BADJAO: The Sea Gypsies Of Mindanao

Known to be the men of the seas, the Badjao or Bajau tribal group has been admired for moving with the wind and tide on their vintas or small boats. These mighty people have settled in the coastal areas of the Sulu archipelago.


According to the legend, these boat dwellers were originally from some part in Indonesia. The princess wanted to marry a Sultan from Brunei so one day she went there escorted by a large fleet of war boats, which was intercepted by the Sultan of Brunei. He kidnapped her and sailed back to his land. The escorting fleets could not go back to Indonesia without their princess so they kept on sailing the seas. Some of them have settled on uninhabited islands, others have turned to piracy, and there are also those that have become fishermen and settled in the coastal areas. While many were still living in houseboats, there are also other Badjaos that built houses for cases when their boathouses would need repair.


Even though their tribe was once feared by most in Mindanao, these people are actually primitive and friendly, known to be the most peace-loving group of people in the world. They are a non-aggressive tribal community. In times when conflicts with other tribes arise, they deal with it by fleeing to other places – the sea. They were referred by the other tribes as “God forsaken” and the Muslim tribes have forced them to move to the sea, which actually gave them the advantage for escape in hostile tribe attacks.  In the long run, the sea has molded the attitude and the unique appearance of the Badjao: their bronze-colored hair and dark brown skin has made them absolutely unique from all other tribes in the Philippines.


By tradition, these people are known to be hardworking sea nomads, going from place to place through their small boats in search of fishing harvests. They are a pagan tribe that has been sailing the seas for over a thousand years.