SAMA tribe is known for their quiet ways that centers around the family. They live simply, away from trouble.
“Sama people is ayaw nila ng gulo, we always discuss things out,” Sama Deputy Mayor Estrellita T. Mahamud said.
Their peace-loving being manifests when families of the same Sama tribe fight. “Always sila naniniwala at sumusunod kung ano ang sinasabi ng leader o ng Imam nila. After that wala na’ng away, unlike in other tribes,” she said, hinting about ridos or clan wars that are caused by holding grudges among fighting families that some tribes still practice.
In the information found at the Museo Dabaweyo, Sama tribe is divided into sub-groups according to the name of their coastal settlement or the places where they originally settled, such as Sama Simunul, Sama Balimbing, Sama Tawi-Tawi, Sama Sibutu, and Sama Ubian.
There wasn’t any Sama Badjaos then, but historically speaking, according to Mahamud, the Sama Tawi-Tawi were praying inside a mosque. Then chaos came because someone saw fishes swimming in large groups in the sea. Some Sama Tawi-Tawi people went outside to look at this rare event, and these people were not able to finish the prayer inside the mosque. These people are now being called Sama Di Laut. While those who stayed to finish the prayer are the Sama De Liya. This made the Sama tribe classified into two: the Sama De Liya or those found in the mainland or coastland and the Sama Di Laut or the group found at sea, which we call now as Badjaos.
Sama are not full-fledged Muslims, they are the people in between, many following Pentecostal churches, but they are bound by one common thing in the lives: the sea. Traditionally, Badjaos don’t settle on land, they live at sea in their boats or vintas. Although some say Sama Tawi-Tawi is the same as Sama Di Laut, but Mahamud said only five percent of the Sama Tawi-Tawi are Badjaos.
Badjaos in Davao City We often see them begging on the streets; mothers bringing with them their small babies just to earn sympathy and alms from passersby. But little by little, this incidence has become less and less of an occurrence.
Mahamud credits this to past local administration. She said then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte called her to his office one day and asked her how many Badjao people are living in the city. When she gave him the number, then city mayor Duterte told her to find leaders of each Badjao community in the city so that there would be one person to monitor each community. These leaders help to educate the Badjaos not to beg on the streets because it also brings danger not only to them but to their young children. They also conduct regularly lectures or seminars for the Badjao to earn their own keep. Aside from educating their people, the leaders also made sure that Badjaos register at the city registrar’s office.
Preserving Sama’s culture and tradition
Currently, there is an estimated 12,000 Sama people in Davao City, including the Badjaos. Mahamud said every there’s an occasion for all the Sama people to converge, like the Hariraya, they also conduct cultural preservation education among the Sama young. With this, the culture of the Sama tribe will not fade even when living among the different tribes in the big city. “We, the older ones, also bring to the consciousness of the young our traditional clothes, practices and even rituals so that they will grow proud of being a Sama,” she said.