“Matuwid na Pamamahala Tungo sa ARMM na Masagana’t Mapayapa”

Monday, July 15, 2013

Feature: Badjaos and Compassion

In the past Badjaos were seafarers. They were nomads settled in their own Lepa ( a banca-house). A Badjao married woman often called Beyang (also referred to as a lady friend) usually sings a lullaby while putting her child to sleep and at the same time cooks “syanglag” (a pop-corn like cassava eaten in lieu of rice). The husband on the other hand usually swims the deep blue sea with his “tipara” (goggles )and bow and arrow to spy and catch a fish; a life so simple far from the chaotic and diverse world of this modern time.

With the passing of time, slowly they started settling at stilt houses at Badjao Village or Luuk Banca in Bongao and at Tungkallang in Sanga-Sanga. But still their love for singing filled the air; the songs of Beyang echoed in the air. However, what was disappointing was they started using dynamite as a means of fishing perhaps influenced by those local folks who cater to the practice without understanding the possible consequences of such activity. Others started to use the dangerous “compressor” technique of fishing by going miles down the bottom of the sea with plastic tube in between the mouth attached to an Oxygen tank which served as their supply of air for breathing. This often resulted into their being paralyzed from the waist to the lower extremities called Bend’s disease or decompression sickness also referred as generalized barotrauma, pointing to injuries caused by a rapid decrease in the pressure that surrounds a person, of either air or water. (Inteliheath)

I recall the those years I spent at Holy Family hospital, a primary private hospital run by the Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) where Badjaos were a priority given the same care and regarded just like all the other patients that came for medical assistance or admission. It was and still a part of their culture that when one is sick everyone in the family or community is around to give moral support. It is their practice to bring along with them kitchen utensils and everyone will even have their meal together in the hospital. Perhaps the most striking when interviewing the mother of a sick child was the names of their children. Most common among them was Lito Lapid, Rudy Fernandez, Fernando Poe and the like which mirrored their love for Filipino actors and action movies. This time the names of Robin Padilla, Ronnie Rickets are a favorite.

Now that the MMS are long gone and Holy Family Hospital is now a modernized private hospital, I wonder who caters to their medical needs and who will accommodate and give then cordial treatment like we used to. I am not saying though that the hospitals (public & private) and health practitioners here in Bongao are insensitive or inconsiderate of them but I cannot get off myself from casting some doubts and concern because feedbacks would say that the tender, love and care we had for them were far different from what is in the present. Ours was a genuine show of love, respect and care for their culture as embedded in the objectives of the former Holy Family Hospital and MMS that is to provide a culture-sensitive community based alternative approach to health. Up to this time there are Badjaos who I can only recognize by their faces who smile at me maybe because they still remember me as once their nurse at the time they needed one.

Reflecting on this, I could say that I was fortunate to have been given the chance to work with the MMS because I learned the true meaning of hard work, compassion and dedication for the greater glory of God and the sublime mission of a health practitioner true to the sworn pledge of Florence Nightingale.(tinsangkula/depEd Tawi-Tawi)

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"Matuwid na pamamahala tungo sa ARMM sa masagana't mapayapa"

English - "Good governance for a progressive and peaceful ARMM."

Sinama - "Hap pamarinta tudju ARMM na sambu maka salamat"

Bahasa Sug - "Dan mabuntul tudju pa ARMM masambu iban mahatul"

Meranaw - "Mathitu a kandatu sa ARMM ko katagompiya go kalilintad"