Jerry Esplanada

Refugees On The Run

By Jerry Esplanada

First time to this islet of Malitam Dos, sitting at the mouth of the Calumpang River in Batangas, will be surprised to find its 250 plus residents speaking a strange tongue. Instead of Tagalog, the locals converse in Sinama, the language of the Badjaos, the boat people of Southern Mindanao. Why? Because they are Badjaos. During the past 15 years, hundreds of them have made the difficult voyage from Zamboanga City and the island –province of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to coastal areas in Luzon and the Visayas. Some Badjaos have moved to as far as Cagayan Valley, the Cordillera Administrative region and the local provinces and parts of Central Mindanao and the Caraga region. The government classifies them as internal refugees – people displaced by, among other things, militarization and harassment by pirates and other criminal groups.