One day while I was doing my usual office routine sometime year 2008, there came over me a sudden urge to visit the Badjao community of Sta. Cruz to basically learn how this group of people survives in their own territory. That was one year after LOGSAC was created but even before the group’s creation we already identified the Badjao community as one of the best hangouts for people like us who love to go through the “less-travelled road”. As persons with special interest on people, immersing to such kind of community is more than a pleasure. I remember one club-mate Chickay spending her birthday at the Badjaoan to the delight of the children there. We also used to maintain certain area in their compound as one of LOGSAC’s adopted mangrove reserves with the tribesmen as stewards.
|Mangrove Reserve Area in Apo Beach adopted by LOGSAC and safeguarded by the Badjaos|
However, I have failed to translate my experiences with the Badjaos into writings because I have yet to discover the interior chamber of its ethnicity. I had to attempt several exposures and more blending with them.
As I steered several foreign guests to their place, my interest has grown even further as every time I visit the place I would always discover something new and unique. Not to mention the opportunity of becoming one of their treasured friends which I really admired. There I discovered that Badjaos are more than just “begging alms” along the major city streets which majority of us really hated seeing at times especially when they stumble upon us in downtowns. I even felt guilty of my previous actuation with these people. True enough, DISCRIMINATION is the word that best describes our attitudes towards them.
|This is typical Badjao family|
Just recently, I have accompanied an American photographer Mr. Jacob Maentz who immersed himself to the area. This has once again prompted me to ascertain and validate the little things I knew of the tribe. Unlike any other guests I knew, Jacob used to fall in love with the culture of Badjao. He held through to his fascination by sleeping in one of the houses in the area and he was proud to tell me that it was one of his most-prized experiences.
Dwelling beside the shoreline facing Davao Gulf, the Badjao community accounted for point-something percent of the overall population in Sta. Cruz. Their total population is more or less 450 persons with a total household of 66 (with 6 average household size). Their main source of income is spear fishing, selling slightly-used RTWs and shoes and occasional laboring. Caroling during Christmas season is also an opportunity for them to earn extra income.
The Badjaos, who originally came from adjacent Southeast Asia nations like Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, have formed part of the unique cultural subdivisions of Filipinos. Their roots in the Philippines are believed to have settled somewhere in Sulu and Zamboanga, after all, Badjaos are normally travelers in nature. They always travel from one place to another for as long as they could dock in seashores. Their houses are also temporary in nature, made out of light materials as they won’t be staying there for long.
|Health and Education are two major issues that needs to be resolved for the good of the Badjao Community|
With the company of Jacob, I concluded that Badjaos possess extraordinary sense of humility and selflessness more than anybody else in the Philippines. I also used to discover that they try to live a serious life – away from extreme discrimination and humiliation. For me, their struggles are plain and simple, health and education. We might have focused our attentions elsewhere and have forsaken the plight of the Badjaos.
Badjaos are also good friends. They might have drowned in a serious battle for survival but within them lies an excellent comradeship. I can attest to that as every time I go there they would always treat me special. Their smiles are often subjects to my photographs and they are not shy to face my camera.
|The smile of Badjao children like this one is a good photograph subject|
To all those who have forgotten the Badjao culture or have intentionally dislike this group of people, it’s high time now to discover their unique attributes. They have what it takes to make you appreciate life all the more.