These are people on boats, popularly known as “sea gypsies. We often see them on piers or ports. They sail near arriving or departing roll-on-roll-off ships or other sea vessels transporting passengers from one island to another. They are expert swimmers and divers, who can dive so fast to retrieve coins thrown by ship passengers. They usually shout “hagis!” (throw) for people on board the ships to throw them some money usually coins because paper bills can be swept by the wind or be wet when it touch the water.
As you can see in my photo, they swim or sail next to passenger ferries to beg for money or for some loose change. I pity them to see them struggling to dive especially if passengers throw small coins or smaller denominations of money. If they throw bigger denominations of coins like PhP5.00 or PhP10.00 even PhP1.00, it will be easier to dive for it. It sinks slower too, and from the ship, the thrower or giver can see the coin sinking slowly in a zigzag manner, not sinking directly down the bottom of the sea. So the “sea gypsy” easily catches them.
I wonder how much they can earn from departing and arriving ferries. The government has banned travelers from throwing money to them because a “sea gypsy” died some years ago when he got trapped in the ship’s motor blades. Maybe he tried to retrieve a coin near the blades, and when the motor is running, it can hit the diver or he could be stucked in there!
The local governments through the Department of Social Welfare had offered livelihood opportunities to the “sea gypsies” to prevent such accidents, and for them not to risk their lives trying to dive for coins for a living. This is the reason why travelers were also banned from throwing them coins, so they no longer find it lucrative to beg for money in the ports.
Though ferry or ship passengers are already prohibited from throwing coins to the sea beggars, some could not resist, or they are too soft-hearted or kind-hearted to share some of their loose change to them.