Bajaus’ Love Affair with Pearls

Most of the Bajaus have copper skin and golden brown hair. Locals and foreigners alike are impressed with their skills as pearl divers and makers. They scour even the deepest part of the sea and come back with shining pearls in their hands.

For most of their history, Bajaus have been a seafaring people, which explains why they are described as “sea gypsies”. The seas are their comfort and an abundant source of livelihood. They travel from one place to another in search of abundant fishing grounds.

Over time, many Bajaus fled to the bustling city in search for greener pastures. In the process, they adapted to the culture of the land-based communities.

In Sitio Puntod, Alaska Mambaling, Cebu City, live 140 Bajau families. Some of these women still wear their traditional attires, with their babies clinging to their sides while doing household chores. Most of the men are at work or out at sea. They live a simple life amidst the hustle and bustle of city life.

Meet Jovelyn Amad, a Bajau cluster leader and a mother of three who came from Zamboanga City and chose to live in the city.

“We have a very simple life here. We are not pressured by what we see in the downtown area. We communicate with the same language and live with the same identity, culture, and heritage,” she shared in Cebuano.

Even away from the wide open seas, the Bajaus still have their connection with the sea. Apart from fishing and selling fruits, pearl making is one of the income-generating initiatives.

Jovelyn’s husband, Rolly, is a pearl diver, while Jovelyn makes these pearls into accessories. The livelihood was passed on by their families from one generation to another.

“Both our parents are pearl divers and pearl jewelry makers. I remember as a child that I helped my parents make accessories. Over time, I mastered making these pearl jewelry. And when my husband and I transferred to the city, we continued this livelihood,” Amad stated. Her son, Jay-R, seven, also helps her in making pearl accessories.

Working with pearls allows the Bajaus to remember and appreciate their culture and heritage.


The Amad family also runs a small eatery in the area, which adds to their daily income.

Like other Bajau families living in the area, the Amads buy strands of pearls of different sizes and colors from their relatives in Zamboanga City.

“We make earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and rings out of cultured pearls. Compared to malls and stores, ours are very cheap. Making pearl jewelry is one of the prides of the Badjau tribe. We are able to make them well even without formal training,” Jovelyn said, while sorting out strands of pearls.

Their imported pearls come in round, semi-round, drop, pear, and oval shapes of different sizes. Round pearls are the rarest and the most valuable shape, according to Amad. Their colors include white, brown, and black.

Of all the pearls, the black ones are the rarest.


“We often make jewelry out of black pearls. They are our bestsellers. As of now, our buyers prefer our earrings and necklaces,” she said.

Amad stressed that their jewelry are only sold at Php100-300. Their prices could still be negotiated depending on the quantity the buyers will buy.

However, due to low market demand, their income is also affected. According to Jovelyn, some people prefer plastic accessories than real pearls. They can even produce hundreds of them if they get orders from their clients.

She pointed out that pearls have brought food on our plates and that the Bajaus generate income from them rather than accessorize their bodies with these jewelry.

“We sell it to our friends. For now, we do not have consistent buyers from the city. People only buy by piece from us. That is the challenge of the pearl making business for us, how to market it,” Jovelyn explained.

Gatha Malalin, another Bajau, expressed her concerns over how to promote their products, saying earning enough from making and selling pearl jewelry would help them generate additional income for their household needs.

“Because most of us here are dependent on this livelihood, we seek out ways ourselves to market our products. We build trust among our friends, sell to them, and assure them that every penny they spend on the jewelry is worth it,” Malalin added.

The Bajau community in Alaska Mambaling, Cebu City, through the intervention of the Badjau Integrated Area and Development Program (BIAD-P) of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI), now realizes that making pearl jewelry is an integral part of their identity as a people. The Bajaus are taking steps to preserve this and maintain a sense of pride for this livelihood.

“There is a change in mind-setting among the Bajau community. We become responsible members of the tribe. We learn to appreciate the distinct culture we have,” Jovelyn stated.

Bajau leaders have established their community brand. They finally want to be called as “Wow Bajau” and be known as “Limpyo, Himsog, Hapsay, Aktibo, Edukado, Malamboon, ug Mapasigarbohong Tribong (clean, healthy, peaceful, active, educated, progressive, and talented)Bajau.”

“The BIAD-P intends to revive and make the Bajau understand and appreciate their own culture as unique and distinctive, as something to be proud of,” Rowena Bandola-Alensonorin, executive director of Integrated Development said.

Some program interventions include educating the Badjaus on the importance of proper hygiene and community mind-setting. Parents also underwent responsible parenthood seminar and families were trained to establish backyard gardens to respond to the high malnutrition rate among the Badjau children.

“By working together, we will be one of the role model communities in the city. We realized how important community-building is, especially for our pearl jewelry-making to be sustainable for us,” Jovelyn said. (By Chrisley Ann C. Hinayas/Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.)


Gabii sa Kabilin 2012

One of the activities I look forward to every year is Gabii sa Kabilin. How could I not when also, every year, new sites join in the festivity? Today the number has grown immensely–21, in fact.

I’m also doubly excited to know more people are planning to be part of Gabii sa Kabilin, including my gang of 5.

I know you’re just as thrilled too, so I’ll be publishing a couple of articles about it in the next few days, beginning with this press release:


Gabii sa Kabilin 2012 is going to be grander, more festive, and thematic.


RAFI, partners to hold bigger Gabii Sa Kabilin

The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) Culture and Heritage Unit and its partners will hold the sixth run of Gabii sa Kabilin on May 25, 2012 from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight.

This year the heritage event will feature 21 main attractions composed of museums and cultural sites in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue. These are

  • Aboitizland Heritage Pocket
  • Ayala Center Cebu Cinema and The Terraces
  • Fo Guang Shan Chu Un Temple
  • Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Museum
  • Don Sergio Osmeña Memorabilia and Art Gallery
  • Cathedral Museum
  • Casa Gorordo Museum
  • Cebu City Museum
  • Cebu Normal University (CNU)
  • Fort San Pedro
  • Jose R. Gullas Halad Museum
  • Mandaue City Plaza
  • Museo Parian sa Sugbo
  • Museo Sugbo Complex
  • Plaza Independencia
  • Sacred Heart Parish Church and Alternative Contemporary Arts Studio (ACAS)
  • Basilica Minore del Santo Niño through the Santo Niño de Cebu Augustinian Social Development Foundation (SNAF)
  • University of San Carlos Museum
  • University of Southern Philippines Foundation (USPF) Rizaliana Museum
  • Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

Gabii sa Kabilin’s new participating sites this year are Ayala Center Cebu Cinema and The Terraces, Fo Guang Shan Chu Un Temple, BPI Museum, CAP Theater, JRG Halad Museum, and University of San Carlos Museum. The BPI Museum will be available for viewing to Gabii sa Kabilin guests from 8 a.m. t0 4 p.m. only.

Tourists are treated to cultural performances, exhibits, art fairs, food markets, and interactive demonstrations in the 20 main sites.

For this year’s Gabii sa Kabilin, there are various suggested routes according to specific themes applicable to the museums and heritage sites, which guests can choose from. These themes include Museums; Art Galleries and Alternative Spaces; Heritage Structures; Educational; Churches, Temples, and Sacred Places; and Public Spaces. There’ll also be a walking tour along heritage sites that are within walking distance from each other.

With one ticket worth PhP150.00, local and foreign tourists may go to as many participating museums and cultural heritage sites within the six hours of the heritage event. The ticket also allows them to take as many rides as they want in Gabii sa Kabilin-designated buses and one tartanilla (horse-drawn carriage) trip in Cebu City’s old district.

Tickets will be sold starting May 10 at the 22 participating museums and cultural sites, including the concierge at Ayala Center Cebu.

Detailed information about the participating sites and their presentations as well as tour routes of Gabii sa Kabilin will be available for download also on May 10 at or

In previous Gabii sa Kabilin runs, places of historic and cultural significance within walking distance or along the tour routes are also earmarked. These have also grown in number this year. Some of them are the

  • 1938 VECO Buiding
  • Asilo de la Milagrosa
  • Matilda Bradford Church
  • Cebu Provincial Capitol Building
  • Cebu Puericulture and Maternity House
  • Compania Maritima
  • early 1900s warehouses along M.C. Briones Street
  • Fuente Osmeña
  • Gotiaoco Building
  • Iglesia Filipina Independiente Cathedral
  • Malacañang sa Sugbo
  • Mother of Perpetual Help Parish Church
  • old Southern Islands Hospital
  • Plaza Hamabar
  • the old bridges of Sikatuna and Zulueta Streets
  • Oriente and Vision Theaters
  • Plaza Sugbo
  • University of the Philippines-Cebu College
  • Yutivo Building

An added attraction to Gabii sa Kabilin 2012 is a set of children’s activities that will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in six participating sites, namely, Ayala Center Cebu, Casa Gorordo Museum, Cathedral Museum, Cebu City Museum, Cebu Normal University, and Fort San Pedro.

Implementation of Gabii sa Kabilin is made possible through partnerships with the local government units of Cebu City and Mandaue, Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (CITOM), Philippine National Police–Cebu City (PNP), Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission (CHAC) of Cebu City, Province of Cebu, Department of Tourism–Region VII and Santo Niño de Cebu Augustinian Social Development Foundation.

RAFI and its partners are also assisted by tanods, officials and residents of 26 barangays in Cebu City.

Major sponsorship is provided by Smart Communications.

Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, executive director of RAFI-Culture and Heritage, said that the expansion of Gabii sa Kabilin in terms of participating museums and activities is a breakthrough as it means that more organizations and individuals are becoming aware of the beauty and importance of local heritage.

She also said that this indicates a positive trend in efforts to promote and protect Cebuano-Filipino culture.

The diversity of presentations and activities that participating museums and cultural sites are offering this year, she added, shows the cosmopolitan character of Metro Cebu. It is fitting therefore, Gerra noted, that Gabii sa Kabilin is tagged as a highlight event in the year-long celebration of the selection of Cebu City as an ASEAN City of Culture.

On May 18, Gabii sa Kabilin  in Argao and Sibonga will be launched in partnership with RAFI and the local government units of the two towns.

Culture & Heritage is one of the focus areas of RAFI. It aims to help communities understand, value and share their culture and heritage with others. The foundation’s other focus areas are Integrated Development, Micro-finance & Entrepreneurship, Leadership & Citizenship, and Education.

For more information about Gabii sa Kabilin and other programs of the RAFI-Culture and Heritage, please call 418-7234 local 703 and look for May or Florencio.

RAFI to Hold Sustainable City Dialogues 2012

The Eduardo Aboitiz Development Studies Center (EADSC) of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) is organizing Sustainable City Dialogues 2012, a five-day learning event featuring two internationally renowned speakers, Archt. Senen A. Antonio, an urban design and planning expert based in the United States, and Dr. AbdouMaliq Simone, an urbanist and professor of sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, on Feb. 6-10, 2012.

With a theme, “Creating Future Cities:  Where Do We Begin”, the event aims to provide avenues for dialogue among local stakeholders, where experiences are shared; new approaches are discussed; and capacities are strengthened in the area of urban development, planning and design.

It will bring together government officials, planners, architects, engineers, educators, business people, non-government leaders, community members, and students to engage in a constructive dialogue and strengthen the capacity of local planners on the possibilities of creating a smart and sustainable Metro Cebu.

Highlights of the event includes one-day training-seminar on “Sprawl Repair & Smart Growth 101” and “Charrette Methodology & Scenario Planning” on Feb. 8, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at College of Architecture and Fine Arts Theater, University of San Carlos (USC)-Talamban Campus;  roundtables on “Infrastructure Planning” and “New Urbanism” on Feb. 9, 8:30-11 a.m. at CAP Art Center and Pres. Osmeña Memorabilia, Osmeña Boulevard, Cebu City and on Feb. 10, 9-11:30 a.m., Tandang Sora Hall at Cebu Normal University, respectively; and Understanding Choices Forum “Creating Future Cities:  People and Place-Making” on Feb. 9, 1-5 p.m. at CAP Theater, Osmeña Blvd., Cebu City.

The Understanding Choices Forum is open to the public.

To cap the week-long event, Architect Senen Antonio will present his observations and initial recommendations to the Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB) on Feb. 10, 4:30-5:30 p.m. at the New Conference Room, Capitol Building.


press release from RAFI

RAFI, DOH Urge Observance of Healthy Lifestyle during the Holidays

Past records of the Department of Health show an increase of the number of patients at the local hospitals after a long Christmas vacation.

This prompted Dave Bargamento, National Nutrition Council 7 nutrition officer, and Ronald delos Reyes, program coordinator of the Eduardo J. Aboitiz Cancer Center, to urge the public to observe a healthy lifestyle during the holidays.

During the Dec. 17 episode of Pagtuki, the weekly radio program of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. aired every Saturday morning over dyLA, Bargamento and delos Reyes shared tips on how to stay healthy this yuletide season.

“People, especially those who are always attending parties, should eat moderately. They should avoid eating high fat and salt content foods. Too much of fat and salt will always have a negative effect on one’s body,” Bargamento explained.

Both Pagtuki guests promoted the eating of fruits and vegetables and lessening the use of seasonings.

“Since it would be a long holiday for everyone, it would be better to give time to exercising. Exercise would help burn excess calories. The sweat would help release toxins from our body,” delos Reyes said.

“Intake of water would also be helpful, especially when you drink alcoholic beverages. Water can help dilute alcoholic drinks,” Bargamento added.

They also advised partygoers to eat food that are rich in protein before going to their parties, saying that being very hungry before an event would trigger them to eat a lot.

“Eating ham on noche buena should also be minimized. Ham is processed meat and is high on salt. One or two slices of it would be enough,” Bargamento said.

He also urged parents to store the kids’ favorite, spaghetti, properly since it “perishes easily” compared to other food.

Both Pagtuki guests pointed out that excess intake of food would lead to obesity that increases the risk of other possible illnesses, such as colon cancer. (by Hannah Reoma/RAFI intern)

RAFI Triennial Awards Calls on Entries for Blogging Contest

To promote the inspiring stories and work of recognized development workers in the Visayas and Mindanao, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) is calling on individuals between 13 and 35 years old based in the Visayas and Mindanao to join the RAFI Triennial Awards Blogging Contest.

The contest highlights the RAFI Triennial Awards and its awardees and finalists. Guided by the theme, “Shaping the big picture of change,” entrants are expected to do background research on the lives and works of RAFI Triennial awardees and finalists nearest their area.

The RAFI Triennial Awards is an awards program of RAFI given every three years to recognize the philanthropic, humanitarian, and holistic efforts of individuals and institutions in the Visayas and Mindanao in enhancing the quality of life of the communities they serve. It is now on its 5th run with conferment of awards in 2012.

To join the RAFI Triennial Awards Blogging Contest, individuals should register through Entrants must have an existing and updated blog for at least six months.

All blog entries must be original and written in English, with a minimum of 1,000 words and maximum of 4,000 words. Entries should not have been entered or won in previous competitions. Writers must at the end of their blogs indicate, “This is an official entry to the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) Triennial Awards Blogging Contest.” and include a link to the RAFI website.

The criteria for judging include 50 percent for content (originality and alignment to the theme and research value) and 50 percent for writing style or composition (including technicalities). A contest participant is allowed a maximum of three blogs that feature different awardees and finalists.
After posting their entries on their blogs, entrants should email application form, URL of the blog post, and electronic copy of at least one valid ID to with the subject header: Entry to the RAFI Triennial Awards Blogging Contest.

The blogging contest started last Sept. 30. Deadline for the submission of blog entries is Dec. 15, 2011. Entrants must ensure that their blogs are accessible until winners are declared in January 2012.

First prize winner will receive Php 25,000; second prize Php 20,000; and third prize Php 15,000. All entries of winners and finalists will be consolidated and published into a book.

RAFI to Hold Free Cervical Cancer Screening on Aug. 27

The Eduardo J. Aboitiz Cancer Center (EJACC) of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) will hold a free center-based cervical cancer screening activity on Aug. 27 from 8 a.m. to noon at the EJACC Conference Room located within the compound of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.

The screening is organized in collaboration with the Integrated Midwife Association of the Philippines-Cebu Midwife Clinic.

The screening will be an opportunity for women to detect pre-cancerous growth or any malignancy related to cervical cancer, which is the second most common cancer among women.

EJACC, which offers free breast and cervical screening every month, urges the public to undergo early detection measures—especially maintaining a healthy lifestyle and nutrition, exercise, proper hygiene, and avoiding stresses and vices—to prevent breast and cervical cancer.

EJACC is a program under the Integrated Development focus area of RAFI, addressing health issues of communities in order to create a better quality of life. Its other focus areas are Micro-finance and Entrepreneurship, Culture & Heritage, Leadership and Citizenship, and Education.

For more information about the free cervical cancer screening activity, please contact 254-6351 or 256-3287 and look Gina Mariquit.

from RAFI