GENETICS WEEK 2016: From DNA to Olympic Gold page 1
7th NIGQC, Huge Start for Genetics Week 2016 page 4
Redefining Gene-by-environment Interaction (K4Health, TAYO Awards)
Pride in Full Bloom page 5
2 Genetics Week 2016: From DNA to Olympic Gold leges and universities throughout the country. This year, NIGQC highlights Genetics in Agriculture with the theme “Breed and Transform: Genetics and Agriculture Towards Food Security and Sustainability”. Hope Intervention: One Gene, One Child is an annual outreach program which aims to promote awareness and understanding about autism and encourage various groups and individuals to support the HOPE Intervention Center in Calamba, the first and only public school for children with autism in the Philippines. This year, the young beneficiaries of the program will yet again experience a span of activities that extend the love and warmth within GeneSoc. The IQlympics Quiz Contest, dubbed as the most brain-draining general quiz contest, is an annual quiz contest open to all UPLB students. It aims to test the participant’s abstract and inductive reasoning, photoBy Joana Cruz graphic memory, verbal skills, logic and knowledge in With the theme “Sports Genetics: Demystifying the Strength general events and happenings in our society. The Digof the DNAthlete,” The UPLB Genetics Society will ital Collage Contest, on the other hand, aims to showfeature Sports Genetics on its 33rd year to divulge case the students’ creativity and understanding about the connection of genetics and individual athleticism. the science of Genetics in relation to other fields. For It aims to explain that athleticism is more than just this year, the contest will feature Sports Genetics. a product of environment and mental discipline but also of the interaction and expression of our genes. Lastly, a Seminar on Genetics in Sports will be featured during the week-long celebration, highlighting According to scientists, there are about 200 genes that gene doping, the makings of a champion athlete and are linked to our physical performance and that their the genetics of performance with Professor Hercules expression also depend on the presence of other genes. Callanta of the College of Human Kinetics at UniversiThis is observable in the ATCN3 gene, the “speed and ty of the Philippines Diliman (UP CHK) as the speaker. power gene,” which has the R and X alleles. The R allele triggers the expression of the speed gene while its Genetics Week 2016 will last from November 5 until absence inhibits its expression. Moreover, heightened November 11. athleticism is not solely attributed to genome organization; it can also be influenced by gene mutations which A Look Into the Exhibit according to scientists occur alongside with evolution. Sports genetics evolved and diversified through time and its concept emphasizes that we can all be athletically-inclined; that we can be like the runners, swimmers and athletes we idolize; that we can be one of those who will take home an Olympic gold.
This year’s Genetics Week includes the National Intercollegiate Genetics Quiz Contest, Hope Intervention: One Gene, One Child, GENEWS launching, IQlympics Quiz Contest, Digital Collage Contest, Seminar and Eating Contest. The National Intercollegiate Genetics Quiz Contest (NIGQC) is an annual quiz competition which aims to promote and create awareness on the science of Genetics. It is open to all undergraduate students from col-
3 GeneSoc Hosts PalaCASan 2016
By Jerard Monge and Joana Cruz Officially kicked off last September 10 with Gravity and Lux, PalaCASan 2016 continues to kindle the athletic spirit of the participating CAS academic organizations with the ongoing games and the nearing Cosmos and WaCASan. PalaCASan 2016 is participated by 14 organizations including UP Cell Biological Society; UPLB Chemical Kinetics Society; UPLB Chemical Society; UPLB Computer Science Society; The CPS Triangle; UPLB Mathematical Sciences Society; The UPLB Microbiological Society; UPLB Zoological Society; Philobioscientia, The UPLB Life Sciences Society; PHYSIKA, UP Applied Physics Society; Society of Applied Mathematics of UPLB; Society of Math Majors UPLB; UPLB Statistical Society and The UPLB Genetics Society.
Gravity set the bar high for the annual games as the participating organizations jumped to new heights in the cheerleading competition. Society of Applied Mathematics of UPLB copped the championship title while UP Cell Biological Society and UPLB Mathematical Sciences Society placed first and second runner up, respectively.
lowing this is COSMOS, the official after party of PalaCASan 2016 which will be at the Lakewood Clubhouse, Los Baños, Laguna. The pool party will be open to all UPLB students.
PalaCASan 2016 is powered by Hawk Backpacks and is brought to you by Rexona, Equivox Pro Lights and Sounds and Purple Collar; with special thanks to Newton, Metro Hair, Graced by LUX, the official pageant of Mestiza and Coca-Cola FEMSA. the annual CAS games, PalaCASan 2016 was brighter than ever as the contes- Paglipay Comes to UPLB tants paraded with astonishing feats and By Jerard Monge charm. Mr. And Ms. Ozooms were de- In support for the local films and as a clared Stars of the Night; Mr. Microsoc fund-raising event for PalaCASan 2016, Geneand Ms. Stats, Mr. and Ms. Most Pho- Soc brought Zig M. Dulay’s “Paglipay” to togenic; Mr. Ozooms and Ms. Chemo, UPLB last September 20 and 21 at the NCAS Best Sports Wear; Mr. Microsoc and Ms. Auditorium. The activity was a huge success Stats, Best in Talent; Mr. And Ms Stats, with sold out tickets in both screenings. Best Creative Wear; and Mr. Stats and More than just a fund-raising activity, the Ms. Cells, Mr. Mestizo and Ms. Mestiza. film screening was done to raise aware-
With the nearing end of the annual CAS games, WaCASan is set to maintain the hype of PalaCASan this November 26 with the coronation of Mr. and Ms. PalaCASan 2016, naming of the MVPs and other special awards. Fol-
ness on the culture and current state of indigenous Filipinos. True to the commitment of the University of the Philippines in nurturing patriotic students, many professors were delighted to support the activity in hopes of culminating selflessness and commitment to the country, traits which the Iskolars ng Bayan take pride in.
The activity was a first for GeneSoc and was put into action though the efforts of the PalaCASan Finance Committee Heads, Leann Suiton and Katrina Dela Peña.
GENEWS TEAM a.y. 2016-17
Editor-in-Chief Jerard Iane R. Monge (Riboswitch)
Genews Staffers: Niña Paulin Asenjo (Hybrizyme) Joana Marie C. Cruz (Cyclosome) Paul Jhon P. Diezon (Phagemids) Regina Lapuz (Replichore) Odilon O. Picaso (Cyclosome) Rency J. Raquid (Riboswitch) Emil Louise M. Santos (Aptamers) Rochelle B. Sarmiento (Polylinker)
Special Contributor: Jae Joseph Russell B. Rodriguez (Ribozymes)
4 7TH NIGQC, Huge Start for Genetics Week 2016
By Jerard Monge
five universities that qualified for the final round were University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo de Zamboanga University, University of the Philippines BaThe 7th National Intercollegiate Genetics guio, Ateneo de Manila University and University of the Philippines Manila. Quiz Contest (NIGQC) officially started The UPLB Genetics Society’s Genet- Ateneo de Manila University bested the four qualifiers and copped ics Week last November 5 at the UPLB the championship title, marking the university’s second win since NCAS Auditorium. With the theme 2013, followed by University of the Philippines Manila and Universi“Breed and Transform: Genetics and Ag- ty of the Philippines Baguio as the 1st and 2nd runner up, respectivericulture Towards Food Security and Sus- ly. Ateneo de Manila University’s Francis Mart Angelo R. Legitimas was tainability,” NIGQC 2016 rose above its also awarded the highest individual top scorer of the Synapsis Round. preceding installments with a seminar and a fresh twist to the quiz competition. Schools that competed in NIGQC 2016 include Ateneo de Zamboanga University (ADZU), Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), De La SalDr. Merlyn S. Mendioro, the current di- le Lipa (DLSL), Far Eastern University (FEU), Polytechnic University of rector of the Institute of Biological Sci- the Philippines Manila (PUP Manila), Southern Luzon State Universiences – UPLB and the senior adviser of ty (SLSU), St. Scholastica’s College Manila (SSC Manila), University of The UPLB Genetics Society welcomed the Philippines Baguio (UP Baguio), University of the Philippines Mathe participants prior to the Synapsis nila (UP Manila), University of the Philippines Mindanao (UP Mindan(Individual Exam) Round of the national ao), University of the Philippines Visayas (UP Visayas – Miag-ao), Uniquiz contest. Dr. Merlyn S. Mendioro was versity of San Agustin (USA) and University of Santo Tomas (UST). also among the judges of the quiz competition together with Dr. Ajay Kohli, Dr. Azucena L. Carpena, Dr. Christian Joseph R. Cumagun and Dr. Renato S.A. Vega. Following the Synapsis Round is a seminar by Dr. B. P. Mallikarjuna Swamy of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on harnessing rice science to develop rice varieties for better human nutrition. Adding to the challenge of the previous installments of NIGQC is this year’s Genetic Drift Round wherein only five highly competitive teams with the highest garnered points were selected to Winners of NIGQC 2016 (UP Manila, ADMU and UP Baguio) together with the quiz contest judges compete from the Dogma Round. The and organizers at the UPLB NCAS Auditorium
Pride in Full Bloom By Paul Jhon Diezon
For the sixth time, Los Baños waved its rainbow flag in celebration of pride. Spearheaded by UPLB Babaylan, an organization established in 2009 that forefronts gender equality, the event was in full color as participants from different sectors gathered in a march themed “Pride March Natin ‘to.”
Setting the Context of a Continuous Struggle Believing that the struggle of the LGBT is not far from the struggles of the Filipino masses, the march’s main campaign is the passing of the Anti-Discrimination Bill. This bill aims to end all forms of discrimination for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) community in the country, after House Bill 5687 – its latest version failed to pass in the 16th Congress. It also seeks to prohibit discriminatory practices on the basis of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, specifically in hiring, firing and demotions; rejection or expulsion from any educational or training institution; giving harsher penalties, punishments, and requirements; refusal and revocation of honors, achievements and licenses; prevention of use of public facilities; mandatory psychological tests; and harassment or refused protection by law enforcers.
Going Deep into the Genome Aside from the debates regarding discrimination and attempts to break the stereotype, huge efforts on explaining sexual orientation has been coming in the field of science. However, generating a more reliable data on frequencies has been hindered by the fact that homosexuals tend to have, on average, five times fewer children than heterosexual males. According to Nature, the biology of sexual orientation has been one of the most vexing — and politically charged — questions in human genetics. And surprisingly, one study recognized the possible link between homosexuality and genetic tags that are affected by the environment. In one study, DNA samples were gathered from 37 pairs of identical twins in which only one twin was gay, and 10 pairs in which both were gay. By scanning the twins’ epigenomes, the researchers found five epigenetic marks that were deemed common among the gay men than in their identical straight brothers. An algorithm was also developed based on the five marks which could possibly predict the sexual orientation of men in the study 67% of the time.
The bill also aims to provide law enforcers a series of gender awareness training, which will help them address certain hate crimes. The country has had around 200 documented cases since the 90’s, while several others remain unreported. One of such crimes is the murder of Jennifer Laude in October A number of twin studies and family trees also provide strong evidence 2014. Until today, justice has yet to be served. that sexual orientation is at least partly genetic. According to another study, when one identical twin is gay, there is about a 20% chance that the othMany other Filipinos, mostly unknown to main- er will be as well. But since this incidence isn’t observed in all subjects, it stream media, have suffered the same fate as is believed that environmental factors play a huge role, too. The controverLaude despite the fact that the country has been sial locus, Xq28 was also a favorite subject in linkage studies where results named as one of the most gay-friendly nations in have shown that polymorphisms in this location coincide with greater conthe world, and the most LGBT-friendly in Asia in cordance rates than that of the Mendelian segregation. But despite the cona study conducted by the Pew Research Center. tinuous efforts to find the link of genetics and homosexuality, some scientists still refuse to believe that there exists a gene for homosexuality. The long road for the passing of this bill could be traced back in the ‘90s where it marks the Living in Full Color first demonstration of attendance by an orga- Genetically-based or not, diversity in sexuality should never be a reanized sector of the country’s LGBT communi- son for someone to be discriminated and oppressed by the society. It ty in the participation of a lesbian group called should never be a reason why someone would be rejected in the workLesbian Collective, joining the International place, deprived of education and healthcare or denied of the right to Women’s Day march of 1992. Various groups live. We should not wait for another Jennifer Laude before we realincluding the UP Babaylan in 1992, were es- ize that we need to pass a law that protects the rights of our LGBTQ. tablished. In 1999, Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network, otherwise known as But our plight doesn’t end on the LGBTQ community alone. DiscriminaLAGABLAB was formed and proposed the An- tion still thrives in various sectors of the society and it is our duty to truti-Discriminations Bill (ADB) of 2000. Six years ly address these issues—via eduation. After all, LGBTQ rights and all later, another House Bill was filed in the low- other rights are still human rights and no one is entitled to deprive anyer house, but only reached the second reading. one of their right to live in full bloom, in waves of different colors. (Sources: Inquirer, Rappler & Nature)
6 Redefining Gene-by-environment Interaction
By Rochelle Sarmiento Almost always in every Genetics-related lecture I have so far tried to comprehend, and, seemingly, fortunate to have understood, my professors would emphasize that the very traits being expressed by any organism are a product of the interplay of various genetic and environmental factors. In several instances, they would tell — one hand holding the microphone, a leg stancing forward, and eyes looking towards the sea of fascinated and uninterested students alike — that as an individual ages, the environment he is predisposed to would hugely play a role on what makes him basically him. Such notion is a widely accepted and acknowledged pillar of the concepts in Genetics. And when conceptually applied to matters of prime and social relevance, it would also pose an equally worth noting idea: that our perspectives on certain issues in the society may be influenced by the surroundings we find ourselves in and the people we have the opportunity to interact with. The Program Take as an example the conduct of the K4Health Community Youth Training Program. True to the meaning of K4, Kabataang Kabalikat ng Komunidad para sa Kalusugan, the primary aim of the said activity is to spark active participation among the youth towards sustainable improvement of the health of the people. Having made its pilot and second implementations at the Municipality of Nampicuan in Nueva Ecija last June 7 to 9 and August 27 to 28, respectively, the program has been able to produce 27 volunteer youth leaders (VYLs) who are trained to be on the forefront of raising awareness on the importance of folic acid supplementation and newborn screening in their immediate community. The Drive Interestingly, K4Health was the entry submitted by The UPLB Genetics Society in this year’s search for the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) in the country. The submission was made out of mere optimism that if, by chance, GeneSoc would be given a distinction by the organizing body of TAYO awards through the K4Health, more formations and individuals would get to support its succeeding implementations in other underserved communities. Undeniably, K4Health have come far. It is now one of the 20 finalists out of 445 entries of the 14th TAYO Awards. Despite its ostensible achievement, as with any other fruitful endeavors, the program first came to its being from just a simple yet hopeful idea. A few months before the pilot implementation of K4Health, Nampicuan’s Municipal Health Officer and GeneSoc alumnus Dr. Ron Allan Quimado only wanted for the maternal and infant health and well-being in his community to advance. This led him to be work-
ing hand-in-hand with Mr. Ryan John Pascual, his fellow GeneSoc alumnus and the national president of Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health Philippines from 2011 to 2012. These two passionate people, considered as kuyas in GeneSoc, asked some of the resident members if they would want to spearhead a three-day training program for VYLs. And although doubtful in terms of raising enough funds to carry out the program, the resident members during that time still agreed to proceed with the planning and preparation of K4Health, thinking that the necessary funds would make their way in time. True enough, with the support and mentorship of the Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health Philippines, Department of Health Central Luzon Regional Office, Newborn Screening Center Central Luzon, Institute of Human Genetics of the National Institutes of Health in UP Manila, Municipality of Nampicuan in Nueva Ecija, UPLB Ugnayan ng Pahinungod, and some GeneSoc alumni, the resources needed to conduct the program were procured before the core group of residents went to Nampicuan in order to facilitate the program. The Challenge It has already been six months after the core group started planning for K4Health. The preparations to the actual program facilitation, and to the next phases in store for K4Health, may entail huge amount of time among the members of the organization. These may even demand for nights of little to no sleep, for meals to be skipped, and for movies to be set aside. As K4Health tries to reach out to more communities while still monitoring the progress of its previous implementations, one member of the organization — a Gene — might feel, in some cases, as though he would not want any more to contribute what he can for the program. He might choose to turn a blind eye to the program itself, to think that it did not exist in the first place. But there will always be those dashes of reasons which will make him realize that he has a role to play. And this is something he cannot, and will not, be able to ignore. For once he recognizes that the program is not made only to be submitted as an entry for TAYO Awards; that it is not carried out for the organization to have at least one outreach activity every semester as required by the Office of Student Affairs; but rather believing that through the program, a person’s life may somehow be breathed easier, he — together with other passionate individuals advocating for this noble cause — will be left empowered to ceaselessly work for such undertaking. In the end, the idea behind K4Health speaks much of what the youth may collectively accomplish to lead improved lives in their communities. Doing this kind of endeavor is also one of the ways of embodying the meaning of Oblation, the iconic representation of the University of the Philippines, at which any Gene, as a Iskolar ng Bayan, finds his home. Truly, this effort resonates with any Iskolar ng Bayan’s selfless and ultimate commitment in serving the nation, as he does what he can while staying connectedly rooted with his countrymen to pave the way towards a better Philippines.
7 A New Splash in the Gene Pool By Batch Replichore Compiled by Regina Lapuz
Cherlstin She was born shy and quiet but at times, she can be eccentric and energetic. However, in both cases, she is a deep thinker and someone who likes to extend a hand to other people as long as she can. She is adaptive to the changes in her environment in a way which she thinks is best for all. Around her friends, she’s the sarcastic yet serious person that cheers everybody up. She was raised to see the world as a challenging place yet full of wonders and possibilities. The Air, the element associated with her Aquarius nature, which means the rarefied air of the intellectual. She likes accomplishing things with broad and logical mind, entertaining ideas for the betterment of all. She has a visionary, independent and progressive soul who loves to spend time thinking about how things can be fun and better. Although she is the type of the person who lives in the present, she also the one who is nostalgic of the past and enthusiastic of the future. She loves reminiscing, that is one thing for sure! Freeman A dreamer, explorer, a true free spirit. He has a very common face, voice, looks and does not stand out too much. People may see him as your typical “ordinary man” but when you get to know him, you will realize that he is actually extraordinary. He has this extraordinary laugh that will make you smile, a sense of humor that will make you laugh, and a warm personality that will make you want to befriend him. He classifies himself as an ambivert, an outgoing introvert and a reserved extrovert. He likes to try new things, explore different places and talk with strangers. He has a curious mind that seeks for stories, open arms that want company and a warm heart that is filled with love – love for friends, family and for himself. An ENFP and a Virgo. Freeman is the second and the youngest child in the family. Born in Lucena and raised in Laguna. He is an energetic and enthusiastic young lad that knows when and how to procrastinate. He is highly emotional yet logical at times. He does not put his confidence on his looks yet he is conceited when he is with his closest friends. He has creative ideas yet he finds it hard to convey them. He is an open book. He has an expressive face that turns red when he is embarrassed or delighted. He is willing to risk looking like a fool – for love, for his friends, for his dreams and for the adventure of being alive.
Japs He is the kind of person to be kind and at the same time generous. He takes life seriously and as a result, his outputs are beyond most people’s expectations and aspirations. He does not have to lead to be in control. Although he can be impulsive when it comes to handling his money. He is someone who can be very protective of his family and friends. He has a determined and stable nature. When it comes to expectations and goals, he is grounded and very realistic. His appreciation for material things and the beauty of nature is remarkable. He is the type of person you can count on when things go downhill in your life. He will be very willing to lend his hand and ears. Jim Being an archer of hearts, people don’t find it hard to like him. He is the type of person to be both intense and passionate. His sense of spirit and determination is remarkable. He is blessed with this calmness and so much devotion on every goal he sets. He comes across as slightly removed from others but that doesn’t mean he is not sociable. It’s just that there is this sensitive part which seem to reside in him. Uriah Uriah was born in a family with four siblings raised in the small quiet city of Tangub. He believes that by giving your best effort, you can achieve anything you want. He loves to go to different places. He is especially fond of those that nurture his passion for learning and the ones that allow him to know more about the world and about himself. He likes pizza, indie music, dogs, books and coffee. He hopes to become a doctor someday.
Rap He was the one who wished for the stars but instead was given the sun. Every time you see him at any day, he is seen smiling, talking to other people, and dancing. He welcomes anyone with a hug. He’s the batch’s resident financial officer who ironically is the biggest spender among us. He’s in love with the start, anime, poems, and Pokemon. Aiming to become the very best in his chosen field, he is James Raphael Medrano, James to his closest friends and Rap to all. Like a book, his cover gives you a hint of what is happening inside him but written on the page is the real story which one might not sometimes expect. He’s the punctuation marks of every phrase, clause and sentence. He likes order and flow. He like how a single symbol can change the whole atmosphere of a sentence. Like the punctuation marks, he became involved in giving life Regina to reality, in making his own poetry and dreams. He likes creating someShe is the type of girl people read books about. Innocence is marked on her face. thing beautiful from a destruction. He’s what one would call an optimist. An adventurer, and courage is her middle name. She is a more complex type of person especially on her works since she is always up to the challenge but she Arion can be deceiving because she is nothing out of the ordinary. A girl who always An enthusiast of sports and automobiles, Arion is someone who you could asks for signs before making a life-impacting decision. The smile she greets talk to at lengths about his interests. He has been playing for GeneSoc’s baswith everybody is enough to brighten up one’s day. Someone who strives to be ketball team and has formed meaningful relationships even before he joined a better version of herself, Regina Gecolea Lapuz, who prefers to be called Reg. the organization. However, his friends weren’t the only ones that drove him Like the empty pages of a journal, her wonderful story is yet to be written. Though her life is full of beauty and she is full of capabilities, she is still clueless and despite the criticism of the world and the natural process of change in a person, not only does she sees the good things in life, but is also brave enough to venture it. As she sees every good thing in life, she loves giving her friends and family advices that there is always hope for tomorrow brought about by her enthusiasm and optimism. LJ Mozart said, “Go on a journey.” That to believe is to succeed, to dream comes with the ability to accomplish and to be able to move forward is a gift. Never stop and do good until good is better and better is best. He looks for the stars and stands firm on the ground. He knows that determination is not found but is felt. He thinks that with the confidence, will and desire to act can one go the distance. He believes that problems are not obstacles but the reasons to try. Jan is just another normal teenage boy that finds happiness surfing the internet, playing games, reading books, and watching movies and TV series but he mostly spends his time studying and daydreaming. He is easy to start a conversation with and would gladly jump in on the fun and jokes. He likes people with a good sense of humor, easy to talk to, replies fast, and is nice. He loves people with beautiful eyes, looks good on a ponytail, loves the color black, is funny, and smiles a lot. But more than anything, he values trust, loyalty, and friendship. He is easy to approach and would happily stop by and talk when you see him on campus!
into joining the organization. He sees the GeneSoc’s activities as something that would incite and develop skills that he hasn’t fully realized he had. Ayah Ayah comes off as sweet, gentle and caring to everyone at first sight. True to this, she enjoys every moment she spends with her friends and tries to remember those with photographs. She likes to take pictures of special moments and treasures them with her heart. Some people see Ayah as someone who has her priorities set straight, someone who could balance her time for academics and extracurricular activities with ease.
Edzel Currently a BS Bio Sophomore, he is having a hard time choosing the field of Biology he’ll focus on. He still takes time exploring his decision-making skills because he thinks that he always selects the bad choices when he deals with his problems. His modest and timid nature makes him unsure about the way he interacts with other people. Only when he finds himself comfortable with a person is the time he’ll show his true self. He enjoys his time alone listening to music, doodling, reading a book, watching a movie, thinking about his future or being a mutant in the Marvel universe. He believes that academics alone cannot serve as his main stepping stone to his dream career as a doctor, as such he learns to deal with different kinds of people, preparing to face the ‘Real World’ once he graduates from college. As he is currently in the process of pursuing his dreams, he is still trying to take on and handle his responsibilities with the help of God, his family, friends, and GeneSoc.
8 The Badjaos: navigating on uncertain waters By Jae Joseph Russell B. Rodriguez
In the mid-1960s, an American anthropologist named Harry Nimmo, lived among the Sama Dilaut or Badjaos of Tawi-Tawi. Then unislamized, they were still boat-dwellers and thrived on various methods of fishing. Nimmo studied the underlying social factors that led to their gradual shift to dwelling in houses on stilts. In his ethnographic book, he lamented on the loss of the boat-dwelling culture, the loss of one unique worldview, and ultimately a loss for humankind. Today the Badjaos have embraced Islam and the boat-dwelling culture is long gone in Tawi-Tawi. And as with any culture, change is still happening. The Badjaos are an indigenous people (IP) which together with other ethnolinguistic groups constitute about 15% of the Philippine population. They have resisted centuries of colonial power, and thus have preserved their original way of life, their social structures, beliefs, livelihood, and art forms. Colonial regimes have left, but within the modern and independent Philippine state they are facing new threats to their existence. The “Indigenous Peoples Rights Act” (IPRA) since October 29, 1997 has mandated the recognition and protection of the rights of IPs, yet stories of displacement, violence, exclusion to political decisions, loss of ancestral domains, environmental destruction, and lack of access to basic social services continue to reverberate. Displaced, illiterate and reduced to begging For centuries in the Sulu archipelago, the Badjaos lived along the margins of society, often considered as inferior to land people. As with other nomadic cultures, they had no permanent settlement and would rather leave with their boats rather than fight when driven away by land dwellers. Today, in search for better sources of livelihood and driven from wartorn regions of Mindanao, they have scattered all over the archipelago and are commonly sighted even in Manila. Countless Badjao families continue to live impoverished lives in urban streets as they also gradually lose their culture and identity, often regarded as illiterate and beggars by their Filipino brothers. Romanticized but seldom understood The IPs are often romanticized as some sacred people of the past. Yet their situations simply beg of recognition that they are our fellow citizens—our fellow humans, only with very specific needs given their attachment to their old ways of living. Often, they are only noticed in news of tragedies and poverty, if not in the popularization of mainstream media of Carrot man and Badjao girl. But few understand their very specific needs. In 2013, the Zamboanga siege displaced hundreds of Badjao along the coastlines. They were almost relocated by the local government to live on the mountains. One with a true understanding of their way of life would know a life away from the sea is added suffering to them.
Stewards of the sea Given the pace of modern development, are these cultures obsolete? Among the problems of the new millennium is environmental destruction. The IPs culture may offer alternative solutions from their rich repository of knowledge about nature. Tribal communities persisted for thousands of years in varied niches in our archipelago. The Badjaos are no exceptions as they as they are masters of the sea and calls hundreds of fish and other marine species in their vernacular. They have mastered the shifting of tides and are aware of its blessings and dangers. A glimmer of hope, recently Badjao men and women were appointed by the current administration as bantay-dagat. As traditional seafarers, they are in the best position to be stewards of our seas, to guard against illegal fishing activities and maintain cleanliness. In search of roots and identity Harry Nimmo mused that someday a younger anthropologist will venture to Tawi-Tawi to study the already different but still distinctly Sama Dilaut people. In December of last year, I first stepped on Tawi-Tawi to what seemed like a nostalgic return to a place I’ve never been except in Nimmo’s books. In the next year, I will embark on a project to trace their origins by looking at their DNA, The DNA, a thread which connects us all, will hopefully contribute to the narrative of their identity and origin, which is very well our own story too.
Professor Jae Joseph Russell Rodriguez with with Roben Abdell in MSU Tawi-Tawi, the first Sama Dilaut magna cum laude