MALAY, PHILIPPINES — We’ve watched fishermen along the shoreline near our pandemic apartment for nearly two months. Our rental is on the beach in a small fishing community. The other day, I was asked to help, and I was thrilled to pitch in!
It was a calm morning, the sea like glass. I was out for some exercise on the beach. In the distance saw the formation of a human fishing chain. I knew from observational experience this was the beginning of how to catch fish the Filipino way from the shore. I was about to learn a lot more through experiential work.
In all of the various quarantine states, fisherfolk have always been allowed to fish because this is how they eat — how they survive. It’s also their livelihood.
“Fisherfolk” are small, independent fishermen. “Municipal fisherfolk” are people who fish from the shore. Municipal fisherfolk can be practically everyone in the barangay (neighborhood) — men, women, children — because, as you’ll see, it takes a lot of work.
Statisticians say fisherfolk are the poorest of the poor. Yes — perhaps when it comes to money. But I would argue they are richer than most people.
How to catch fish with a shore net
The effort starts off with an outrigger boat crew dropping a huge net in a semi-circle pattern along the shore. This is most often down at low tide or when the water is calm, but it can be done anytime.
The ends of the net are tied to a rope, and a long line of people lines each side of the circle, some wading into the sea. It was at this point when I was invited to help.
As people pull the net back to the beach, they also move a little closer to each other, making the half-circle more like a half-oval.
A man with a dive mask near the boat chases the fish so they go toward the net. Sometimes he surfaces and tells everyone to stop pulling the net, so he can get the fish to go where he wants them to go.
During those breaks, while the diver chased the fish towards the net, I took pictures. Above, peace signs and smiles. Below, both side of the net — a good portion of the community — work together.
It’s how these people have survived since… forever?
It’s all hands on deck because it takes a lot of people to pull in the net. There is even a national holiday at the end of this month to honor fisherfolk in the Philippines!
It’s how to fish catch fish, global crisis or not.
“This is for lunch and dinner,” one young lady told me. She added they will start to fish like this more often – perhaps most mornings for the foreseeable future, calm seas or not.
As the half-circle closes, each line of fisherfolk bounce the fish on the net to keep them out of the water. The fish are transferred to a cooler or bucket like the one below.
On this particular day, I helped during their second net fishing attempt that morning. The first effort netted the same amount, according to my new friends.
A true chest of jewels.
So what type of fish are they?
“We call them,’delish fish’,” one man said.
And what do you do with them?
“Either dry them in the sun, or fry them — and add seasoning.”
Anyone who pulls the net and helps gets a share of the catch. I politely declined my share. I offered to help again – anytime.
The group couldn’t believe I didn’t want a share. They nearly insisted I take some. Instead I gave my share to the lovely young ladies who invited me to help, so that I might learn a thing or two about the livelihood and spirit of Filipinos. And I will again help because I have more to learn…
I do have a mask, and I wear it, but did not wear it for this selfie. I never faced anyone at a close range. The general community quarantine here ends tomorrow, but I’ll still wear a mask in public places.
Update on Typhoon Ambo
I wrote earlier this week about a tropical storm headed our way. As I write this, the storm has gotten stronger and is now a typhoon named Ambo (or Vongfong in Japanse meteorology).
We are have wind and rain, thunder and big waves. But our location is on the storm’s outskirts so we aren’t worried.
That said, if you don’t hear from us one day — it’s likely the power is out. We do have occasional outages for an hour or two here and there. A major storm could potentially knock it out for longer.
Ellen and Tedly alternate posts each day during their pandemic experience. Visit the special COVID-19 section for more posts and other resources.