Mom Diane home, Willy dead, fish harder to find

Fish harder to find in small boats like these that stay close to the shore in Malay, Philippines.

The most important update to our family and friends: Mom is safe back in the United States of America.

Mom Diane back in America

My husband Theo will soon detail Mom Diane’s journey back to the U.S. from this side of the planet.

Undoubtedly, her travel experience was distinctly different from pre-pandemic times, starting at the Boracay Airport in Malay, Philippines.

We thank everyone for their prayers and well wishes. We love mom Diane and we are so relieved she made it back safely to America, and we wish for her continued robust health.


Another major update is about the fish salesman I know, or, I should say: knew. Willy has died.

Willy sold bags of fish to customers he found by walking the main road between Malay proper and Caticlan, and many smaller roads in between these two towns.

I bought fish from Willy on Saturday, October 17, and a few hours later, in another area, a motorcycle rider hit him. He died several days after the crash. Tedly made a stark, grim statement about the timing: when he was hit, he likely had my money in his pocket. Ugh.

I’ve heard some stories about the driver, but nothing official, and so I won’t report any details here yet.

The Balusbos gathering with my favorite young friends was canceled this week because some of the children were related to Willy. They all knew him. Indeed, Willy would often peek in on the games we played each week with a bemused smile.

I will miss Willy’s presence at those parties, on the beach, on the road selling fish.

Rest in peace, Willy.

Fish – harder to find

Over the last seven months, we have watched – and helped – local Filipinos pull fishing nets onto shore. The nets are filled with what they call ‘delish’ fish.

Now, there are more ‘new’ locals. More people come to the sea to fish, to eat, to live, since the regional economy has been shattered by the ‘Rona virus and the collapse of mass tourism.

Sometimes these days, the catches are rather small. Enough for only a handful of fish for every person who helps pull the net in.

I don’t know if it’s the seasonal change into shorter days with approaching winter, more fishing by local families who need the catch to eat to live, or the result of nearby commercial fishing, but this much is true: there appears to be less fish for sale than in the beginning of our lockdown period back in March 2020.

The Hangout Express

Our friend BongBong, who lives at the Hangout Beach Resort now and who comes from Boracay, is having a hard time consistently catching large fish.

Yolly, the owner of the Hangout, our landlady, and our friend, told me there used to be large fish swimming just off shore in knee-deep water when she first bought this property several years ago. Today, I’m lucky if I see a few small tropical fish in the same water when I explore with my dive mask.

We sponsored the building of the ‘Hangout Express’, which Bong Bong built with his own hands. She’s a fine boat that brings in nice catches, with some luck and a lot of hard work.

But the truth is, Bong Bong needs a bigger boat if he’s going to further out into the sea to consistently catch bigger fish.

Further out

Fisherman near us have been working on a bigger boat for several weeks. They’re refitting it for fishing; it used to take tourists around the waters near Boracay Island.

The idea is to go where the fish are – and for that you need a bigger boat for rougher waters further out.

In fact, other fishermen in our ‘neighborhood’ went out in a larger boat for an overnight fishing expedition. They came back with coolers of medium-sized fish for sale and appeared happy. They had enough for their families, and enough to sell.


Meanwhile, hundreds of miles west of us, in the South China Sea, China continues to overfish the waters that are claimed by other countries – the Philippines included. The large boats and nets are destroying coral reefs.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said his country is no match for China’s military build-up in the South China Sea, despite a formal complaint lodged and acknowledged by the United Nations.

The reality is: the country does not have the money to build up its military right now. One option is to build up a militia in the nearby West Philippine Sea, which is closer to Manila. But that requires funds as well.


For now, things are going along as they have for us for the last several months. Tedly will continue work in the coming week for the Ati water improvement project, now that electricity is running in the upper village. I will continue creative writing of some sort or another.

We still eat plenty of fish, and we still help other people as we can. We will still update this blog and send out a weekly newsletter.

The huge difference: mom Diane is absent after living with us for 10 months in the last year; 11 months within the last two years.

She’s safe, we hope, in America… for now.

Thanks for reading, “Mom Diane home, Willy dead, fish harder to find.”

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