TAUSUG IN DOHA: Badjaos and Coins
DOHA, Qatar (MindaNews/July 23) — When I was a child in Jolo, I could not be separated from my maternal grandparents when they travelled. 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, especially my maternal grandmother, Hanina, whom I affectionately called “Ina’ Maas.”
It’s funny to remember that when we traveled, we got on the boat early because they were afraid of being left behind. Well, I consider that a best practice. At least we can easily find our bedding, put our things away and rest a little.
While waiting for the ship to depart, my “Ina’ Maas” and I used to look out to sea and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Sulu mountains — Mt. Tumantangis, Mt. Dahu and others. Likewise, to inhale and exhale the cool and relaxing sea breeze.
At that time, there were boats leaving 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 2nd grade. It was also the first time that I saw a group of Badjaos gathered in an area of the sea right next to the ship. They were on small boats, some of them with toddlers. What they were doing was so nice to watch.
Some pensive passengers watching them threw coins. Some of them were receivers, some weren’t. But the Badjaos have an exceptional ability to dive into the sea. When they could not catch the coins, they followed them to the bottom of the sea.
Sometimes they entertained people on the boat by singing songs in their language while playing drums at the same time. When they had finished singing, the passengers threw coins at them. The smile on their faces is priceless every time they receive coins.
For me, I find solace in their clamor for more that resonates through the ship. It’s like the sound of rain falling on the roof, ground, trees, branches and leaves at night. I believe it invigorates every passenger’s day on board the ship.
My beloved “Ina’ Maas” gave me coins so that I could also throw at them. It is one of the most beautiful memories of my childhood in Jolo and with my beloved “Ina’ Maas”.
During the day, whether the boat leaves or comes, my Badjao brothers and sisters would be there.
On my recent trip to Sulu, as the ship we were embarking on was preparing to moor at the quay in Jolo, nostalgia engulfed my heart when I saw my Badjao brothers and sisters in the sea continuing to practice this old practice.
As I watched them from the top of 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 standing right next to me, looking at me, holding my arm and giving me coins to throw at them. It is a wonderful childhood memory that I proudly cherish.
Quai de Jolo is one of the places that means a lot to me because it reminds me of my maternal grandparents. When I was little, we used to walk briskly, jog, and hang out early in the morning to invigorate ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically. We do it regularly.
Then we would head to our favorite Lawa cafe where we would eat our favorite sardines with eggs, hot pandesal with peanut butter, of course, hot drinks like coffee and chocolate.
I remember there was an area there where my “Ina’ Maas” and I used to wade in the sea. As always, she held me in her arms.
It is unfortunate that the Badjaos are sometimes underestimated by some people due to their status in life. But they are an amazing people. They play with the sea. They can stay underwater for an extended period of time without scuba gear.
Like many others, they also have valuable roles in society, especially when it comes to the sea where most of them are experts. They sell a lot of seafood in the market. They are industrious people who only focus on their business and their simple lifestyle.
If the stars and the moon adorn the dark sky at night, my Badjao brothers and sisters by day 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 connect with Mindanawons abroad who wish to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Gamson Jr Mawallil Quijano from Sulu is a registered radiology technologist who works in Doha, Australia. Qatar).