For a Living Ocean


Bajau Laut Architecture as Inspiration for Green Movement

Bajau Laut are famous for their stilt houses that are built meters above the sea level. Islands like Maiga, Denwanan and Pulu Gaya in Semporna attracts thousands of tourists every year for their fascinating houses and people.

This architecture can be a great source of inspiration for the green movement, as described in ArchDaily and their article 5 Architectural Secrets of the Badjao: 21st Century Sea People (though it contains some minor errors regarding Bajau Laut’s history and geographical expansion).

The key words in Bajau Laut architecture is adaptibility.  In west, we generally aspire for solidity, thick and immovable construction, and maximum fortification. We don’t build with the elements, but in order to master them, to control them. The Bajau Laut, on the other hand, have learned how to live with the elements and to adapt their construction to the natural environment.  Hence. waves, floods and erosion will be a minor problem for Bajau’s settlements – but at the same time thay will have a closer access to sea life than anyone else.

Bajau Laut build short term, and live long term. They continuously replace older materials and they use whatever they can find in their natural surroundings. They have simply accepted the fact that they can’t change the flow of water.


Guardians of the Sea – “Bantay Laut”

The Bajau of Matina Aplaya – where I have been staying for several months – have been recruited as auxiliaries for coast guard and maritime police in Davao. They have been given a number of fiberglass motorized fishing boats and will report illegal fishing activities fronting their communities and gather garbage floating in the sea. The fishermen will also receive a honorarium on the condition that they will let their children undergo a basic literacy program.  The programme is called “Bantay Laut”.

The idea of involving local communities in maintaining sustainable fisheries is great, and will recreate Bajau’s traditional role as guardians of the sea. However, the political linkages must be taken into account and the teaching should not interfere with Bajau’s culture and way of life. In a whole this is great news that contrasts with the negative news we often hear about Bajau Laut in the Philippines and Malaysia. At last, the Bajau Laut are being treated as actors.

The news has more than 11 000 likes on Facebook and more than 3 500 shares.


The Invisible Kids

AJ+ has published a new movie about the situation of kids in Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia: “The Invisible Kids”. A majority of the people in the movie are Bajau Laut who stay without legal documents in Malaysia.

The Malaysian government started to deport illegal migrants on a higher scale after the Lahad Datu terrorist attack in 2013, where sex civilians and ten Malaysian security forces were killed. But the problem is that innocent stateless people without political connections also get affected. How many Bajau Laut claim that Sabah should be a part of the Sultanate of Sulu? Very few – the sultanate was just another empire they were alienated from. A majority of the Bajau Laut just want to live their lives in peace.

Bajau Laut have been living in the region for centuries, before any formation of national states. They do not belong to “Philippines”, “Malaysia” or “Indonesia”.


Shark Poster in Simana

The linguist Luke Schroeder has made a shark poster in Sinama. Still today many elder Sama Dilaut have great knowledge about different shark species and their habitats and nature.


Luke Schroeder has put a great effort in making the poster, talking with many Sama fishermen. When pictures have not been enough, he has interviewed Sama men on the behaviors and nature of the sharks which Luke has been able to link to scientific descriptions of the sharks.

The older generations of Sama still have a great knowledge about sharks, but the younger fishermen are much less familiar with the sharks behavior and nature.

Over exploitation of sharks has made shark fishing illegal throughout Southeast Asia. Also Bajau Laut fishermen have contributed to the near extinction of many shark species, largely driven by a great demand for shark fins.

Luke Schroeder has also published a poster about coral fish in Sinama, which can be found on his website: Common Reef Fish Sinama, English, & Scientific Name Poster.

Sama Girl in Metro Manila get Famous

During a festival in Queezon City a photo was taken of a 13 year old Sama Dilaut girl begging in the streeets with her younger sibling. After a while the photo got viral on Facebook and other social media. Today she has been modeling for several newspaper and been awarded a scholarship. Her name is Rita Gabiola

Why is she getting famous? Does it require beuaty to get a scholarship and support? Many Sama Dilaut have been deprived of their livelihood and they are discriminated. Throughout Metro Manila and other big Philippine cities they are now making a living from street vending, bicycle taxi an begging.

In Philippines, more than 10 % of the population go overseas for work and send money back to their relatives. But how many Sama Dilaut can go overseas for work? Who is sending money back to them?

Bajau Laut Kids Dive 12 Meters

In this short BBC video clip from 2007 we can see Bajau Laut kids who dive 12 meters over and over again. They have an amazing speed, technique and coordination!

The movie was recorded in the Gulf of Togian, Sulawesi, Indonesia, with freediver and TV personality Tanya Streeter. How far-fetched is the idea that we actually are semi-aquatic mammals?

New Report: More Plastic Than Fish By 2050

By 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in world’s ocean, accordning to a new report from World Economic Forum. Most of the trash that gets into the ocean comes from land, not from cruise ships or fishing boats. More than 8 million of plastics are being thrown into the ocean every year.

Half the plastic in the ocean comes from five countries: China, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand

You can find the report from World Economic Forum here: The New Plastics Economy Rethinking the future of plastics.

Philippines - World's Ocean Day