Empowering the Badjao Tribe through the Badjao Integrated Community Empowerment Project

By Sue Hargrove

The Badjao Tribe were traditionally expert fishermen, deep sea divers and navigators from Mindanao. Sadly in the 1960’s due to rampant raiding and piracy in the waters the Badjao tribe made the Alaska beach in Mambaling, Cebu City as their home. They built houses along the shoreline on stilts to store their boats beneath. However due to the construction of the UC-METC in the 1990s they had to leave their community and settled in Sitio Nava. Tragedy struck for the Badjao tribe when their homes were twice gutted by fire and eventually the Badjao tribe were settled in three nearby areas in Cebu, the Philippines.

Traditional Badjao Houses

Traditional Badjao Houses

The fishing trade for the Badjao tribe is threatened because of marine sanctuaries and municipal waters are also protected. This has led to an unemployment rate of almost 60%, leading to acute social and economic disadvantages. Adding to these difficulties the Badjao tribe also face a number of integration issues such as discrimination from the wider community, reinforcing their struggle for human rights, education, employment, housing and social services. This along with poor infrastructure has led to 68 families (544 people approx) living without dignified shelter, a deficit in education among the Badjao child and their parents, with a high number of children not attending education (403) and a very high drop out rate for those who are. Nutrition among the Badjao tribe is poor leading to malnutrition and ill-health. An overwhelming majority of households have no water (98.7%) or no electricity.

The marginalised status of the Badjao tribe held back the tribe from accessing resources and rights.

Through partnership with the Presentation Sisters in the Philippines, SERVE works with the Badjao Tribe in Cebu City. The main goals of the project are to a) improve community leadership b) develop member’s capacity building and livelihood and c) to deliver basic social and infrastructure support.

Thanks to funding support from Misean Cara, the Dublin Province of the Redemptorists and SERVE have been able to support a project, in partnership with the Presentation Sisters, empowering community leaders through training and workshops, to represent and organise the Badjao community. Through this training community leaders have been able to draft a community constitution in environmental sanitation, gambling and house ownership contracts. Community leaders have now taken a diplomatic role in the organising of the community through council meetings and general assemblies and represent the tribe when dealing with civil society and government.

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Badjao Community Council Members

Improving the community members capacity and livelihood, is crucial for the tribe to combat their social and economic disadvantage in the wider community. Community members are involved in basic literacy education which targets children, mother and unemployed youth, to improve their chances of future employment. A feeding programme was introduced targeting orphaned, vulnerable and out of school children to combat poor nutrition and ill-health among the community. A skills training programme to improve the life chances of members of the community included boat making, pearl design, bead work and reflexology.

The community regeneration programme, was introduced to deliver basic social and infrastructural support. The aims of this project was to provide decent and dignified housing for a total of 104 families (1,120 people), Construction also involved the instillation of a septic tank, and running water and electricity to the newly built homes. However while water and electricity connections have been built, connection is slow due to challenges with the resource companies involved. A fence around the newly constructed homes was also constructed to ensure the safety of the families residing there. Family members all contributed to the building of their houses and developed skills in brickwork. Another aspect of this was to build a livelihood centre which provides a space to enhance skills and training, ultimately to increase income for the tribe.

This project developed in partnership between SERVE, the Presentation Sisters and the Badjao community has led to a holistic approach to tackling the issues facing the tribe. Through training, community leaders are now equipped with the skills to formulate community policies and work towards a more inclusive, active and organised community.