WebClick Tracer

TAUSUG IN DOHA: The Badjaos and the coins 

mindaviews gamson

DOHA, Qatar (MindaNews / 23 July) — When I was a kid in Jolo, I could not be separated from my maternal grandparents whenever they were traveling. They let me go with them when they went to Bongao (in Tawi-Tawi) and Zamboanga City. That’s how clingy I was to them, most especially to my maternal grandmother, Hanina, whom I fondly called “Ina’ Maas.” 

It’s funny to remember that when we traveled, we got on the ship early because they were scared of being left behind. Well, I see that as a best practice. At least we can conveniently search for our bedding, arrange our things and take some rest. 

While waiting for the ship to sail, my “Ina’ Maas” and I used to look out at the sea and enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view of Sulu’s mountains — Mt. Tumantangis, Mt. Dahu  and others. Likewise, to inhale and exhale the cool and relaxing sea breeze.

In those days, there were ships departing Jolo for Zamboanga even during the day. These days, departures are at night. 

I remember the first time I boarded a ship was when I was in Grade 2. That was also my first time to see a group of Badjaos assembled in an area of the sea just next to the ship. They were on board small boats, some of them with toddlers. What they were doing was so enjoyable to watch. 

Each time a vessel arrives or departs at the Jolo Wharf, these Badaos immediately position their small boats adjacent to the vessel while waiting for passengers throwing coins for them to catch or dive to get. Photo taken on 26 June 2022 by Gamson Jr Mawallil Quijano

Some thoughtful passengers who looked at them would throw coins. Some of them were catchers, others were not. But Badjaos have an outstanding ability to dive at sea. When they couldn’t catch the coins, they’d follow them to the depths of the sea. 

Sometimes they would entertain the people on the ship by singing songs in their language while playing drums at the same time. By the time they finished singing, the passengers would throw coins at them. The smile on their faces is priceless whenever they receive coins. 

For me, I find solace in their clamor for more that resounds across the ship. It is like the sound of rain falling on the roof, the ground, trees, branches, and leaves at night time. I believe it invigorates the day of every passenger aboard the ship. 

My beloved “Ina’ Maas” would give me some coins so I could throw at them as well. This is one of the most wonderful memories of my childhood in Jolo and with my beloved “Ina’ Maas.”

At daytime, whether the ship leaves or comes, my brothers and sisters Badjao would be there. 

In my recent travel to Sulu, as the ship we embarked on prepared to moor on the Jolo wharf, nostalgia engulfed my heart when I saw my Badjao brothers and sisters in the sea still doing this old practice. 

As I looked at them from above the ship, my heart was filled with happiness. They reminded me of my precious “Ina’ Maas.” It made me feel like a kid again. I felt that my beloved “Ina’ Maas” was just standing right next to me watching me, holding my arm, and giving me coins to throw at them. This is a wonderful childhood memory that I proudly cherish. 

The Jolo wharf is one of the places that mean so much to me because it reminds me of my maternal grandparents. When I was little, we used to walk fast, jog, and hang out there early in the morning to invigorate ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically. We do that routinely. 

Afterward, we would proceed to our favorite Lawa Coffee shop where we will eat our favorite sardines with eggs, hot pandesal with peanut butter, of course, some hot drinks like coffee and chocolate.

I recall there was an area there where my “Ina’ Maas” and I used to wade in the sea. As always, she had me in her arms. 

It is lamentable that Badjaos are sometimes underrated by some people because of their status in life. But they are an astonishing people. They play with the sea. They can stay under water for an extended period of time without diving equipment. 

Like many others, they also have precious roles in society, especially when it comes to the sea where most of them are experts. They sell a lot of seafood in the marketplace. They are industrious people who concentrate solely on their business and their simple lifestyle. 

If the stars and the moon make the dark sky beautiful at night, my Badjao brothers and sisters at daytime are the ornaments of the sea. Truly, their presence in the sea is exquisite to behold especially when you are above the ship. In fact, it brings comfort and relaxation to everyone’s heart and mind.

(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Gamson Jr Mawallil Quijano of Sulu is a registered Radiologic Technologist who works in Doha, Qatar). 

Your perspective matters! Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We welcome diverse viewpoints and encourage respectful discussions. Don't hesitate to share your ideas or engage with others.

Search MindaNews

Share this MindaNews story
Send us Feedback