Zamboanga City. Last May 29 - 31, 2014, the 8th National Assembly for the Pastoral Care of Nomads and Bajau in the Philippines was held at Cecille's Catering and Pension House, Tumaga Porcentro, Zamboanga City attended by 29 participants coming from the different Bajau Organizations stationed in the Western Mindanao and organized by the CSFI, headed by CSFI Director, Bro. Nicer Natulla, CMF. Its theme was “Sama-Bajau Customary Laws and IPRA Law: A Dialogue” and aimed to achieve the following objectives: 1) To articulate and document the Sama- Bajau customary laws; 2) To comprehensively familiarize the IPRA laws of the Philippines; 3) To identify relationships between Sama-Bajau customary laws and IPRA laws, and 4) To reflect upon the dis/agreement of the Sama-Bajau Customary Laws and IPRA Law.
During the assembly, Engr. George Jocutan, personnel from the National Commission on Indigenous People Region IX gave the IPRA law followed by a very intense discussion that it went even further into dealing with the issue on Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), the displaced Bajaus in Cawa-Cawa Boulevard, Zamboanga City, and that of Joaquin F. Enriquez Jr. Sports Complex. Later, the assembly was urged to draft a statement concerning these current and prevailing issues.
The Care for the Nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines (CNBP) is composed of people working with the Nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines. CNBP was conceived to respond to the needs and concerns of the nomadic tribes in the Philippines. Actually, there are considerable number of groups of Indigenous People in the Philippines who are nomads by nature – the Mangyan of Mindoro, the Aetas of Zambales, the Manobos of Cotabato, the Mandaya of Davao to mention a few of these tribal groups. However, among them there is the most marginalized group – the Samal Bajaus of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga. The Bajaus are the poorest among the poor. There can never be poor as the Samal Bajaus are. Thus, when the first gathering was made to address the needs and concerns of the nomadic tribes in the Philippines in 2005, it is the Samal Bajaus that became the focus.
Fr. Renato Rosso, an Italian priest, who works under the supervision of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in Vatican City together with the Claretian Missionaries in the Philippines through their foundation working with the Bajaus – the Claret Samal Foundation, Inc. (CSFI) – being handled at that time by Fr. Dennis G. Tamayo, CMF had started the gathering. Since 2005, an annual gathering is being conducted for the welfare of the Nomads and Bajaus (except for 2013 due to some untoward incidents that had happened in Zamboanga and in Basilan). A coordinating body had been created for this group and Bishop Angelito R. Lampon, OMI, DD has been the president since it started, having Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF as the vice-president. CSFI is the secretariat and the one handling the conduct of the annual assembly.
This Assembly is being participated by the Samal Bajau Organizations coming from Basilan Province, Zamboanga City, Municipalities of Jolo and Siasi in Sulu Province, Municipality of Bongao in Tawi-Tawi Province, lately by Bajau group from Cebu City and at the earlier part of the assembly, the Bajau Apostolate of the Marist Brothers from South Cotabato also joined.
Indeed, the 8th National Assembly for the Pastoral Care of Nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines had been completed with new hope for the Bajaus to continue to journey amidst the challenges of life. Special thanks to: Bishop Angelito R. Lampon OMI. DD, Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF, Fr. Dennis G. Tamayo, CMF, Engr. George Jocutan, Mr. Dave Malcampo, Dr. Robert Panaguiton, and to all the concerned people who in one way or another have generously shared their time and skills for the success of the assembly.