ISABEL, Leyte — Badjaos in this town finally moved to their new homes on Tuesday after nearly three decades of wandering on the streets of this town where they settled after leaving Zamboanga and Basilan province in 1985.
Badjaos are known as sea nomads from Mindanao displaced from their previous homes due to conflict.
At least 50 houses made of bamboo as walls and nipa leaves as roofing were built for Badjao ethnic group. The project was turned over to them April 13, but it was only on Tuesday that houses were fully completed.
The nipa hut style houses, interconnected by bamboo bridges are located in the mangrove area, patterned after Badjao communities in Mindanao.
A total of 69 families benefited from the project conceptualized by the IKIKO Foundation, a non-government organization tapped by local government to seek help from the National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP) for funding.
The NCIP provided PHP3.23-million fund for the project while the local government shelled out PHP722,000 as counterpart on top of donating the land for the resettlement project.
For Aida Dugasan, 20, it’s a dream come true to finally have a house her family can call their own. For her, she received not just a house, but also learned how to make home decors out of recyclable materials.
This helped her stop begging on the streets as she shifted her attention on acquiring income-generating skills. Badjaos have a reputation of being beggars in every place they went to.
“I wish that I will be able to raise money so I could start a sari-sari store business,” Dugasan said as they moved into the new house.
Tribal leader Jerry Sapayani shared the joy of their tribe as some organizations also helped them. “We are hopeful that you will continue helping us so that we will become productive and responsible citizens,” Sapayani said in an interview.
The Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation, the country’s largest copper smelter based in this town, provided 50 drums for water storage, 50 garbage bins, 10 toilet bowls, five sinks, 50 meter walkway and educational program for the ethnic group.
The Leyte Electric Cooperative had set up electrical posts in the new community and additional electrical wire. They also cut the electrical installation fee from PHP4,500 to PHP2,500 for each house.
Of the amount, PHP500 is from the local government, PHP1, 000 is shouldered by the electric cooperative, while the remaining PHP1,000 is being paid by beneficiaries. The power cooperative also provided 48 water containers to families.
The Isabel Water District waived additional charges for the installation of new water pipes to the new community. Globe Telecom, on the other hand, distributed 75 discarded electrical lamp posts.
On behalf of his fellow Badjaos, Sapayani promised to treasure the assistance they received and will strive to become responsible citizens of Isabel and Leyte province.
“We will preserve not only our culture, but our environment as well as we commit to help the local government maintain order and cleanliness in our community,” Sapayani added.
Isabel town Mayor Saturnino Medina said on Tuesday that after the Badjao families got their new homes, there are still a lot of things to be done for them to be embraced by the community and receive aid from the government including educational assistance to all Badjao children and livelihood opportunities to the adults.
About 34 Badjao youngsters from age six to 18 years old are out-of-school youth while 38 are enrolled in elementary and secondary education.
“Many of them are not yet registered at the civil registrar and a lot of them are still undocumented. The resistance of some Badjao to visit the civil registry is expected because some of them feel that they will be rejected and even ridiculed,” Medina said. “Until that is fully achieved, the real change for Badjao would not happen.”
Of the 69 Badjao families or 277 individuals living in Isabel, only 19 families are listed as recipients of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development while 18 families are enrolled as Modified Conditional Cash Transfer beneficiaries.
Some who found work in this town are fishermen, construction workers, local government employee, vendors, carpenter, and saleslady. (Roel Amazona/PNA)