To Become “Christian Bajau”: The Sama Dilaut’s Conversion to Pentecostal Christianity in Davao City, Philippines


Aoyama Waka, The University of Tokyo

March 2016 – paper removed

Abstract: The predicament of the Sama Dilaut who fled conflict-mired areas in the Southern Philippines northward to other cities in the Philippines was recently reported through various media; yet little scholastic work was done to explore the meaning of the changes they experienced. This paper attempts to analyze the mechanism of their conversion to Pentecostal Christianity and its impact among the Sama Dilaut migrants in Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines at the turn of the 21st century. The bulk of the data for this paper was collected through ethnographic fieldwork from 1997 to 2005. I will examine three questions: 1) how the Philippine government’s policies on poverty alleviation for cultural minorities framed the life of the Sama Dilaut migrants; 2) why the Sama Dilaut migrants chose Pentecostal Christianity, not other organizations that were also willing to help; 3) how their conversion reconfigured the Sama Dilaut community, from within and in relation to its host society. I will argue that in contrast to the “the Sama Dilaut experience with official Islam in Sabah, Malaysia” by Japanese anthropologist NAGATSU Kazufumi, the acceptance of the Christian faith among the Sama Dilaut in Davao City has not offered them upward social mobility in the main stream society; instead, it served as significant apparatus to reconstruct their ethnic identity to survive as the “Christian Bajau” in the multi-ethnic urban market society. I will also argue that it created space for the converts to conceptualize and operate an economy of gifts, which does not contradict the individualism that Pentecostalism brings its followers.

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