By Aoibheann Boyle
Aoibheann is participating in the Silver Global Citizen Award. This is the second of her Global Blogs from the Philippines.
Having experienced one-on-one encounters with this magnificent tribe of people and building an everlasting and inexplicable bond, I can safely say I have learnt more. What has been written and researched does not come near to the truth of who they actually are. This tribe, full of the most wonderful people who live on this planet, each and every one of them, have inspired me and shown me what love really is. Each person may not be related but they are all each other’s brothers and sisters, constantly looking out for the welfare of their own. The tribe are in fact known as the “peace-loving” tribe. The warmth as I enter the gates of their settlement is indescribable and the bonds that have been created are too strong to break.
The Philippines consists of 18 strands of tribes (The Marinao) ranging from the most highly respected and powerful, to those of ‘no value’, which the Badjao tribe are sometimes referred to by their fellow Filipino citizens. It is purely due to their love, peacefulness and objecting to violence and the fact they will never fight back with violence that they are viewed so lowly by outsiders and the other tribes. People have held on to this judgement and due to their ignorance on the history of the Badjao and who they actually are, they have formed theories that have been incredibly far from the truth.
Walking around the settlement as children ask for our hands to bring them to their foreheads as a sign of respect and blessing, all I can see is love. Love I wish the whole world could experience. The highest tribe in the Marinao are the Thaosin. They have been described as Communists. They are powerful and have used violence many times in the past as they have fought for both Government and rebels. Many years ago, they beheaded the Badjao and took their proud and established fishing industry from them. However, the Badjao are resilient. The most resilient people I have ever met. So they carried on. They have been knocked down too many times in their lives and they have come across so many barriers blocking their way in life, but have always picked themselves up and carried on.
The Presentation Sisters of Cebu, a group of strong and highly inspirational women dedicated to their mission to serve found their calling one day 20 years ago when a fatal fire broke out in Cebu. It was nearing the time of elections so politicians found it a great way to boost their campaign by helping those victims in need. However, there was a tribe down by the river that were ignored, and the Sisters heard of their neglect so decided to go down and see what they could do for them. A strong barrier was put up to protect the tribe from outsiders and harm. The tribe were initially not as welcoming as they are today, which is inevitable, who would have trust in outsiders after experiencing the awful treatment they have from them in the past, who wouldn’t want to protect their family from that harm. Due to their low rank in society, the Badjao were left totally neglected and forgotten about after the fire. A complete injustice. The Sisters found an innings however one day when they came across a small child that had a large cist close to the size of her own head, so big that she could not even lift it. After trying hard for them to trust the Sisters and to let them help the child, they eventually were able to bring the child to hospital to remove what was a water cist. The chieftain was afraid that they were going to kidnap the child but as the great chieftain he was, he overcame this fear in order to deal with the welfare of this child. This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship and the amazing combined work done by both parties. Sadly, a few years ago this chieftain passed away but left The Presentation Sisters with one dying wish and one last command, to make sure the children of his tribe are educated. Now his son is chieftain and together they are fulfilling that wish to the best of their ability and with what little resources they have. He has continuously been more welcoming, putting his authority to one side for the better of his tribe.
This tribe, forever smiling and sharing their happiness, has had too many knockdowns due to the putrid corruption in the country they live in. This is a corruption seeping through each layer of the social chain creating many difficulties for the Badjao with their power, not only by the government but in the education system too. Why is it that these peaceful and loving people get treated this way? The huge obstacle of not having birth certificates creates difficulties not only in entering an institution of education but also in the life after the stressful and long years of learning from elementary through to university. Finding a job can pose as a difficulty for the Badjao no matter how high a degree they may hold, purely due to the name they hold; Badjao.
But, the Badjao Tribe will reign on through their resilience and the pride in themselves they are rebuilding day by day. I will forever be proud of them as they have helped me better myself and forget all my troubles and worries with their hugs and love. Their smiles will forever be candles lighting in my heart. Wow Badjao.