Story of PBB Housemate – Rita Gabiola (Badjao Girl)

Pahiyas Festival
Pahiyas Festival ©

One of the country’s biggest, and most colorful harvest festival every May 15th, along with the harvest festivals of the towns of Tayabas, Sariaya,  Gumaca and Tiaong. These are the Philippines best known harvest festivals to honor San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. Known as the “Pahiyas”, the festival is deeply rooted in the traditional celebration of the townsfolk in thanksgiving for bounty harvest. Decorations called “Kiping”, leaf-shaped and multi-colored rice paste wafers which are used to decorate the facades of the homes along with fruits and flowers from nature.

During the festival, photographer Topher Guinto Burgos was just taking photos when he noticed this young beautiful woman carrying a child beside her and begging on the streets for food, small amount of money or which ever may help them to survive the day from hunger and thirsty. Topher noticed that this young woman has high chances of getting into T.V stations and would become an artist for their shows like the other artists who was
discovered along the streets.

Badjao Girl
Badjao Girl (Rita Gabiola) © Topher Guinto Burgos

The photographer posted photos of this young woman on his personal social media account and had publish it publicly. This was just an ordinary day  for Topher, considering that the photos were meant to partially fulfill their photography documentary. He tagged the photos as “Badjao Girl” since he  did not personally communicated with Rita during the time when he captured her photos. Topher was not expecting that the picture of Badjao girl went
a phenomenal hit when it became viral all over the place.

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Badjao Girl
Badjao Girl (Rita Gabiola) © Topher Guinto Burgos
Badjao Girl
Badjao Girl (Rita Gabiola) © Topher Guinto Burgos

Rita Gabiola was born in Zamboanga City in 2003. She is now 13-years-old. Her father is Danny Gabiola and her mother is Marites Gabiola. Gabiola family was struggling in Zamboanga City due to limited opportunities. The family fled to Manila to search for a better life. But they finally settled in Lucena City. Since then, the Gabiola family is now fulfilling their socio-economic lifestyle in Lucena and its surrounding towns in Quezon province.

When the photo was taken sometime in May, schools are closed for summer vacation. Rita took the advantage of begging in the streets as one of the  best ways to earn a living. Through begging, she can earn to help her parents pay for her tuition as well as to help her family sustain their basic needs such as food.

Danny Gabiola is the bread winner of the family. Marites Gabiola is a plain housewife but helps the family to sustain their basic needs by begging and selling anything to gain any financial opportunities that she can get. Being a fisherman is not an easy job to do; however, it is the only thing that Rita’s  father know to sustain their family’s needs. Technically, the family is considered living below the poverty line due to a very low annual income.

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Rita was supposed to be enrolling for this school year to continue her studies as a grade 7 student. But things changed when her photos became viral  on the internet and then currently became a celebrity in mainstream media.

After Rita’s photos went viral, several talent agencies, magazines, and entertainment agencies approached her. Rita initially made a makeover further enhancing her natural beauty by showing her unique bone structure in her photos that were published publicly.

After being noticed when her transformation photos were published, Rita was now given several opportunities in both the entertainment and from  public service industries.

Rita is now one of the recipients of scholarships granted by the City government of Lucena under the initiative of the city’s Mayor Roderick Alcala. The  city government is now assisting Rita’s family that will provide employment opportunities to improve their current socio-economic lifestyle.

Rita is also granted with an educational scholarships by several foundation agencies such as the Kapamilya foundation. Rita hopes that she can finish her studies as a future licensed teacher. This is to provide her the opportunity to become an inspiration to other members of Badjao group by instilling  the importance of education.

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Badjao Girl
Badjao Girl (Rita Gabiola) ©

Now, Rita signed several contracts with these talent agencies. One of these contracts is for being an official housemate of Pinoy Big Brother. The public can now take a glimpse of Rita while staying inside Big Brother’s house that is televised daily.

Badjao Girl
Badjao Girl (Rita Gabiola) ©

Rita Gabiola hopes to further stay in the entertainment industry so that she can earn much that will forever lift her family’s socio-economic status.

Badjao Girl
Badjao Girl (Rita Gabiola) ©

The term “Badjao” is a group of an ethnic minority in the Philippines that is regarded as sea dwellers. These are indigent tribe who spend most of their  time fishing and stay in the seas for most of their lives. Badjao traverses the seas of South China Sea, Philippine Sea, Celebes Sea, Gulf of Thailand,  Molucca Sea, Banda Sea, Java Sea, Sulu Sea, and other local seas in Southeast Asia.

When this group visits the land, begging is one of the most prominent ways for them to gain savings as most of them are illiterate. Begging is the  easiest way for this group to earn a living because it does not require any skill or educational attainment.


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