By ALI G. MACABALANG
Lack of state efforts for the welfare of Badjaos and other marginal tribes has gained the attention of the governance of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), notably its parliament.
Reports reaching the Philippine Muslim Today newspaper said BARMM Parliament Member Maisara C. Dandamun-Latiph, a lawyer, has taken the cudgel to sponsor an enabling bill to help address the concern.
Salman Ali, a key worker of a group looking into the plight of Bangsamoro people outside BARMM, said they already have started drafting the bill titled “An Act extending assistance and services to the Badjao and other poorest tribes, establishing mechanism of actions, providing funds therefor and for other purposes.”
The proposal will flesh out Sections 9 and 10, Article II of the Constitution and relevant provisions of R.A. 11054 or BARMM Charter by adopting measures and policies to address the plight of the Badjao and other Bangsamoro poorest tribes of the Philippines, said Ali, more known in social media as “Salman Ranaw.”
He said the proposed bill would seek the creation of a regional council tasked to provide focal attention to the plight of Badjaos and other Bangsamoro marginalized tribes.
The council shall be composed of 13 line ministries in BARMM to provide convergent interventions for the Badjaos and other underprivileged minority Bangsamoro tribes in and outside the autonomous region, he said.
The Badjao is a nomadic seafaring tribe. The men of the tribe are skilled fishermen specifically the art of pantana fishing (spear fishing). They traditionally lived on house boats moving through the sea wherever was needed, to fulfill their fishing requirements.
According to a legend, these boat dwellers came from the shores of Johore in Indonesia. Princess Ayesha of Johore was betrothed to a Sulu Sultan but she really wanted to marry the Sultan from Brunei. One day, a large fleet of war boats escorted the Princess to Sulu, the fleet was intercepted by the man she really loved, the Sultan from Brunei, who kidnapped her and set sail back to Brunei.
The escorting fleet could not return without the Princess and kept on sailing the seas, only mooring at uninhabited islands; some of them turned to piracy and roamed the seas to search for fortune and glory. Others only searched for food and became fishermen. They inhabited parts of the Sulu Sea for its abundance of fish that helped sustain their livelihood. Most of the daily catch was bartered with other tribes that lived along the shores and beaches.
The Badjao still live in houseboats, clustered near the coastline of Southern Mindanao. But they also built stilt houses near fertile fishing grounds; these houses are a temporary refuge during times that these boathouses needed repairs. These wanderers of the Southern seas are born on the water, live on their boats and say they will only set foot on land only to die.
For varied reasons, many members of the Badjao tribe have migrated to urban centers like Metropolitans of Manila, Cebu and Davao, and figured in awkward state of mendicancy in the streets. (ALI G. MACABALANG)