PULAU Gaya is a Filipino enclave in Malaysian waters. It is a sizeable island of 1,465 ha, just 10 minutes off Kota Kinabalu, with stilt houses girdling the beach as far as the eye can see.
The only means of getting there is by speedboat. The fare for outsiders is RM5 per head. Locals pay RM1.
Pulau Gaya had earned the unfortunate reputation of having become something of a criminal and pirates haven.
Pulau Gaya has a 6,000 floating population of largely Suluks and Bajaus who provide Kota Kinabalu with cheap labour.
As the population grew, new houses spread seaward, with no regard for sanitation. Twice, fires wiped out nearly half of Kg Pondo in 1994 and 1998.
The houses are linked by walkways of weathered planks. Privacy is unknown.
But they are not impoverished many houses boast a television set.
The speedboat owners are kept busy, ferrying schoolchildren, then housewives, then traders who sell craftwork at the Filipino market in town. In the evenings, a few hundred man the night Filipino market, selling dubious jeans and cheap cosmetics almost exclusively to other Filipinos.
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