12 November 2008

Sama Dilaut Street Beats

PVC pipes, old milk cans, rubber.

My friend from Mindanao, a new Manila transplant, recently sent me an SMS: "Badjao race is everywhere."

True, they turn up everywhere, sometimes selling pearls from their boats along various coastlines. Once, off a rocky Batangas beach, I shared a small meal with a Badjao family. They cooked it over a small fire inside their boat.

Their clothes, some of which were of other clothes sewn together.

In our metropolis the young "sea gypsies" bring songs to smoky, busy intersections. Some of them have tambol skills unparalleled. They roam the sidewalks or sit on jeepney steps, singing and making beats with their hands, which fly in the air like "whut".

Another drum shot.

One day I had the fortune of hanging a bit around a group of them. They spoke with heavily accented Tagalog, telling me how they live in the large Muslim settlement of Maharlika, and play on the street to earn a few coins. After I asked them where they were from, a young girl started pounding on her drum and went into song, wrenching my gut with a beautiful, haunting verse about life on the streets.

A bit of merriment.

The energy was not unlike Roma songs by little girls on Italian trains. Or Indian street children music.

Squinting from the sun.

Days after, I can still hear her voice in my head, and my humming is a poor copy of the unusual scale she used.

I have no romantic notions of these street tambolistas. Some people would generalize them as professional beggars, lazy people. They are obviously subjected to many of the stereotypes that initially nomadic peoples like the Roma (proper term for who we know as "gypsies"), especially by those who encounter them more frequently, in other regions of the Philippines.

Written by an adult for the group.

There are more and more people saying that the word badjao is actually an incorrect (and inappropriate) term for the Sama Dilaut. Click here and here for very interesting information on them. Certainly us landlocked, sedentary fellows fail to realize how much different their context is-- in terms of lifestyle, economy, ideas of property, social organization. It truly is worth a few minutes of your time.

The next time they run up to you with a song, you may listen better.

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