By Johnny R. Lee, Ph.D.
This writer, in his three previous articles, had stressed the need for the Badjaos or Sama Dilaut to be educated in order to improve their social and economic standings. As legitimate members of the Philippine society, they are entitled to all the rights and privileges as citizens of the republic. Also, he articulated the integration and participation of Badjaos as government civil servants and in military establishments like Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
But there is a bigger room to accommodate the Badjaos if our government is serious enough in its effort to uplift the current miserable state of these indigenous peoples. One of the best and appropriate options is to lure them to sports and physical activity.
In one of this writer’s articles about the Badjaos, their exploits as potential athletes could be moulded into caliber or elite athletes in swimming and volleyball. In fact there were reactions and positive comments elicited from the readers about it. Prominent sports personalities like former PSC Chairman Aparecio Mequi and other sports buffs from local, regional and national sports association are in agreement that the Badjaos are almost a perfect material for recruitment into the elite circles of aqua-sports like swimming, beach volleyballs, water polo, and the relatively newly-introduced water sports called ‘underwater hockey’. The latter sports event is patterned after the game called ‘field hockey’ which is popularly played in European countries, New Zealand, Australia & countries in South Africa. It’s not yet an Olympic game event but it has its own World Championships. It is already a medal sports event in the ASEAN Games and the Philippines has its own national team.
Underwater Hockey, as the name suggests, is played underwater or beneath a pool consisting of 10 players from each opposing team. The objective of the game is to score a goal by flicking/moving (with a hockey stick) the ‘puck’ ( a 1.5 kg. spherical round plastic-coated object) to the opponent’s 3-meter goal tray. The key challenge of the game is that the players do not use a breathing device as scuba but instead hold their breath while underwater. This writer believes that this game is made for the Badjaos! The ordinary male badjao spear fisherman has been shown in official documentation video as a person who could hold their breath underwater for an extended lapse of time. ‘With proper training and orientation on the rules of the game, the Badjaos could dominate this type of event or sports’, says a national expert on aquatic games.
(To be continued in the next issue with emphasis on: Harmonizing the Sports Program for the Badjaos linking Philippine sports bodies like Philippine Sports Commission, BARMM Sports Commission, The Tawi-Tawi Provincial Sports Coordinating bodies and MSU Tawi-Tawi Sports Directorate as lead agency and sports provider.)