A few weeks before I arrived in Mindinao, there was a fire in Isla Verde, an impoverished part of Davao City where a Catholic Filipinos, Muslim Filipinos and a large population of the Badjao live. The Badjao are considered somewhat like gypsies are: as beggars, sometimes viewed with suspicion and prejudice, not incorporated into the full life of the rest of the surrounding community. The fire destroyed a great swath of homes and businesses, and each of the three different populations — Catholic, Muslim and Badjao — were housed separately in temporary locations afterward.
The story went out that Davao City fire fighters came in to fight the fire. A Badjao family asked one fire fighter to defend their home from flames. He said he had to fight the fire elsewhere — so they killed him. The fire fighters then withdrew, waiting for the police to come, and the fire raged out of control.
I do not know if this story is true. In fact, it reminds me of the story told about the Great Fire of 1871 in Chicago, where an Irish family was blamed for allowing their cow to kick over lantern in their barn. Is that what actually happened or was that story partly based on prejudice against the Irish?
Difficult to say, years later.
In any case, because of my knowledge of this fire, I felt it was a particular honor to be able to serve a Badjao family at our birth center recently. The birth center sends out a team to do prenatal appointments in Isla Verde, on a weekly basis, and so mothers from there come to the center when they are ready to give birth. Thank you, God, for Analise and family! Please bless them and settle them happily in a new home.