HYI Working Paper Series: Aoyama Waka

Living in the City as Sama-Bajau: The Case of Magsahaya’s Family (Aoyama Waka, the University of Tokyo)

AbstractThis manuscript is a direct self-translation of Chapter Nine, originally entitled “Magsahaya’s family: moving around over the ground as beggars,” from my Japanese book, An Ethnography of Poverty: Socioeconomic Life of Five Sama Families in Davao City, Philippines, published by the University of Tokyo Press in 2006. A few parts have been modified, however, to fit in the given space with careful effort to retain the original contents. The basic unit of analysis is the household. Considering the term that the informants used in daily life, however, the term “family” (pamilya) was chosen for the titles of the chapters with the five cases included in the original Japanese version. In this particular case, Magsahaya’s household consisted of two families and other extended family members, including her own family with her second husband, their eldest son, and her second daughter from her first marriage, one family of her son-in-law’s (married to her eldest daughter, who had deceased by the time of our research) and his new wife with four children from his previous marriage and one child from his present one, and Magsahaya’s two elder sisters who were both widows. In this particular case, Magsahaya’s household consisted of two families and other extended family members. Her own family included her second husband, their eldest son, and her second daughter from her first marriage. The second family included one of her sons-in-law (married to her eldest daughter, who had deceased by the time of our research) and his new wife with four children from his previous marriage, one child from his present wife, and Magsahaya’s two elder sisters who were both widows. There are two communities of the Sama-Bajau in Isla Bella (pseudonym), Davao City, which I refer to frequently in my narrative: Hong Kong and Japan Pikas. In order to avoid any confusion with Hong Kong, the city-state in the People’s Republic of China, I write its name in italics. Magsahaya’s family lived in Hong Kong during my research from 1998 to 2000. The survey on the subjective evaluations on social inequality among the Sama-Bajau residents in Isla Bella that the author conducted in 1999 revealed the fact that there were five livelihood groups, which could be ranked according to the socio-economic and other criteria that the Sama-Bajau raters claimed. Based on such results, we call the livelihood group that Magsahaya’s family belongs to “‘panaq’ fishermen group.” In this group, males who were of an income-producing age engaged in “panaq” fishing (spear fishing). Due to the low productivity of such fishing, however, unemployment and underemployment were common among males, while elders, females, and children would go begging. Because of the limited availability of resources, members of this group tended to present themselves as “Bajau the weak” to outsiders, and ask them for mercy and alms in order to survive everyday life. Some of them also had accepted Christianity, following the Third Group (the case of Papa Melcito’s family in the previous Harvard-Yenching Working Paper, January 5, 2016).

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