The Badjao are a plethora of amazing things, strong, caring, smart. They also happen to be exceptionally skilled Fishermen and boatmakers. Once a nomadic sea tribe they settled in Cebu in the 1960s and have since remained on land. However they have not forgotten their roots and still rely heavily on the sea as a source of income and food.
One of the Fishermen and boatmakers, Mohammadjani sat down with me and explained the boat building process. A buyer approaches him and they decide on the size and price of the boat depending on its uses. Then a ritual called Janji is preformed by one of the elders, usually Mohammajani’s mother. The buyer of the boat will bring a downpayment of 3000 peso. The money is blessed and handed over. The boatmaker is also blessed and a piece of thread is placed on his wrist to ensure he will be safe and healthy while building the boat.
Next the materials which are usually just plywood, wood and nails are bought from the local market. It begins with the bottom or hull. The shape is carved out of the plywood usually with some sort of wood planer. It’s then cleaned polished and sanded. Following that step is Giyak. This consists of thin wooden strips being placed perpendicular to the hull and spaced out evenly along it. This is the foundation of the sides of the boat and is what will support the plywood on the port and starboard sides. Subsequent to that is Rerhyan or raghan. These a big wooden connectors placed on the inside of the boat which will be nailed to the plywood to ensure it stays in place. There is a lower and upper strip which run parallel to the bottom of the boat.
The last basic part to the process is Palomar. This involves the construction of the head and foot of the boat which can be as plain and embellished as the boatmaker decides. A camonote is also assembled. This is a little engine room which covers the engine keeping it dry and can store equipment and fuel. The barsan or propeller is usually sat about three quarters of the way back in the boat. The whole process usually takes about half a month if you are building everyday.
The boat owner, who is someone within the Badjao will paint it themselves. Sometimes there can be a ritual performed that will bless the boat and ensure secure fishing trips. The boat is tied to the house of the owner as the ritual takes place. If you the boat is well maintained it can last about 3 years.
As well as a talented boatmaker Mohammadjani is an accomplished Fishermen. The Badjao are exceptional pana(spear) fishers. They dive with flippers and spear guns. The can go up to 30 feet under water and can go an impressive five minutes holding their breath. They dive for a type of fish called Tanigue and sometimes, depending on the fisherman you will pray that the dive will go well.
Before Fishermen could stay near Cebu and catch many fish. Unfortunately due to water pollution the men can’t dive beneath the plastic to catch the fish and there is no fish left in Cebu as waters are so uninhabitable. As a result Fishermen have to travel further out to sea to reap their rewards. The nearest fishing spot is now located in between Cebu and Bahal, another island. Each journey uses approximately fifteen litres of petrol. They are gone for at least a day and possibly will have to sleep on the boat in order to catch enough fish to reap a profit. Usually they catch on average two to three fish in one trip. The fish are then sold at a a local market called Pasil.
From my time in the Badjao I’ve learned so many things about myself and the people in this wonderful community. Even though fishing and sea life is such a huge part of their culture it does not define them. They are some of the most amazing, strong and intelligent characters I’ve ever met and I feel very privileged that I was welcomed into the beautiful community.
By Zara Hennigan
The journey began on July 10th as I set off for Bangalore, India, with seven other Serve volunteers. Our minds filled with curiosity of the Indian adventure that awaited us. We all have preconceived notions about places we’ve never visited before. Ever since studying India in Leaving Cert geography, I’ve been completely fascinated by this immensely populated, exquisite land. Travelling such a distance undoubtedly evokes some nerves and apprehension, but this is when you need to remind yourself to be grateful for getting the amazing opportunity to volunteer overseas.
The first few days in Bangalore can only be described as utterly chaotic as we grappled with the cultural shock. Yet before long, the pungent smells and bombastic commotion of the streets started to become less daunting and more familiar. The funny thing about travelling is that no matter how foreign new surroundings seem at first, you can surprise yourself at how quickly you acclimatise yourself to the environment.
By the time Monday came around, we were more than ready to get stuck into our work placements at Morning Star and the Association of People with Disability (ADP), respectively. Two of the girls set off for Morning Star, an orphanage for boys 30 minutes away, where they would stay during the week before returning to our accommodation again on Friday. Meanwhile, the remaining three of us were working nearby at APD. The Association of People with Disabilities is an NGO based in Bangalore that was set up in 1959 with the aim of transforming the lives of those living with a disability or from impoverished backgrounds. ADP run extensive programs in rural and urban Karnataka to enable, equip and empower children and adults with a range of disabilities. Types of disabilities catered for in ADP include spinal cord injury, locomotor, speech and hearing, cerebral palsy and mental health issues. On site in APD is an integrated primary school, early intervention unit, physiotherapy, speech and language, occupational therapy and a training centre for adults with disabilities. There is also a horticulture centre as well as workshops for modifying wheelchairs and making ankle-foot orthotics.
Having studied Primary Teaching in college, I was eager to develop my knowledge and experience in teaching children with disabilities, while also gaining an insight into the Indian education system. It didn’t take long to realise that it’s difficult to draw any fair comparisons between an Irish and Indian classroom. While children diagnosed with certain disabilities in Ireland are likely to be entitled to a Special Needs Assistant (SNA), teachers in APD may have one teaching assistant for a class of 30+ children with disabilities ranging from mild to severe. Thus, it’s no surprise that the classroom organisation, behaviour management strategies and teaching methods used are markedly different to those used in Irish primary schools. Despite the lack of sufficient support and resources, the teaching and learning I observed during those first few days did not fail to absolutely inspire me. Written across the top of the blackboard in one classroom is ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. The resilience and motivation to succeed among the children with such debilitating conditions is evidence that this phrase permeates the school. Seeing a physically disabled child manoeuvre himself across the classroom floor to his chair independent of any help is a sign of mental strength and utter determination. An underlying sense of tenacity and empowerment in APD makes it clear that the extraordinary abilities of these children are so much stronger than the severity of their disabilities.
By Sile Byrne
In the lead up to departure my mind danced with expectations of what my placement in APD would entail. I was experiencing a cocktail of emotions, from nervousness and doubt, to eagerness, inadequately and excitement. I wondered what I could bring to APD, what expertise I could offer to enhance the educational experience of those belonging to the community.
By Amy Considine