Lured from a promise of a better life, the Badjao tribe migrate from their coastal domain in southern Philippines to venture here in Central Luzon. Often, this migration are either done illegaly with the help of human traffickers or selling their own little resources with a HOPE that the countries capital have better opportunity for them.
Just a couple of years ago, the Badjao are just myth we read on textbooks as one of the many diverse ethnic groups we had in this country, along side with the Aetas, Maranao, T'boli and so on. Most of these ethno-linguistic groups are FREE of any Islamic or Christian influence and some still observe their religious custom and traditions.
What brought the Badjao here in particular? Although the same flight are happening to other minority group, I'll be focusing here on the Badjao, since in only about a decade ago we don't see them on our streets chanting songs and handling empty envelop to passengers, nor we see a Badjao woman in over-sized clothes carrying a child on her hips asking for alms; which by the way, doubting their literacy had written fluent tagalog on their envelops with these words in Filipino "I am a Badjao and would like to ask for a little help" or variations of that sort in legible and clear penmanship. Words that perhaps they can't even read. There is an obvious BIG syndicate working behind these flight.
The victim here are not us when we sometimes took pity and drop a few coins. The victims are the Badjao themselves. In most cases, we don't even want to look at them as if by merely looking at them, we caught their invisible illness. The illness on my view, is the disease of the Society in whole. The government is telling us not to give to these fiddling for we are only tolerating them to beg for some more. But what are the steps the government are doing to prevent this migration by the hundreds?
I saw a news on TV that shows Policemen arresting a Band of Badjao in nearby railroad. Admittedly, the police can't take them anywhere or had no clear relocation for them but just simply to put them away from harm of settling near the railroad. DSWD can't adopt them all or send them back to their respective provinces for obvious logistic problem....or is that a problem? Why can we spend Million on fertilizers on area without farm; or build roads twice longer to consume more fuel; or renovate The House of Senate but can not provide for the basic needs of its people.
Badjao are coastal people. The word itself means in Malay-Bornean "man of the seas" they settle in Sulu archipelago at the southern tip of the Philippines. Other refers to them as Sea Gypsies and it is said that a new born infant is directly thrown to the sea the moment it was conceived. Some websites even consider them the poorest among the poor.
Have the seas lost its magic for them? Or Large Companies have claim the seas for their own interest, over fishing the vast seas so our Badjao brothers can not compete with their crude tools? Or the insurgency that the very people they represents are caught in the middle of the cross-fire?
In the distant I could hear a Badjao child knocking his handmade drums, a hallow rhythmic beat against the noises of bustling streets and the thick smell of gasoline mixed with dust; he breaths as fume rises upward he hum a foreign melody. The "man of the seas" sang of the distant paradise and hoping to dip his foot some more near the ocean shore.
other readings on Badjao: