Sea Dwellers in the 21st Century

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Sea tribes are scattered all over South East Asia. The largest people group are the Badjao people with an estimated population of 400,000. They are an indigenous ethnic group of The Philippines which has been there since at least 500AD.

Badjao are an endemic fisher-folk who have been using sustainable fishing methods for over 1500 years. In the past 50 years however, The Philippines has experienced a surge in population that has severely depleted fish populations, leaving Badjao without anything to sustain their livelihood. Uneducated and often ostracized by the majority people group, they are left  struggling to survive in modern society.

 

The Plight of Children

In a typical sea dwelling community, children often play and swim in water used for human waste disposal. This creates a wide range of health issues such as gastrointestinal problems, eye diseases and skin infections such as scabies, to name a few. Children are injured and sometimes die simply from walking on the elevated stilt walkways. 

Children are especially vulnerable to dire economic circumstances.  Their only escape is through education, which sadly many Badjao families cannot afford.

 

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Child Slavery and Sex Trafficking

With no options for families on the brink of starvation, children routinely are sent to nearby cities to beg. Begging often provides a family enough resources to eat for the  Because families rely on this meager income, children essentially become slaves and are forced to beg up to 12 hours a day. Unable to attend school, the cycle of poverty takes a firm foothold in the community.

Sex trafficking often preys upon the most vulnerable and Badjao tribes are now pressured by these nefarious groups. Tribes often have no understanding about these groups with seemingly legitimate job offers that take away their young boys and girls to far away islands.

Corruption, Oppression, and Injustice

Recent changes in the law have outright banned all fishing, sustainable and otherwise, in the areas where Badjao have been fishing for centuries. Desperate for food, young men risk their lives and their boats every night when fishing in these waters. Badjao men have lost their lives and their boats from the simple act of fishing.

Badjao who seek alternative sources of livelihood have attempted to make and sell handmade pearl strands to tourists. However, these efforts have been hindered by certain groups and individuals.  Their products are often confiscated, which devastates families that have spent their entire savings to purchase the pearl supplies.