Sama Bajaus’ way of adapting to changing planet PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 11:47

The Bajaus are sometimes referred to as the people of the sea who depend much on the resources the sea can offer such as food and livelihood. Yet, the very same source of life may threaten the lives of the Bajaus because of climate change.

Around 40 leaders from the different villages in Maluso, Basilan gathered at Sama Bajau Sanctuary, a center of learning for the Bajaus built by the Claret Samal Foundation Inc. to be enlightened on the impending danger and or challenges brought about by climate change.

Their eyes revealed a sense of amazement and, at the same time, some fear as they watched the 30-minute video documentation on climate change produced by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA)-9. At the course of video showing, occasionally one could hear sounds of pity and fear; others were silent but the mark of apprehension was seen in their eyes.

The images showing the signs of the changing planet and their impact on the people and community were not new to the Sama Bajaus who are living along the coastal areas. These peace-loving people were previously labeled as boat people or sea dwellers for they spent most of their lives at sea.

As sea dwellers, they have also noticed some changes in their sources of livelihood, like corral bleaching, diminishing catch, sea level rise, occasional sea surges, and stronger winds and storms, among others.

They have never understood why these things happened but they knew that human beings, including themselves have contributed to this phenomenon which they later learned as global warming and climate change.

The Sama Bajaus have long been marginalized by their fellowmen in this part of the country. With the looming impact of climate change, they may be forced to vacate the seas and go inland. For decades they have been struggling to fight for their indigenous rights. In big cities like Zamboanga, Davao, or Metro Manila the Bajaus are associated with begging and being vagabonds. Thus, they are looked down, shooed away or pushed away, threatened and sometimes beaten.

But the Bajuos of Maluso, particularly those from Teheman community are different. They live relatively with dignity at the protected area declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which they call home. Big mangroves surrounded the area, thus keeping the community safe from storm or sea surges. Leaders said that through years of guidance and help from the Claret Samal Foundation and the Claretian Missionary Fathers in Maluso, the Sama Bajaus were slowly integrated into the mainstream society—children go to formal school regularly, organizing themselves and appointing leaders to represent them in formal government structures, and learning marketing and adding value to their marine products.

Yearly the Bajaus of Teheman are planting mangroves especially when they celebrate their annual Bajau Ongka-Onga (Merrymaking) Festival every Nov.13 -15. And as part of this year’s celebration, a Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Forum with PIA in Basilan was conducted. Since they need to be near the seas for sources of livelihood, the Bajaus have slowly realized to do adaptations, like planting more mangroves, raising their stilt houses from the ground. Others have even realized the need for a family disaster plan, and to unite as a community for stronger defense and preparedness against impending disasters. — FPG/RVC/PIA9-ZBST