Empowering Bajaus and their culture

Empowering Bajaus and their culture
Bajaus perform a traditional dance to showcase their fast-disappearing culture. CLARET SAMAL FOUNDATION, INC.

MALUSO TOWNSITE, BASILAN—A congregation and their partners are doing something in this part of the country to empower the least of all their brothers and sisters—the Bajaus.

The Care for Nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines (CNBP) has been doing an annual gathering to know the plight of the Bajaus in Basilan, Sulu and the Zamboanga Peninsula for 10 years already.

Headed by the CNBP president, Bishop of Jolo Angelito Lampon, CNBP together with the Claret Samal Foundation Inc. (CSFI) of the Claretian Missionaries has helped many Bajaus fulfill their dreams of finishing college and securing jobs to help their families.

As the organization helps in the preservation of the Bajau culture, including their way of life, their dances, and their identity, the CNBP wants participants of their annual gathering to experience the life and culture of the Bajaus.

10 years in the making

For 10 years, CNBP has become an avenue for partners to become more aware of the plight of the Bajaus and the threats to their culture and identity while building camaraderie as they visit different Bajau communities where they learn and relive some traditions that are on the verge of fading from memory.

“When we visited the Teheman community in Maluso, Basilan, some of the participants said that they have seen the practices of Bajaus that have been gone for decades already. They said that they used to do the practices when they were not yet integrated to other communities,” said Wendy Parojinog, the program in-charge of CSFI which is also the secretariat of CNBP.

She added that the gathering on May 12 to 14 in Maluso, Basilan has been an opportunity to showcase the Bajau community in Teheman, Maluso, which has kept their practices away from the influences of other tribes and settlers.

The three-day gathering, which also includes some cultural presentations and talks from different speakers reflected on the theme: “Empowering Bajau Communities: Strengthening of Bajau Identity, Dignity and Cultural Preservation.”

Restoring Bajau dignity

The Claret Samal Foundation Inc. has been helping the Bajaus in Basilan for 20 years since its creation.

Fr. Martin Ele, CMF, director of CSFI, said the foundation has seen the progress of the Bajaus in Maluso in Basilan, saying that they do not see Bajaus begging there.

“This is a concrete scenario that Bajaus have their dignity as humans and they can become somebody in the community. They can become teachers or staff of companies or organizations like CSFI,” said Ele.

“The Bajaus here are attending schools and don’t beg for coins,” he said.
Rowena Nulaji, 28, a preschool teacher in one of the Bajau schools handled by CSFI said poverty has never been an obstacle for her to finish school and land a job as a teacher to her fellow Bajaus.

“If you really want it and if you are persistent to reach your dreams, you will surely find a way. I remember the time when I was in Grade 6 until college that I have to sell snacks just to support my studies and help my parents,” shared Nulaji, adding that she never felt ashamed of doing so but said she did not want her younger siblings to have the same experience.

Sr. Teresita Ante, DC, who handles a Bajau community and pre-school in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi said the Bajaus have preserved their culture despite their neighboring communities’ progress.

“It’s good that the Bajaus have attended school and some have integrated themselves in the society. I hope they will still be proud of their identity as Bajaus even if they will become achievers in the community,” said Ante. CBCPNews