Among the bajau

Publish date 20-02-2022

by Mauro Palombo

In a project that has its goal very clear, the difficulties that arise, however serious, will not be enough to break the dream. This is the case of the initiatives that involved the “gypsies of the sea”, the bajau fishermen of the island of Basilan, in the extreme south of the Philippines. The project was born years ago from the collaboration of dear friend Don Renato Rosso with the Claretian fathers. Good results are expected: education and school for children otherwise excluded from everything, remedies for malnutrition, the lack of health care, prevention, community support to experience a great change and new opportunities for a more dignified and full life, without losing their own roots.
From the beginning, Sermig wanted to be a protagonist, energetically supporting the mission and co-planning paths suitable for developing even in scenarios of violent struggle for autonomy, guerrilla and terrorism, residues of banditry and piracy and, again , of economic crisis. Events that have alternated over the years making the activities carried out difficult and risky.

Here too, 2021 was marked by the pandemic. The contagion has hit Manila above all and to a lesser extent the island of Basilan, but with very strict measures to contain it. The focus of the project is the education, also in a creative and suitable form, of Bajau boys and girls and adults. However, now it is a mix of study in one's own homes and with periods at school. The rhythm has not been lost; the dynamic effort of the staff allowed house-to-house and community meetings, respectful of precautions. School attendance was thus in some way maintained; correct information on the virus has reduced fears. The precious food supplementation for the children took place not in school but in their families, who prepared the food they received.

Perhaps the most positive aspect of the history written in recent months is the maturation of the capacity for mutual support in the bajau groups. The long journey of community building has matured in a spontaneous effort not to leave anyone to suffer the worst consequences of the situation. Among the Bajau, and also with the neighbors of other ethnic groups, with whom the relationship has grown: the more we know each other, the more we understand each other. The promotion of hygiene and prevention to protect health has also evolved in the awareness in every family of the prescribed precautions.

As everywhere, in Basilan the pandemic does not only impact health, but the restrictions implemented to combat it make it difficult for people to survive: the opportunities for work are less and so is the ability to have food. Poverty is still growing rapidly; and as usual the poor becoming even poorer. All this can only push to make the actions started up to now more direct, incisive and diversified to build a future with new income opportunities concerning the basic fishing activity, micro credit, the market where to finally sell fish on conditions. fair, the smoking centers for best preservation. Help also comes from the shop for essential goods at advantageous conditions and from the distribution channels of craftsmanship.

Precisely this is therefore the moment to start other real innovations. For example, a pig farm capable of providing resources to support the project and, for families engaged in fishing with low yields due to the impoverishment of fish resources, the start of aquaculture of tilapia fish in self-built cages.

The challenges that never fail to present themselves increasingly demand new and solid answers to give concrete hope. Everyone's commitment will make a difference once again; we are there.

Mauro Palombo
NP November 2021

If you want to help us
Sermig Re.Te. Association for Development
IBAN: IT29 P030 6909 6061 0000 0001 481 Banca Intesa SanPaolo

This website uses cookies. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy. Click here for more info