We in Katribu (Kabataan para sa Tribung Pilipino), a youth group of indigenous people rights advocates based in different universities in Metro Manila, express our grave concern for Rita Gabiola, popularly known as “Badjao Girl,” regarding the recent events in the TV show Pinoy Big Brother Lucky Season 7. Rita recently became a victim of teasing at the hands of her other housemates.
The Badjao have had a long history of displacement due to the loss of their ancestral waters, poverty and discrimination. Loss of livelihood and state neglect forced many of them to migrate to urban areas. Many Badjao, such as Rita, have resorted to begging as a form of livelihood. Even before the incident in the PBB House, Rita, along with other indigenous people such as Jeyrick Sigmaton, (popularly known as “Carrot Man”), have been widely exoticized and misrepresented. They have been objectified based on their appearance, and erased from their experience of structural violence and marginalization as indigenous people. This is symptomatic of a larger system of discrimination which treats IPs as lesser citizens and as targets of maltreatment.
However, with public awareness and through the help of media, we believe that we can counter these phenomena.
We therefore challenge the ABS-CBN to utilize the Pinoy Big Brother as a platform for raising awareness on the plight of indigenous people such as Rita. Katribu is open to giving discussions to the youth, to enlighten them regarding the identity, culture and situation of our indigenous peoples. We also offer integration with IP communities.
We challenge the general public to be more critical with mainstream media programs, especially when the oppressed people of our nation are involved, so that TV programs become not just instruments for entertainment, but also tools for raising political and social consciousness.