The impact of a personal experience of the real condition of the unfortunate people surpasses the strength of texts found in articles and books. It was from the contact of Fr. Renato Rosso with the nomads of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi sometime in April 2004 that the National Assembly for the Pastoral Care of Samal Bajaus and Nomads in the Philippines was born. 20 people already working with the Samal-Bajaus in Isabela City, Maluso, Siasi, Jolo, Bongao, Pagadian City, General Santos City, and Zamboanga City gather together last April 8, 2005 at Grand Astoria Hotel, Zamboanga City to mark the first assembly. It was basically an orientation to the pastoral care initiated by the Church and sharing of Samal-Bajaus experiences and concerns. One of the fruits of this first assembly was the creation of a coordinating body that would take charge of the assembly. The following were elected: Most Rev. Angelito R. Lampon, OMI, DD, Bishop, Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo as President; Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF, Prefect of Apostolate Claretian Missionaries, Zamboanga City as Vice President; Fr. Dennis G. Tamayo, CMF, Project-In-Charge, Claret Samal Foundation, Inc., Townsite, Maluso, Basilan Province as Secretary; and Sr. Norma N. Capampangan, FMM, Bajau Ministry, Notre Dame of Siasi (now, Sr. Julie Calumpang, FMM, Notre Dame of Siasi) as Treasurer. The elected Representatives were: Mr. Ronald Y. Salipio of General Santos City; Fr. Felipe N. Alvarez of Pagadian City; Mrs. Virginia E. Montebon of Isabela City, Basilan; Fr. Romeo P. Saniel, OMI of Jolo, Sulu; and Mrs. Erlinda Chio of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.
Of course, the 2nd National Assembly for the Pastoral Care of Samal Bajaus and Nomads in the Philippines can be attributed as another indispensable fruit of the first assembly. What was remarkable, however, was the increase in those who believe in the significance and impact this assembly could initiate and facilitate. The second assembly held last April 27-29, 2006 at PIME-Euntes, Sinunuc, Z.C. was attended by 30 concerned partners coming from Claret Samal Foundation, Inc. (CSFI), Community Extension Services of Notre Dame of Jolo College, Asia Foundation, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Asisi Foundation, Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), Lumah Ma Dilaut: Center for Living Traditions, National Commission on Indigenous People-Region IX (NCIP), ARMM, Notre Dame of Mapun, Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo, Maluso Bajau People’s Organization, National Sama Badjao Movement, and Sama Bajau Tribal Group. The second assembly was essentially to share each organization’s programs as well as identify gaps in addressing the needs of the Samal-Bajaus, and networking. Documentation of the Samal-Bajau cultural elements and comprehensive program for the welfare of the Samal-Bajau were established as the assembly’s common effort. In addition, a Comprehensive Problem Analysis and Programming were suggested for a better focus in the next assembly.
The Problem Analysis was intended to serve as a baseline data for the 3rd Assembly and meant to improve the programs and efforts of the organizations committed to address the plight of the Samal-Bajaus in the Philippines. Hence, before the 3rd Assembly, two important meetings happened: one held in June 18-20, 2007 at PIME-Euntes, Sinunuc, Z.C. to prepare the matter for the 3rd Assembly and finalize the questionnaire for the Problem Analysis. Coming up with a document on the recent Bajau cultural condition in the southern Philippines was deemed important. The participants were representatives of the following organizations: Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo, Peace Advocates Zamboanga, Claret Samal Foundation, Inc., Notre Dame of Siasi, Notre Dame of Bongao, and Institute of Cultural Studies for Western Mindano (ICSWM) – Ateneo de Zamboanga University. This meeting also created a consolidating team with the following members: Fr. Dennis G. Tamayo, CMF, secretary of the Assembly, Sr. Len Pineda, FMM, Notre Dame of Siasi, and Mr. Robert V. Panaguiton, Director of ICSWM- Ateneo de Zamboanga University. The second meeting, which was held last September 11-12, 2007 at the Claret Convent, San Jose, Z.C., was organized and attended by the members of the consolidating team to check and consolidate data gathered through the questionnaires and came up with the Consolidated Report to be presented in the 3rd Assembly as one of the baseline data.
The 3rd National Assembly for the Pastoral Care of Nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines was participated by the following organizations: Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo, Notre Dame of Siasi, Notre Dame of Jolo College, CRS-Davao, OSCC-Bongao, NFI-Isabela City, Claret Samal Foundation, Inc., National Sama Bajau Movement, Jabu-Jabu, Inc., Peace Advocates Zamboanga, and the Institute of Cultural Studies for Western Mindanao (ICSWM)– Ateneo de Zamboanga University. In this assembly, documents (both written and audio-video) about the culture of the Samal-Bajaus were presented and reaffirmed. Recalling the Samal-Bajau issues and the commitment of the organizations to help became the starting point of a serious and straightforward planning in lined with the pastoral care of the Samal-Bajaus. The plans center on the following themes: ancestral domain, human rights, livelihood, health, education, peace and order, empowerment, and cultural preservation. The plans were then put in the context of vision, mission, objectives, goals, strategies, and monitoring schemes, which then will become a guide for immediate operations in each organization’s area of responsibility and a basis for the project proposal each group might undertake in the near future. Perhaps, the most significant output this 3rd Assembly was able to achieve was a draft of the Assembly’s vision, which will strengthen the unity and deepen the commitment of the National Assembly for the Pastoral Care of Nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines.
The 3rd Assembly started with a Muslim and Christian Prayers, continued with the rich audio-video and power-point materials and insightful sharing from the participants, and it ended with reflections and inspirations from the facilitator Ms. Deng Giguento of CRS-Davao, the President of the Assembly Bishop Angelito R. Lampon, OMI, DD, Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo, the Vice-President of the Assembly Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF, and Fr. Dennis G. Tamayo, CMF, the secretary of the Assembly.
The Assembly’s coordinating body is represented by the ever committed Bishop Lampon in the CBCP. The assemblies and meetings were hosted by the Claret Samal Foundation, Inc. (CSFI), headed by Fr. Dennis G. Tamayo, CMF, which 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. The 3rd Assembly is documented (both in video and text) by the Institute of Cultural Studies for Western Mindanao (ICSWM)-Ateneo de Zamboanga University, headed by Mr. Robert V. Panaguiton. (ADZU Press Release)