bajau map
  • AKA: Badjau, Bajao, Bajaw, Lutao, Orang Laut, Pal'au, Sama Dilaut, Sama Jengngeng, Samal Laut
  • Location: Scattered over Sulu area north to Basilan and southern Mindanao; concentrated on Tawitawi Island.
  • Languages: Sama-related
  • Supergroup: Sama
  • Subgroups: Bajao, Sama Dilaut, Sama Jenjeng
  • Subsistence: Marine resources; cassava
  • Population: 29,754 nationwide (1994).

Commonly known to westerners as "Sea Gypsies," the highly mobile Bajao or Sama Dilaut actually live in small groups as far north as the northern tip of Luzon in their house boats called lepa. The true Bajao are actually a Bornean people, but the Sama Dilaut are often called that by other locals because of the similarity of their lifeways; their language, however, is considerably different. The Bajao have also adapted to Jama-Mapun-style houseboats over shallow seas; these are linked together by small bridges. Interiors of houses are not partitioned, and their most notable ornamentation is a hanayan, or ornate shelving. Like other Sama peoples, the Bajao are a non-aggressive group who take flight in their boats when threatened; they claim to have no weapons. The lepa is a beautiful boat of ancient origins; its sail has a "mouth" which enables the boat to sail almost directly into the wind.