibahagi sa mundo ng salaysay mong tungkol sa mga naghihirap nating mga kapatid...)

JUK said...

npakaganda po ng sinulat niyo...isa rin po ako s ktulad nyo nghahangad na makakita ng magandang bukas ng mga badjao,currently im writing a proposal paper"Inadequate protection and recognition of the Human Rights of Badjao children...
I agree with you..The badjao are the true marginalized people and even human tights are not extended to them...they dont have access to the government basic services,and they are even subject to abuses,exploitation,and violence all time of the day.
KEEp UP the good work.

JUK of Bongao,Tawi-Tawi

Anonymous said...

npakaganda po ng sinulat niyo...isa rin po ako s ktulad nyo nghahangad na makakita ng magandang bukas ng mga badjao,currently im writing a proposal paper"Inadequate protection and recognition of the Human Rights of Badjao children...
I agree with you..The badjao are the true marginalized people and even human tights are not extended to them...they dont have access to the government basic services,and they are even subject to abuses,exploitation,and violence all time of the day.
KEEp UP the good work.

JUK of Bongao,Tawi-Tawi

The Technophile said...

Thank you for sharing the same sentiments. Maraming salamat JUK!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thank God for people who have the heart for the outcasts in the society, especially the Badjaos.
I just learned, after ministering to the Badjaos in Cebu last December, that the reason of their being ungrateful at times and forceful in begging is because they thought that they deserve to be given money, food or gifts for they are needy and poor. They do not understand the word "grace" - undeserved favour.

Let's continue praying for the Badjaos that God would use people - politicians or ordinary people like us - to reach out in love and be a blessing to them, expecting nothing in return. :)