By Johnny R. Lee, Ph.D.
There are numerous plans, programs, recommendations, and solutions to uplift the sad plight of the Badjaos and their communities in the southern part of this country. Both local government entities and academic institutions have had several social programs to address the woes of the Badjaos but this writer has yet to see if any of these programs that were undertaken have made a lasting impact on their well-being.
The Badjao, like many of the Philippines’ indigenous peoples, are a neglected tribe. They live in extreme poverty and beyond the reach of state’s assistance due to their nomadic existence. If settled in a semi-permanent community, still they remained as last priority in terms of government services rendered to the ‘needy’.
To this writer, there are some missing links and essential priorities that should be done rather than the current programs rendered unto them which are more of a ‘palliatives than a cure’. The usual ‘seasonal doling-out of relief goods and foodstuffs’ make them only ‘dependent’ and thus promote indolence and lack of self-esteem in their ability to harness their true potential as people in the community.
Many agree, including this writer, that the Badjaos are not inferior people. Like most of us, they also possessed skills, knowledge and creativity. Their skills as fishers of various species of aquatic resources, in navigation and boat building are exceptional. Some Badjaos have ‘broken the glass ceiling’ in the field of education when a number of their tribe successfully graduated on top of their class in collegiate institutions like MSU Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.
There ought to be a prudent review and clear-cut assessment and program on how to integrate the Badjaos into the Philippine educational system. (This topic of education will be elaborated in the next issue.)