For a Living Ocean

“We Break our Eardrums”

I have been talking to some of the younger fishermen in Matina Aplaya and they all say the same thing: “in young age we deliberately broke our eardrums”. It pains and bleeds for one week but after that they can dive without pain for the rest of their lives. Even a boy as young as eleven told me that his eardrums were now broken – “abostak talinga na!” You can find find more information about Bajau’s habit to break eardrums in this article : The last of the sea nomads (The Guardian).

I have also asked Bajau in Davao about the old times, when they first arrived in the city for approximately 30 years ago. The community leader of Matina Aplaya told me that before he settled in a stilt house in Davao he was a boat dweller. “When I got married in the age of 19 I built a boat for me, my wife and my younger brother and we stayed on the boat for a couple of years”. “It was a nice time, a lot of fish, a cluster of house boats, cheap food, and healthy coralls”. They had no boat machine and were paddling around the harbour of Davao. “Our two first children were born on the boat”.

The Badjao community in Matina Aplaya was established for approximately 20 years ago. In the beginning the village consisted of only a small number of families, but today the village has more than 300 inhabitants. And the number increases for every year as new migrants arrive from Zamboanga City. In total, there are three Badjao communities in Davao City. And they still break their eardrums …

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