By JOHNNY R. LEE, Ph.D.
In a rare conversation with a Badjao woman, this writer was able to extract some insights on the general characteristics of today’s Badjao people with respect to their unique culture, practices, community relations among their tribes and external relations with other tribal group like Sama Tawi-Tawi, Tausugs and Christian brothers.
The woman, named Luiza Akmad, is 36 years old and has gone and finished a 2-year diploma in Fish Technology from the province’s premier university The Mindanao State University, Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography.
She is just one of those few Badjaos who earned a college degree in said school. Although, in a rare feat, a Badjao (also known as Sama Dilaut) named Roben Abdella graduated w/ honors (magna cum laude) of the same school from the College of Education. Abdella is now a faculty member at the College of Education handling English subjects.
For Luiza going to school and earning a degree was quite a tough task for a Badjao like her because of discrimination. People look down on them (Badjaos) as inferior, ignorant and illiterate. Besides her family could not afford to send her to college for lack of financial means to buy even her notebooks and pens. To overcome these financial constraints she should find ways and means to tidy her up to reach her goal of earning a degree.
Lucky enough she made it to the college’s volleyball varsity team with a modest cash allowance and free tuition fees. On weekends she accepts laundry work from her teachers just to earn a few hundred pesos to augment her meager allowance and their household needs because her parents are jobless and rely only from a few catches of fish on a daily basis.
(To be continued in the next issue…)