Sunday, May 8, 2011

Children Coin Divers of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur

Coin diving has become part of life in some ethnic groups called Badjaos in the Sulu archipelago in the Philippines. In fact, a movie was made by a National Artist regarding the plight of these subgroup of people (I think it starred the late Fernando Poe Jr.) Coin diving has also become a "profession", a means of earning a living among children and teen-agers in Indonesia (particularly in the Sunda Strait plying between Java and Sumatra).

In one blog article, Yovita Siswati, the writer narrates, and I quote: “Just before the passenger ferry leaves the port, several young people jump from the deck of the vessel down to the water below. They will ask the passengers on board the ferry to throw coins at them. Then shockingly enough, they will dive to retrieve those coins as they sink down the sea bed. They would race each other. Whoever gets the coins can keep them.” (source:

The Badjaos in Sulu does the same:


"Coins, please!"


In a coastal community in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, there is another version of this "practice". The good news is that the children involved here aren't swimming in deep waters unlike the aforementioned Badjao beggars who ride on outrigger boats or canoes just to get to a nearby passenger vessel. The children in Sta. Cruz wait just outside the string of restaurants and water rises up to their waist (for younger children) or knees (for older ones). I do not condone this activity. Children have the inherent right to play while young. But the harsh reality of life sometimes dictates otherwise.

Another comforting thought is that these children are seen mostly playing - frolicking - while waiting for the customers from the restaurants to finish their meals. You would hear them laughing and shouting, the way children find hilarity in anything that life presents to them. From my table, I saw several of them wave their arms, trying to get my attention, from a diving ledge just outside the restaurant porch.

I remembered a Yahoo piece written by Catalino Hisula in his article called "The Coin Divers":

"Coins were thrown to the water for her husband to dive. Each time the coins were long in coming, she asked the passengers to throw some more using the Badjao language the passengers do not understand but nevertheless knew she is asking for money. She never raised her hands with an open palm the way beggars do. She extends her hand as though she is reaching another hand for a handshake like she doesn't consider this trade begging. Her husband provides a diving show to the boat passengers by allowing a few seconds before he follows the sinking coin underwater." (source:

Children Coin Divers are a familiar sight all through out Asia, but even more so here in the Philippines. There are several - on a strait between Cebu City and Mactan, and some "high tech little buggers" upon arrival in Surigao City (Notes from a Small Island, photos and blog article here:


Though most of the children were having fun, one child seemed to be desperate and/or dramatic. He would beg with pleading eyes at you and when others catch the coin, he feigns crying. Every single time. Later that day, after I paid my meal, I found the same child waiting in front of my restaurant. What's this world coming to? I wasn't pleased that he had to "beg" for money while I leave my restaurant full and close to bursting. The world isn't fair. I handed him my leftovers (ordered too much so I had my leftovers placed in a plastic bag). He still looked sad. He must have expected money.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Striking a pose before the dive.

Desperate pleading facies all thoughout the "ordeal".

Diving as the coins sink.


Ola said...

Maybe they have fun, but I doubt.. the faces are rather desparate!

eye in the sky said...

I'd have to agree with you there. It was just my wishful thinking because the water looked very inviting and I wanted to jump in. LOL

Short Poems said...

Beautiful images!
Really lovely blog!
Take care

Short Poems

eye in the sky said...

Thanks, Marinela. Visited your poetry site too and I am just floored by the beauty of your works. Cheers!