Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Badjaos - Sea Gypsies of Planet Earth

The concern/issue regarding the BADJAOS is shared principally among the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and incidentally with any country in the Asia-Pacific region, where this nomadic, motley ethnic group of several closely related indigenous groups, appear suddenly from the sea during a certain month/s, stay for an unpredictable period of time, and just as suddenly, leave for reason/s that are not immediately discernible to the non-Badjaos. The collective quandary or perplexity of the governments of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and virtually all countries in the Asia-Pacific region, where they may appear out of nowhere from the sea, on how to deal properly with the Badjaos lies in the inherent differences between the perspectives of the land-based and those of the sea-based ethnic groups. The fundamental mistake committed by the governments of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei, principally among the countries in the Asia-Pacific region, in addressing the concern/issue about the Badjaos is to include the Badjaos among all other indigenous ethnic groups, that are land-based.

Reaching the most equitable, fair, just and humane resolution of the concern/issue should really be easy if only the governments involved in the geo-politics of the Asia-Pacific region will remember and recognize the two (2) basic conditions of the Badjaos. The first condition is with regard to the historical context: the origin of the Badjao ethnic group pre-dates the "modern" nations of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and any other country in the Asia-Pacific region. The second condition should be immediately discernible: land-based territorial concepts are not applicable to the "sea gypsies" who look at their sea-world as "without borders".

With these two (2) basic conditions at the forefront, it should be easy to recognize that there are also two (2) complementary approaches for "managing" the situation. The first approach is contingent on the Badjaos being sea-based, and to respect therefore their inalienable right to "freedom of movement" as inherent in their privilege ["damnation" from the point of view of those who can not fathom the wonders of being a "sea gypsy"] to be treated as "without borders". This should relatively be easy on one hand, since the Philippine Government does not have to impose the perplexing rules and regulations regarding entry and exit at the airports and/or the sea-ports. That fact should spare both the Badjaos and the Philippine government from the possible inanities or insanities that have been occurring in the case of those who have to use passports and/or visas. On the other hand, since the Badjaos do not have the required minimum literacy to read and understand the "road signs" or "land marks" [you have to pardon the language constraints of a land-based communicator, despite the availability of the dictionary and thesaurus, whether virtual or hard copies] commonly used along the coastline of the Philippine Archipelago, it is virtually impossible for the Philippine Government, whether at the National level or LGU levels to "manage" the entry and exit of the Badjaos within the Philippine territorial jurisdiction over 7,107 islands. Interestingly, this phenomenon highlights the gross incapability of both the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy since the time of the Commonwealth Government up to the present illegitimate government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which must be taken up in another expository rambling of a delusional mind, as others seem to perceive the kind of exchanges of ideas among members of PPP - whether the "Movement" or the 'Political Party".

The first approach requires the Philippine Government and its constituents to treat the Badjaos with utmost courtesy and respect, far higher than whatever accorded to those with passports and visas, along the entire coastline of the Philippine Archipelago. At the same time, the Philippine Government has the prerogative to "delimit" or "demarcate" the Badjaos' movement over land. Thus, while the Philippine Government may not prevent the Badjaos from getting inside the Philippine territorial waters, it may designate specific areas, where the Badjaos may disembark.

The second approach is contingent on the frequency and/or duration of the Badjaos' "stay" at any particular site along the entire coastline of the Philippine Archipelago. There are specific locations where they have been living in "communities on stilts", in harmony with the land-based communities since "time immemorial", i.e. no living resident can remember the first time when the Badjaos appeared - instead, the present generation of the land-based were born and became aware that the Badjaos have been there earlier than their last surviving ancestors. Those "communities on stilts" qualify to be treated exactly like the "ancestral lands" of land-based indigenous ethnic groups. The Badjaos' "ancestral coastlines" [the term will suffice until the Honorable Senators and Representatives of the Congress of the Philippines reach agreement of whatever particular term or phrase to adopt instead of the anachronistic term "domain"] must be included as the sea-based counterpart of the "ancestral lands" of land-based indigenous ethnic groups. The only difference will be in recognizing the unique conditions and requirements of the sea-based Badjaos, that's all.

For as long as the Philippine Government will recognize and acknowledge the inalienable human rights of the Badjaos as a distinct sea-based indigenous ethnic group, theoretically there should be no problem with regard to specific legislations, both at the National and Local levels, and specific programs for governance that will be appropriate for the Badjaos, whether to be treated as "Special Citizens of the Republic of the Philippines" or as "Special Guests being Sea Gypsies Without Territorial Limits on Planet Earth". This recognition of the unique inalienable rights of the Badjaos does not preclude therefore the need for specific Amendments in or of Specific Provisions in the 1987 Philipppine Constitution.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I really agree with what you say about ancestral coastlines. It is sad that the Badjao or Sama Dilaut as we know them can just be pushed away from their ancestral coastlines as squatters because some business decides to rent the coastline from the government. I know Sama that have been living in communities for 60 years that fear demolition. Thanks for this post. I want to share with you and your readers as well our website Kauman Sama Online where we are trying to make a difference for the Sama and Badjao.