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Tullioz

Who are the Badjao and Why are They in the Streets Begging?

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Tullioz

Rather than address a few comments I saw in a couple of recent threads about beggars and pickpockets where the Badjao have been mentioned and risk taking them too far off topic, I decided to start a new thread on the subject of the Badjao. 

Below is a brief introduction to who the Badjao are followed by a few other facts:

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The name is spelled in various ways: “Badjao,” “Badyaw,” or “Bajau.” They are also known by other names such as: “Sama Dilaut,” “Laut,” or “Orang Laut”. Sometimes called “sea gypsies” these once-boat-dwelling people are traditionally found in the southwestern Philippines (Basilan and Tawi-Tawi areas), northwestern Malaysia and the northern parts of Indonesia down to Johore where legend traces their origin.

Driven to near extinction due to the exploitation by the neighboring dominant tribes like the Tausog, the Yakans and even the Christians, disease, starvation and apparent inability to cope with the social changes, they are sometimes referred to also as a “vanishing tribe.” At present estimates place their number to about a 40,000 in the Philippines.

The Badjaos are peace-loving people, oftentimes to a fault. They would endure all forms of hardship, inconvenience and lost opportunities only to avoid getting into trouble, especially with people not of their own tribe. Hence, they prefer to live in peace by themselves at the coastal fringes of population centers, mangrove areas, coves and islets. With the huge logs which they once used to carve into houseboats becoming scarce (and expensive), their mobile dwellings have since evolved into shanties on stilts – literally a ramshackle ensemble of poles, palm fronds, and if the family is better off, some pieces of miss-cut planks.

Most Badjaos are fishermen (traditionally, all of them were) and they live on the bounties of the sea or on what is left of it. Having lost their traditional fishing grounds due to armed conflict, commercial fishing, pirates and poachers, they are left with meager means of livelihood.

Extreme poverty has forced many of them to resort to begging as a means of survival. Wherever they live, they are considered citizens of the lowest class: ignorant, dirty, stench-smelling and deprived and most people have very low regard for them. In different parts of Mindanao their situation is a picture of complete neglect that has driven whole families to flock to the big cities of Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao to beg in the streets.

The Badjaos are at the receiving end of all the consequences of the systemic on-going insecurities and violence beyond reach of government services.

The above introduction is taken from a portion of a petition letter for the inclusion of the Indigenous People (IP) Samal Bajau Communities in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law BBL written and originally published by: Bro. Nicer O. Natulla, JPIC commission Head of the Claretian Missionaries in Maluso, Basilan province Philippines (January 2015) https://www.facebook.com/ClaretSamalBajauFoundation/photos/a.898331860186809.1073741852.767401529946510/898332483520080/?type=3  

 

  • Best estimates put the number of Badjao in Davao City at around 3,500, Cebu City 2,200, and the capital region at around 2,500.
  • The Badjao have had permanent communities established in Davao City (Isla Verde) and Cebu City (Alaska Mambaling) for more than 50 years. 
  • While many Badjao can be found begging in just about every city in the Philippines, fewer than 25% of Badjao are beggars. Most are able to earn enough to get by and are content with what they have without having to resort to begging. 
  • Literacy rates among the Badjao in the Philippines are below 10%. And, fewer than 20% of all Badjao children in the Philippines are currently enrolled in school.
  • Most of the Badjao found in Luzon and The Visayas have migrated from Zamboanga and the island of Basilan. 

The island of Basilan is not very large and is slightly smaller in size than the North Carolina county I was born and lived in for much of my life. For comparison, the land Area of Rockingham County is around 573 square miles as opposed to the 512 of Basilan. To put that into perspective, Basilan is a little smaller than the red shaded area on the map below of the Southeast United States.

5a6c8ccf71746_basilansize.jpg.5a43e79290646d7a7250c2f5a9620840.jpg

 If anyone has ever wondered why the Badjao choose to leave their homeland and move to the urban areas of the Philippines where they are unable to find work, struggle to survive, and often have to resort to begging in the streets; these stories below should make it clear. These reports all come from the small island of Basilan with the exception of the last three that mention Zamboanga. I added those to show that the situation there is not much better. Most of these incidents took place within the past twelve months or so and while not all of the victims found in these stories are Badjao, many are. How long would you continue to live in your community with your family if headlines like the ones below were the norm?

Bodies of 2 beheaded Vietnamese found in Basilan
http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/07/05/17/bodies-of-2-beheaded-vietnamese-found-in-basilan

9 killed in Maluso massacre
http://dzrhnews.com.ph/9-killed-maluso-massacre/

Abu Sayyaf bandits behead Basilan couple
https://news.mb.com.ph/2018/01/06/abu-sayyaf-bandits-behead-basilan-couple/

2 kids among 4 civilians killed in Basilan operations
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/879942/2-kids-among-4-civilians-killed-in-basilan-operations-ngo-police

7 Basilan farmers abducted by Abu Sayyaf found beheaded
http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/regions/620140/7-basilan-farmers-abducted-by-abu-sayyaf-found-beheaded/story/

Ex-barangay captain found beheaded in Basilan
https://www.rappler.com/nation/186076-ex-barangay-captain-hadji-najir-bohong-beheaded-basilan

Mother injured, daughter dead in Lamitan blast
https://www.rappler.com/nation/158450-mother-injured-daughter-dead-lamitan-blast

Boy killed, 2 other children injured in Basilan grenade blast
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/835498/boy-killed-2-other-children-injured-in-basilan-grenade-blast#ixzz4VqQ5A5gZ

Headless body dumped in front of a store in Basilan
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/950839/headless-body-dumped-in-front-of-a-store-in-basilan

2 children killed, 3 injured in Basilan explosion
https://www.rappler.com/nation/159891-al-barka-basilan-explosion-january-2017-abu-sayyaf

Boy, 8, slain in Basilan assault
http://www.philstar.com/nation/2016/12/05/1650248/boy-8-slain-basilan-assault

2 children dead, brothers wounded in Basilan blast
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/851644/2-children-dead-brothers-wounded-in-basilan-blast

Gunmen kill 9 Badjaos in Zamboanga
http://www.philstar.com/nation/2013/12/26/1272187/gunmen-kill-9-badjaos-zamboanga

8 fishermen shot dead off Zamboanga
https://www.rappler.com/nation/157868-pirates-kill-boat-crew-zamboanga

Officials said at least 167 Badjaos, mostly children, have died since they moved to Cawa-Cawa after the siege.
https://www.rappler.com/nation/68591-in-photos-badjaos-zamboanga-city

 

There are many myths surrounding the Badjao, and I have seen several of them repeated on this forum from time to time. 

I will provide a few quotes I have read in the past couple of days and then I will try to clarify some of the misconceptions many people have about the Badjao. 

"Never give to Badjaos, they ride a multicab every morning to be scattered in the city, their babies are given Tanduay to keep them lethargic." 

Badjao mothers love their children just as much as any other parent and would never intentionally have them consume alcohol or any other drug just to make them appear pitiful and lethargic. I have mentioned this in other threads in the past, but the reason their babies appear to be drugged is because of a combination of the heat and malnutrition. 

"...the 500 to 2000 or more indentured badjaos, from Badjao Island with a history of slavery going back to the mid-1800s who are dispersed on the streets of Metro-Manila with infants and toddlers, by their "owner" employers from their island south of Zamboanga City like corporate fast food chain."

"They have been proven time and time again to be an organized groups here. It is in essence organized crime." 

First off, there is no "Badjao Island". The Badjao's ancestrial domain covers parts of Mindanao including the islands found in the Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, much of Malaysia and Indonesia. 

They are not part of any criminal syndicate with an "Owner" who is sending them to the urban areas to beg. They are just families trying to survive. 

"On the island south of us, Mindanao, they have a group they call sea gypsies. Here in Dumaguete some come to beg and ? they call them bagao's. Watch everything closely when they are in town. These are the ones where a lot of them use babies as a source of sympathy. They are an organized bunch so they have a plan." 

The Badjao are organized, but only as a family structure. It is not unusual for a clan to consist of several family units and travel together in search of a better opportunity. 

"The newspaper says one of them comes and rents a house /apartment then a  herd of them move in. Most are easily spotted by their shabby dress and the proverbial rent a baby." 

The newspaper is wrong. The Badjao would not waste money renting an apartment. They are comfortable sleeping under the stars or a makeshift shanty on a sidewalk or on the beach. Usually a few Badjao will travel to a new city or town to see how kind and generous the people are and if they feel they will be accepted and there is enough of an opportunity to provide for their families back home, they will encourage the rest of the family to join them. 

The Badjao have no need to "rent" a baby either. They have plenty of their own.   

"...giving to the baby in the arms for sympathy mothers is nothing but a scam. 

The intent of the Badjao is not to scam anyone, they are only trying to survive. Below is a picture of a census report I took just today. The information below would be representative of the average Badjao family found just about anywhere in the Philippines. 

5a6c90545cee5_badjaocensusform.jpg.126a2213187a35d73edde2e329c92b11.jpg

This family of five reports a monthly income of just P1,000 from fishing. I have known this family many years, and I can confirm that this amount is pretty close to being accurate. While this family is not known to beg,  it's hard to call those who do beg scammers when they are fleeing from conflict, earn so little, have little if any education, and have so many mouths to feed. 

"They keep shipping them out of here but like a bad penny they keep coming back." 

After reading the headlines provided, is there any doubt as to why they keep returning? Until the issues that are causing them to flee from their ancestral waters and lands are dealt with, they are going to keep coming back. 

It's unfair to judge others based on appearances and actions without knowing their story and I hope this information will help people understand the Badjao's situation a little better. 

 

Edited by Tullioz
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Kabisay-an gid

Who’s behind proliferation of Badjao beggars? 30 rounded up in Day 2 of ‘Oplan Sapupo’

ILOILO City – Are there groups or individuals behind the proliferation of Badjao mendicants in this city?

The chief of Mandurriao district’s police station does not discount such possibility.

“These Badjaos do not know how to read and write yet they have solicitation letters. Only the literate can think of this mendicancy scheme,” said Chief Inspector Juvy Navales.

Under City Regulation Ordinance 2002-400 that prohibits mendicancy, any person, syndicate or group who utilize and exploit minors, disabled and infirm persons in the mendicancy trade shall suffer a penalty of P2,000 in fine and imprisonment of not less than two months.

Yesterday, the second day of Oplan Sapupo – the city government’s campaign to round up the Badjaos – the Mandurriao police station helped the Public Safety and Transportation and Management Office (PSTMO)  catch a total of 30 mendicants.

“Mandurriao’s district fiesta is fast approaching. There are so many things to see at the public plaza and there are many people. The Badjaos see them as prospective donors,” Navales told Panay News.

The Badjaos – young boys and girls, teenagers, mothers and fathers – were taken to the Mandurriao police station.

In kicking off Oplan Sapupo, Mayor Jose Espinosa recalled that in previous years mendicant Badjaos had “sponsors” or people backing them up and to whom they shared a portion of the alms they collected.

“I don’t know if they still practice this scheme,” said the mayor.

According to PSTMO head Jeck Conlu, the Badjaos they rounded up would be shipped back to Mindanao with the help of the Philippine Coast Guard.

Begging and giving alms to beggars are punishable under City Regulation Ordinance 2002-400. Mendicants are liable to fines of P500, imprisonment of not more than a year, or both fine and imprisonment. On the other hand, giving to beggars is punishable by a fine of P500 or community service.

Monday’s start of Oplan Sapupo was a dud. The Badjaos fled as if they have been forewarned of PSTMO’s operation.

Conlu observed that these supposedly poor Badjaos have cell phones.

“Kun mangayo-ngayo sila nagapamilit pa kag nagapamutong, so kalaw-ay gid (They force people to give them alms, it’s so disgusting),” said Espinosa.

Conflict in Mindanao between Muslim separatists and government troops have forced many of the Badjaos to seek refuge elsewhere.

“They defecate anywhere. Public health and sanitation are being compromised,” said Espinosa.

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cvgtpc1
25 minutes ago, Kabisay-an gid said:

Begging and giving alms to beggars are punishable under City Regulation Ordinance 2002-400. Mendicants are liable to fines of P500, imprisonment of not more than a year, or both fine and imprisonment. On the other hand, giving to beggars is punishable by a fine of P500 or community service.

 

I'm going to print this out on business cards to give to any beggar that hits me up.

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Tullioz
1 hour ago, Kabisay-an gid said:

“These Badjaos do not know how to read and write yet they have solicitation letters. Only the literate can think of this mendicancy scheme,”

Christian missionaries and local pastors are usually the ones who write letters for the Badjao to solicit money. I know some personally that do this. Also, 1 in 10 Badjao can read and write (Especially the younger generation), so people within their own community can write the letters. 

Here's an example of a 10 year old Badjao's handwriting.

5a6cceb6b838c_badjaowritting.jpg.918213af5f44d84a1878aa3b9dc9f8a2.jpg

There are also several Badjao in the Philippines who have completed collage. 

1 hour ago, Kabisay-an gid said:

Mayor Jose Espinosa recalled that in previous years mendicant Badjaos had “sponsors” or people backing them up and to whom they shared a portion of the alms they collected

This is all just speculation on the mayor's part based on a myth. It would be interesting to see what evidence he has to back up this claim against the Badjao. There are many public officials in this country who make incorrect assumptions towards certain people groups and regions of the country they have no direct knowledge of based on rumors they have heard over the years. In most cases it's not intentional, it's just based on what they have been told. 

Ask people in Manila what their opinion of Mindanao or Davao City is and see how a majority respond for example. 

1 hour ago, Kabisay-an gid said:

Conlu observed that these supposedly poor Badjaos have cell phones.

I know plenty of Badjao with cell phones, they aren't that expensive especially when bought second hand. I paid P500 for my first phone when I arrived here.  Not only do some Badjao have cell phones, some of them also take selfies with their cell phones and post them on Facebook.

5a6cc96fc78d7_badjaoselfie.jpg.75bfaa83ac909c2ef557b4bbddb864a0.jpg 

 

Yes, a lot of Badjao have Facebook accounts too.

 

Edited by Tullioz
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Tullioz
26 minutes ago, cvgtpc1 said:

I'm going to print this out on business cards to give to any beggar that hits me up.

That's actually a pretty good idea. Just about every city here has a similar ordinance, so it could be done just about anywhere there are beggars. 

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Kabisay-an gid

Badjao beggars in Kalibo to beg for alms, foods

BY BOY RYAN B. ZABAL
 
Badjaos are coming to town.
 
The local police in Kalibo, Aklan is closely monitoring the proliferation of Badjaos posing as beggars in the onset of Christmas and Ati-Atihan.
 
Chief Inspector Al Loren Bigay, acting chief of police of Kalibo, said that there are Badjao beggars asking for alms during the holidays near the Kalibo Public Market and Gaisano Mall Kalibo.
 
These beggars are becoming eye sores and they are coming back in Kalibo in numbers.
 
Kalibo mayor William Lachica on Thursday said they will address the problem on Badjao beggars, who come all the way from Mindanao, to beg to shoppers, residents and motorists.
 
Lachica has formed Task Force Badjao last year by virtue of Executive Order No. 12 to address the sanitation and health risks to residents and tourists of Kalibo posed by nomadic Badjaos. These Badjaos practically live, roam and sleep in the streets and sidewalks of Kalibo on cardboards.
 
Aside from begging, police also received complaints of unruly behavior of Badjaos such as spitting and pinching of motorists and pedestrians.
 
Last month, the police and the Municipal Social Welfare and Development in Boracay Island rounded up a group of Badjaos and Aetas, some of them are children and women.
 
Bigay said, "the Badjaos from Boracay might had resettle in Kalibo to continue begging as a means of living."
 

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bounder
3 hours ago, cvgtpc1 said:

I'm going to print this out on business cards to give to any beggar that hits me up.

That would have a tendency to be a feat in futility if the Badjao cannot read or write.  

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Headshot
7 hours ago, cvgtpc1 said:

I'm going to print this out on business cards to give to any beggar that hits me up.

You are forgetting that most of them are illiterate in ANY language, let alone English. They may use your card to wipe their butt, but that's about it.

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Jawny

Many times when my wife shops, I wait in our car.  Of course, at times there will be badjao beggars, easy to spot with their dress and mannerisms. I never give to them nor any beggar, on the street or from my car.  However, they are skilled in a way that is quite annoying.  I’ve learned ways of getting them to back off.  Before, I tried ignoring them but they were persistent.  It was annoying, but I noticed with others, it paid off.  The continually knocking and the body language (I’m poor and hungry) would wear down many people.

I suspect this has a lot to do with the religious belief that to help the less fortunate is a blessing to the giver.

As far as being "gangs" or making any sort of serious money, I’ve never seen any sort of evidence of  this.  In fact, most often they come in larger number around the Christmas season but they live under trees or other primitive shelter.  They play with their children, have games and do not seem unhappy at all.  Except when they do the begging.  Then they do their poor acting of hunger.  Amusing to see when the baby is eating an ice cream treat while the older beggar is attempting to look hungry.

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Tullioz
9 hours ago, Kabisay-an gid said:

Badjao beggars in Kalibo to beg for alms, foods

It's no secret that some Badjao are beggars and that they are discriminated against by local authorities in some areas. Erasing some of the stereotypes was the point of this thread. Cities like Iloilo and Kalibo need to focus on developing programs that can help these people rather than shipping them back to Mindanao only for them to return another day. 

9 hours ago, bounder said:

That would have a tendency to be a feat in futility if the Badjao cannot read or write.  

Keep in mind that most Badjao are not beggars, and most beggars in the Philippines are not Badjao.  That being said, you're correct, illiteracy would probably be a problem with many beggars here regardless of their background. 

4 hours ago, Jawny said:

I never give to them nor any beggar, on the street or from my car.

This is what I recommend to everyone. Never give money to beggars in the Philippines, especially the children. If someone is compelled to give, healthy food or snacks and in kind gifts such as sandals are fine, but never money. 

4 hours ago, Jawny said:

I’ve learned ways of getting them to back off.  Before, I tried ignoring them but they were persistent.

A trick that will always work is to give an answer in their own language. Very few people outside their tribe speak Sinama (Badjao) and they will appreciate the effort.

Next time a group of Badjao come up asking for money simply say "Mbal aku kinat-kinat". This translates to "I have no small change".

If they continue, you can say  "Ala manya sin". This translates to "I have no money". 

You can then say "Sia onna?" to change the subject which translates to "What's your name?". 

After they give their name, and they say something else in their language you can say "Mbal aku makahati Badjao". This translates to "I don't understand Badjao". 

After this, they will usually try to communicate with you in Cebuano or even English if one in the group has attend school at some point in their life. 

When leaving simply say "Amole' na aku" which translates to "I'm going now" and you will have made some new friends who will remember you from now on and probably never ask you for money again in the future. 

4 hours ago, Jawny said:

As far as being "gangs" or making any sort of serious money, I’ve never seen any sort of evidence of  this.

For the past six plus years I have visiting and interacting with Badjao from from Luzon to Sulu and many places in between and have also never found any evidence of organized gangs or crime syndicates in the Badjao community. Their begging is simply out of a necessity to survive in most cases, but sometimes children will beg just because they have nothing else to do. 

4 hours ago, Jawny said:

They play with their children, have games and do not seem unhappy at all.  Except when they do the begging.  Then they do their poor acting of hunger.  Amusing to see when the baby is eating an ice cream treat while the older beggar is attempting to look hungry.

Some will use drama to try and get more sympathy that's for sure and some are better actors than others. Overall I would still say the Badjao are the happiest and most content people group in the Philippines despite being the poorest and most marginalized tribe. 

Edited by Tullioz
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RR3
18 hours ago, Tullioz said:

The name is speled in various ways: “Badjao,” “Badyaw,” or “Bajau.” They are also known by other names such as: “Sama Dilaut,” “Laut,” or “Orang Laut”. Sometimes called “sea gypsies” these once-boat-dwelling people are traditionally found in the southwestern Philippines (Basilan and Tawi-Tawi areas), northwestern Malaysia and the northern parts of Indonesia down to Johore where legend traces their origin.

Bajiao also in Thailand, Myanmar. They call themselves Moken, Thai call them 'Chao Le' or people of the sea. In Myanmar they are called 'Salones'. Mergui archipelago  is Moken home in Myanmar. In Thailand they are settled by government to Koh Surin in N and Koh Lipe (Tarutao) in S next to Malay border. Surin is closed from visitors most of the year but Koh Lipe  has tourist business booming.

Moken legend is that they were pushed to sea  by stronger tribes who took their lands.

Ivanoff and White write that Moken are not fishermen but Sea Hunters; their main source of food was oysters, sea shells, sea snails, also hunting sea turtle and ray with spear. Not using nets/hooks.

Have two books I bought in Thailand: Moken by Jacques Ivanoff and The Sea Gypsies of Malaya by Walter Grainge White. They lived with Moken and studied their culture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moken#/media/File:Sea_Nomads_distribution_map.jpg

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Alfred E. Neuman
On 1/27/2018 at 3:17 PM, Tullioz said:

Never give to Badjaos, they ride a multicab every morning to be scattered in the city, their babies are given Tanduay to keep them lethargic." 

Facts. Seen it with my own eyes more than five occasions. Ask the guards of Robinson‘s Galleria in Cebu between 6-8 am weekdays.

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fred42
6 hours ago, Tullioz said:

It's no secret that some Badjao are beggars and that they are discriminated against by local authorities in some areas. Erasing some of the stereotypes was the point of this thread. Cities like Iloilo and Kalibo need to focus on developing programs that can help these people rather than shipping them back to Mindanao only for them to return another day. 

Keep in mind that most Badjao are not beggars, and most beggars in the Philippines are not Badjao.  That being said, you're correct, illiteracy would probably be a problem with many beggars here regardless of their background. 

This is what I recommend to everyone. Never give money to beggars in the Philippines, especially the children. If someone is compelled to give, healthy food or snacks and in kind gifts such as sandals are fine, but never money. 

A trick that will always work is to give an answer in their own language. Very few people outside their tribe speak Sinama (Badjao) and they will appreciate the effort.

Next time a group of Badjao come up asking for money simply say "Mbal aku kinat-kinat". This translates to "I have no small change".

If they continue, you can say  "Ala manya sin". This translates to "I have no money". 

You can then say "Sia onna?" to change the subject which translates to "What's your name?". 

After they give their name, and they say something else in their language you can say "Mbal aku makahati Badjao". This translates to "I don't understand Badjao". 

After this, they will usually try to communicate with you in Cebuano or even English if one in the group has attend school at some point in their life. 

When leaving simply say "Amole' na aku" which translates to "I'm going now" and you will have made some new friends who will remember you from now on and probably never ask you for money again in the future. 

For the past six plus years I have visiting and interacting with Badjao from from Luzon to Sulu and many places in between and have also never found any evidence of organized gangs or crime syndicates in the Badjao community. Their begging is simply out of a necessity to survive in most cases, but sometimes children will beg just because they have nothing else to do. 

Some will use drama to try and get more sympathy that's for sure and some are better actors than others. Overall I would still say the Badjao are the happiest and most content people group in the Philippines despite being the poorest and most marginalized tribe. 

Normally I just tell them in Filipino after a begging bout to "Get a Job and earn money".. 

They seem to understand Filipino just fine.

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Tullioz
3 hours ago, RR3 said:

Bajiao also in Thailand, Myanmar. They call themselves Moken, Thai call them 'Chao Le' or people of the sea. In Myanmar they are called 'Salones'. Mergui archipelago  is Moken home in Myanmar.

The Moken are an entirely different people group and are not directly related to the Badjao. The Badjao are a sub-group of the Bangsa Sama. They are classified as Sama Laut (Sea dwellers). The Sama Deya (Land Dwellers) make up the largest portion of the Sama people and they are often referred to as Sama or Samal. The only thing the Badjao have in common with the Moken is that they are both nomadic and depend on the sea 

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Tullioz
6 minutes ago, fred42 said:

Normally I just tell them in Filipino after a begging bout to "Get a Job and earn money".. 

They seem to understand Filipino just fine.

The Badjao found in Cebu do speak and understand Cebuano just fine and in some cases Tagalog, my suggestion was for those who have compassion for others and may want to show a little respect when dealing with them. 

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."  Nelson Mandela

 

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