Isabel, Leyte – Badjaos in this town finally moved to their new homes on Tuesday after nearly three decades of wandering after leaving Zamboanga and Basilan province in 1985.
Badjaos are known as sea nomads from Mindanao displaced from their previous homes due to conflict.
At least 50 houses made of bamboo as walls and nipa leaves as roofing were built for the ethnic group. The project was turned over to them April 13, but it was only on Tuesday that houses were fully completed.
The hut-style houses, linked by a network of bamboo bridges, patterned after Badjao communities in Mindanao.
A total of 69 families benefited from the project conceptualized by the IKIKO Foundation, a non-government organization tapped by local government to seek help from the National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP) for funding.
NCIP provided P3.23 million for the project while the local government shelled out P722,000 as counterpart funding on top of donating the land for the resettlement.
Aida Dugasan, 20, used to beg in the streets of Isabel. Now she has a house her family can call their own. She was also taught how to make home decor out of recycled materials.
Badjaos have a reputation of being beggars in every place they went to.
“I wish that I will be able to raise money so I could start a sari-sari store business,” Dugasan said as they moved into the new house.
Tribal leader Jerry Sapayani shared the joy of their tribe as some organizations also helped them. “We are hopeful that you will continue helping us so that we will become productive and responsible citizens,” Sapayani said in an interview.
The Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation, the country’s largest copper smelter based in this town, provided 50 drums for storing water, 50 garbage bins, 10 toilet bowls, five sinks, a 50-meter walkway and educational program for the ethnic group.
The Leyte Electric Cooperative put up electric posts in the new community and additional electrical wire. It also cut the electrical installation fee from P4,500 to P2,500 for each house.
Of the amount, P500 is from the local government, P1, 000 is shouldered by the electric cooperative. The balance is being paid by beneficiaries.
The power cooperative also gave 48 water containers to families.
The Isabel Water District waived additional charges for the installation of new water pipes to the new community. Globe Telecom, on the other hand, distributed 75 used electrical lamp posts.
“We will preserve not only our culture, but our environment as well as we commit to help the local government maintain order and cleanliness in our community,” Sapayani said.