ISABEL, LEYTE – A newly constructed village brings hope for the Badjaos here as various government and non-government organizations extend assistance in making a French architect’s dream a reality.
Architect Cristophe Cormy Donat, founder of IKIKO Foun-dation, a French non-govern-ment organization, has con-ceptualized the Badjao Village while writing his college thesis. He was researching about tradi-tional architecture three years ago when he decided to come to the Philippines and live with the Badjaos for six months where he also learned about their prob-lems such as the lack of permanent houses.
“At first they were suspicious of why was I here, but I fell in love with them instantly. They welcomed me in their community and little by little I discovered their culture and traditions, as well as their dilemma between land and see because they used to be nomads,” Donat recalled.
During his stay, he taught them how to make art using trash, such as the wall décors, in their community center made of umbrella fabrics found on the streets as one way of recycling and making it an eco-friendly building.
“We are showcasing their artworks here because we are planning to create a brand using this new technique in weaving and designing for Badjao women so that they will have jobs and will not beg for money anymore,” he explained. For him, the creation of the village gives them assurance that they will not be evicted anytime because they have already been awarded their certificates of occupancy.
The National Commission On Indigenous People (NCIP), together with the local government units of Isabel and the office of Leyte 4th District Representative Lucy T. Gomez has allotted P3.2 million to build 48 housing units here. Cristophe and his team led the construction of ‘Luma Pagtimukan’, a tribal hall which also serves as a classroom, wedding venue and mini library for the children.
Aida Dugasan, one of Cristophe’s trusted member of the tribe studies under the alternative learning system (ALS), together with 20 other students who do not have money to sustain in going to a regular school. Her father is a fisherman while her mother is a vendor. She was tearyeyed as she expressed her gratitude to Christophe for training her and being an instrument in the making of their village.
Meanwhile, Cristophe defended the Badjaos from people who are calling them lazy and dirty. He hopes that despite the changes brought to them, they will retain their unique culture and traditions. “It’s very saddening to see their culture dying because they have a strong belief in the spirit of water and they are trying so hard to keep their tradition, but sometimes it is complicated for them because they live with a city nearby and the young ones are attracted to Western culture.
It’s like a struggle every day because there are no fish to catch from the sea anymore so they resort to begging, which is not good. People think that they are lazy but if you are living with them, it’s really not about laziness.”
He also expressed disappointment that due to budget constraints, only two toilets have been constructed for them. “I was a bit disappointed although we did a great job with the LGU and NCIP, but unfortunately, we only have two toilets in this village and it is not enough for close to 350 people. It is the problem because you could only imagine living in your own house and everybody is fighting to use the toilet.”
He added that the construction of the footbridge should not have been the priority because it is only for people who want to take selfies and pictures for Facebook and Instagram. “My wish is to look for sponsors who can build toilets for them.
It is a big problem because they live near the sea and their wastes go to the water,” adding that 5 children died last year due to poor health and sanitation in the village.