In 2007, Fr. Dennis Tamayo wrote a letter asking Henry Sy, the tycoon behind the SM malls, to consider the mats woven by Bajau women from Basilan Province in the southernmost part of the Philippines. He asked if SM could buy these mats and sell them in the mall’s Kultura stores.
“I just wrote a letter. I was praying that Mr. Sy would respond,” said Fr. Dennis, a missionary priest who was assigned in Basilan under the Claret Samal Foundation Inc. (CSFI).
Sy did. He also instructed CSFI to send samples.
So, under SM’s Craft-for-a-Cause program, Bajau-made products found their way to SM’s Kultura stores. Today, Bajau women weave bags, mats, wallets, and other products, boosting their income and self-esteem.
The connection between SM and the Bajaus is advantageous for the weavers, who receive immediate feedback as to the quality of the products. This enables them to improve their products to better serve SM’s customers.
For his part, working with the Samal Bajau community in Basilan made Fr. Dennis learn two important facts of life: one, indigenous people can do something productive; and two, it is often society that creates a culture of discrimination toward indigenous groups.
Under his term as project director, CSFI was able to build water systems and infrastructure projects. These included a 400-meter footbridge and six learning centers located in six communities.
An administrative building and nursery center for Badjau children were also built under the leadership of Fr. Dennis. A Badjau formation and wellness center is also in the works.
In Bajau culture, men are fisherfolks while women are weavers. Taking this into consideration, livelihood opportunities are created for the Bajaus.
Fr. Dennis Tamayo is one of five finalists for the Ramon Aboitiz Award for Exemplary Individual. The 5th RAFI Triennial Awards will be handed out on March 22, 2012.
More information in this link: Missionary builds bridges,real and symbolic, for Bajaus or in the web page of CSFI: http://csfi.claretphilippines.com