Tag Archives: Badjao Girl

[From the web] Dispatches: The Philippine Picture of Badjao Displacement By Carlos H. Conde

Dispatches: The Philippine Picture of Badjao Displacement
By Carlos H. Conde

Carlos_Conde_web  2013 Byba Sepitkova Human Rights WatchThe striking image of a Filipino girl – a member of the indigenous Badjao tribe – begging in the streets of Lucban, a town in Quezon province south of Manila, has gone viral in the Philippines and prompted a flood of public concern and support for her and her impoverished family. A photographer spotted the child, later identified as 13-year-old Rita Gaviola from Zamboanga City on the southern island of Mindanao. Tweets and Facebook posts and media coverage celebrated the girl’s beauty and her dream to become a teacher.

Those reports don’t mention that there are thousands of other residents of Zamboanga City, including many Badjao, who were displaced and forced into destitution following the armed confrontation between government forces and rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front in September 2013. That violence killed nearly 200 people, displaced more than 100,000 residents, and destroyed thousands of homes. The city’s ethnic minorities, including the Badjao, were particularly vulnerable to displacement and forced relocation following the fighting. The authorities, with little or no genuine consultation, forcibly moved the Badjao inland from their homes along the coast, despite their traditional occupation as fishermen. To this day, thousands of Badjao and other residents, mostly Muslims, remain homeless, living in dire conditions in evacuation sites.

The Badjao, like many of the Philippines’ indigenous peoples, are a neglected tribe. Commonly referred to as “sea gypsies” because they live and fish in coastal areas, the Badjao live in extreme poverty – often beyond the reach of state assistance due to their nomadic existence. The result is that many of them join the ranks of beggars in the Philippines’ urban centers or dive for coins thrown by boat passengers.

The public concern for Rita Gaviola is an opportunity for the new Philippine government to strengthen efforts to ensure the rights of livelihood, housing and health to the Badjao and other indigenous peoples who, too often, are denied those rights in the face of discrimination, conflict or displacement. The government should start by providing adequate resettlement based on consultation for the Badjao and the thousands of others who remain in squalid evacuation centers in Zamboanga City. The government should also help ensure the livelihood of the Badjao by relocating them to areas that allow access to the seashore so that they can work as fishermen. Perhaps then Rita Gaviola – and the thousands of Badjao like her – can finally stop begging and return home.

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[Press Release] Student-Leaders challenge Aquino, Duterte to address ‘neglected’ IP issues in country -SPARK

YOUTH GROUPS: HYPE WON’T SOLVE BADJAO GIRL’S PROBLEMS
Student-Leaders challenge Aquino, Duterte to address ‘neglected’ IP issues in country

SPARK KabataanYouth groups expressed concern over the growing hype surrounding rising internet sensations from marginalized sectors in society, particularly Rita Gabiola, popularly known as ‘BadjaoGirl.’

Viral photos of Gabiola, taken while she was begging for alms in the streets of Lucena City, have propelled the young girl to be propelled into popularity. Since then, several personalities and institutions have rushed to shower her and her family with donations and other forms of aid.

SamahanngProgresibongKabataan (SPARK), a national organization of students which engages issues of exploitation and massive inequality in the country, noted several factors which are downplayed by the hype surrounding Gabiola’s rise to popularity.

“Members of the Badjao community, like many other indigenous groups in the country currently face issues of displacement, exploitation and alienation from their very own cultural heritage because of the growing inequalities, violence in their ancestral lands and the destruction of their native environment and livelihood,” said SPARK National Coordinator Arvin Buenaagua.

“As of 2015, data has placed the population of the Badjao community at 26, 400 scattered across Eastern Visayas, Northern Samar, San Bernardino Strait, Capul Island, San Isidro Island and Manila. While they are traditionally a seafaring tribe, some Badjao families have settled in impoverished coastal sections of highly-urbanized areas due to poverty and displacement,” Buenaagua said. “This leaves open the possibility of members of the tribe, especially children and women, to be subject to exploitation and harassment, not to mention the detachment of younger generations to their well-established traditions and culture,” he added.

“The surrounding hype implies that most people only notice IPs when they are ‘photoshoot-material’ and thus, ‘sellable,’” said Alex Castro of NagkakaisangIskolar Para SaPamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA UP).

Castro, currently studying Law in the University of the Philippines Diliman, stressed that the ‘romanticizing’ the plight of Gabiola and her family will do very little difference to the quality of life experienced by indigenous tribes. “Since the passage of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act in 1997, no successful attempt has been initiated to address the issue of poverty and exploitation among these nomadic tribes. Not to mention the disenfranchisement of these groups in policies addressing armed violence and environmental destruction in rural and coastal areas of the country,” she elaborated.

Castro noted that while civil society and individual citizens’ efforts to help the family of Gabiola are admirable, the Philippine government must recognize the societal realities that put Gabiola’s family into such dismal conditions. Castro also noted the fact that education in all levels remain inaccessible to most IPs, with its high cost and discriminatory policies.

“Gabiola’s desire for a quality education is reflective of the desire espoused by all citizens, especially those who see it as a tool for social mobility and self-realization,” said Castro. “We cannot simply address this issue by giving out token scholarships, but by providing free education for all citizens, regardless of where they came from and which group they belong to,” she concluded.

Duterte and PNoy urged to integrate IP issues in development policies
Castro and Buenaagua urged the incumbent Aquino government in its last few weeks. and the incoming Duterte administration to take drastic and immediate action to uplift and secure the lives and livelihoods.

“President-elect  Rodrigo Duterte, as the first President to hail from Mindanao, must be very familiar with the poverty and violence IPs have to face daily and therefore should prioritize the integration of their issues in the country’s policies on development and peace,” said Buenaagua. “This entails a departure from the neoliberal policies espoused by the Aquino PDP, which President-Elect Duterte also professed to adopt, putting business interests ahead of the urgent demands of the people and resulting to massive displacement, loss of livelihood and the concentration of wealth to a privileged few.”

References:
Arvin Buenaagua, SPARK National Coordinator – 0915 352 3951
Ale Castro, KAISA Spokesperson – 0906 404 5023
Email Address: spark.diliman@gmail.com
Facebook: facebook.com/SparkKabataan
Website: progresibongkabataan.weebly.com

 

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.