“Empowering Samal-Bajau” was at the heart of the 4th National Assembly for the Pastoral Care of Nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines held last May 8 to 10, 2009 at the Jardin de La Viña Hotel and Restaurant here in Zamboanga City.
The Assembly’s Coordinating Body was represented by the ever committed Bishop Lampon in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). The preparatory meetings and this 4th Assembly were hosted by the Claret Samal Foundation, Inc. (CSFI) with the support of the Conferenza Episcopale Italiana. CSFI, headed by Fr. Dennis G. Tamayo, CMF, is committed to help the Samal-Bajaus foster their identity and live a peaceful community where there is quality of life rooted on their own indigenous culture.
This 4th assembly was participated by the following organizations working with the Samal-Bajaus: Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo, Notre Dame of Siasi, Notre Dame of Jolo College, Our Lady of Holy Rosary Parish Bajau Ministry in Bongao, Nagdilaab Foundation, Inc.-Isabela City, Claret Samal Foundation, Inc.-Maluso in Basilan, National Sama-Badjao Movement, Jabu-Jabu, Inc., and Zamboanga City Sama-Bajau Tribal Council with the special collaboration of Ateneo de Zamboanga University in terms of documentation. It was graced also by the presence of Bro. Karl Gaspar, CSsR and Mr. Hermenegildo Malcampo.
75% of the assembly was Samal-Bajau leaders of different organizations promoting pastoral care for the nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines. The resource speaker was himself a Sama social worker and community organizer now working in Notre Dame of Jolo College. In general, the aim of the assembly was to allow the Samal-Bajau leaders to reflect on their cultural patterns and reinvent their roles in promoting peace and development in the communities they are part of. Much of the reflective voices and initiatives sprang from the Samal-Bajaus themselves being the majority in the assembly. With the identified roles expected to be implemented by each group belonging to a particular area and the one-year plan of the Care of Nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines (CNBP) as a whole group, the Samal-Bajaus acknowledged their ownership over what has been transpired and agreed upon in the assembly.
The assembly symbolically started with invocations led by an ustadz and then a nun. The entire gathering was animated by the actual Samal-Bajau performances as well as inspiring messages from the resource speaker, Mr. Jangson K. Maulurana; the president of the Coordinating Body of this Assembly, Bishop Angelito R. Lampon, OMI, DD; and its Secretary, Fr. Dennis G. Tamayo, CMF. The substantial reflections about the Samal-Bajau cultural patterns and their roles in community peace and development, and the candid sharing of ideas and feelings among the participants, as well as an assessment of the CNBP vision-mission and one-year plan kept the gathering interesting and worthwhile. Moreover, the informal conversations and camaraderie among the participants during the breaks engendered some friendships and for others reunion. Indeed, the assembly achieved a sense of cultural reflection and deepening of the commitment to care for the Nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines.