Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when it is to those that you have come to know and love. Despite this thing we call poverty, these people that I have come to know as friends have a quality about them that I have never experienced to this extent before. In the city of Tagbilaran, where our team is comfortable in our hotel rooms, an occasional Badjoa ventures along the street and asks for food or money. This small percentage casts a reputation on the Badjoa as a whole that is not deserved. There are over 1000 Badjao clustered by the water on the island of Panglao, just across the bridge from the city in which our team sleeps, and they love and cherish their families and community and work hard to take care of them. Historically they are fisherman known for their diving skills but recent changes in fishing laws as well as over population have made this much more difficult. Multiple generations live in the same tiny little shacks over the water and during certain times of the day when we would respectfully enter into their community, there is a buzz of noise, chatter, talking, visiting and sharing that personally makes me envious. They live very close to each other and depend on each other too much to have unresolved differences. They learn to work out their problems and co-habitat for the most part in peace.
The goal of Badjoa Bridge is not to pull them out of their community or change their lifestyle which is rich with heritage, traditions and family interdependence. Instead they come alongside them, providing medicines that allow them to stay in school and a much needed lunch program for the children. Badjao Bridge is committed to preserving their human dignity. One of the girls here that I met has entered college as a result of Badjoa Bridge and is majoring in accounting, another has reached high school. Those that have achieved this level of education give back by teaching and bettering the lives of their people. Badjoa Bridge works with the local church here to allow the Badjao people to experience the love of Jesus and helps it be their hub of hope. I spent one day with Jurape Sabrani and his sweet wife Eclesa Sabrani. Together they have a precious 2 year old son named John. Eclesa is pastor Johnny’s daughter and together, they do a beautiful job of sharing the love of Jesus to their people.
On our return to the Badjao community today to say goodbye, Dan and I printed selected photographs that I had taken during our visits here this week. As you can see from the images below, these gifts were a tremendous hit! My favorite was returning to see little Therese whom I sponsor and enjoyed getting to know the day before. She was very happy to see me, her little shack is one of the farthest out over the water and the boards get narrower and more “bouncy” as I make my way to her place. Trust me, it was more difficult to negotiate than the ones seen in my photographs, EVEN I was unable to balance my camera and photograph the wooden planks while negotiating this path. She remembered my hesitancy from the previous day, smiled, and once again took my hand firmly and guided me into her home where I sat with her family and exchanged gifts. They were quick to place the photos on their wall. I found that they LOVED looking at my photos on my iphone. I introduced them to my wife and children as I said their names, before long, they would say the names of my family as they saw their photos on my phone. When they were told of my oldest daughters much too soon departure from this earth, tears welled up in their eyes as well as mine and it was clear that I was among friends that felt and cared deeply.
Dan told me before we left the states for the Philippines that I would be receiving far more than I would be giving and now I Understand.
With Dan Johanson and Badjao Bridge on Bohol Island in the Philippines.
Go to http://www.badjaobridge.org/sea-tribes/ to learn more and find out how you can can make a difference.
“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”