From Pearl Divers to Coin Divers

When we talk about coin divers, it is not actually a simple thing that people do. In fact, it is a profession. It is a means of earning a living among small children and teenagers in the country of Indonesia, particularly in the Sunda Strait plying between Java and Sumatra. In the Philippines, it has become a part of daily life in some ethnic groups called Badjaos in Sulu Archipelago.

You can usually observe this kind of unique attraction of young men, and sometimes women, dive for coins when you have to travel and pass by the Sunda Strait, a small strait between Java and Sumatra Island. This will happen before the passenger ferry leaves the port wherein a number of young people jump from the deck of the vessel down to the water below. After doing such thing, they will ask the passengers on board the ferry to throw coins at them, and then the coin divers would race each other to retrieve those coins and keep them.

A lot of people may find this an entertaining scene while they are travelling, but they just don’t know how dangerous this activity is for the divers. The divers run the risk of being hit by the vessel or pulled into the ship’s propeller that can slice them into small pieces. Aside from this, they might also bump their bodies when jumping down from the deck of the vessel to the water. Although most of them are extremely fast swimmers and have guts enough to do this job, we still cannot deny the fact that the same thing might be too risky for them.

 Once you’ve witnessed this activity, you might be asking yourself – why these people don’t find work. Well, this is their way to earn a living so they have already considered this as their own work. The coin divers are mostly children in their preteens or young adults. Some of them are school students who do this to earn for extra money.

Many others had dropped out of school and do this just to get a life. They use whatever amount they earn to help support their family. Unfortunately, most of the divers have no other skills other than diving and swimming so this might be the reason why they cannot look for another job.

On the other hand, in the ports Surigao and Butuan City, Philippines, there is another version of this “practice”. You can observe that most of the children were having fun while waiting for the passenger of the ferry to throw their coins. One child would seem to be desperate and/or dramatic, he would beg with pleading eyes at the passengers and when others catch the coin, he pretends crying.

Most of the coin divers enjoy their job and are proud of it. In fact, their jobs keep them from the street and they could earn good money in a legal but of course, unsafe way.

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