Ever wondered how the fish you ate this morning where harvested?
One night while I was staying in Dahican Beach in Mati City, Kuya Jun Plaxa, my host, floated an idea of joining the fishermen for a night of fishing. The adventurous spirit in me arose and by 10:00pm of that same day I found myself on board a big fishing vessel that will go out after midnight to Mayo Bay for some fishing expedition.
The vessel was silent when we get on and I thought there are only 4-5 people on board. Because most of the work will start by 3:00am, I opted to take some nap on top of the machinery where the “makinista,” the one in-charge of the machinery, directed me to lay. For an hour, I was trying to find my sleep while the sea continuously rocked the boat.
A little bit past 3:00am, the cook “maestro kusinero” started making fire to cook rice corn, adobong pusit and tinolang isda. The squids and fish were just given to us by some fishermen on small boats whom we met our way to the deep sea.
By 3:30am the rest of the crew came out and ate breakfast. We ate together on two big drum covers “buddle fight” style. It was culture shock, the tinolang isda and adodong pusit where mixed together with the corn rice as everyone picked his food with bare hands “kinamot”. In their local term, “nagsagul na and sud-an ug kan-on.”
As the dawn wass breaking we headed to where the small forward boat located the school of fish and they started to lower the nets, encircling the area where the fishes were. Then someone from the crew dove to fix the net lock with the help of a weight to close the net below. He was called the “maestro busero” or the master diver.
We waited for a while and when the sun began to rise, some of the crew started to drag the net towards the boat. By this time, small boats began gathering around the net they were called “kanaway.” Later they will ask for some share too (even though they didn’t do anything), which is part of fishing tradition so they say. How generous Filipinos are talaga!
After some time, some fishes stuck on the net where collected in one place. Before long, one dove “busero” to check if the net is holding. Minute by minute the net was becoming heavier as kilos of fishes began to surface out of the water, alive and trying to fly back to the sea. The fishermen were already smiling as they continued pulling the net, they are called “kargador” or the ones in-charge of the nets and carrying the ice boxes once on shore.
Some of crew get the unusual catch like the “Saguksok” with its skin easily removed, they say, perfect for for “kinilaw.”
After the “kanaways” where given they share, the crew got some of the spoil too then the rest were placed into ice boxes to be sold in the market.
I was given my share too, more than four kilos of fish. I believe they were mostly “matangbaka” because their eyes are quite big for their size and looks like the eyes of cows.
After the division among them, they fixed their net for the next day’s fishing expedition.
It was a great experience joining these fisher folks and they invited me to join them again the next day. If not for my flight back to Manila the next day, I would have joined them again.
I thank Mang Tibor, the “timunil,” the one in-charge of the operation and the captain, “maestro kapitan” for allowing me on board and experience the life of a fisherman for just a night.
The experience gave me a realization of “bayanihan” in the sea and how hard it is for our fishermen to get some fish. Now I value more than ever every piece of fish I eat.