I’ve been in Casiguran for almost two months now but when my counterpart told me to finish up the tour of Casiguran’s Livelihood projects with our BFAR representative, while she attended to other business, my stomach dropped a little.
Casiguran has a number of Alternative Livelihood Projects that have been funded by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. These projects are incredibly important in improving the quality of life for our fisherfolk, and helping them maintain financial security. Alternative Livelihood opportunities allow people to learn new skills and diversify their income.
Why must the fisheries sector diversify their income?
The Fishing industry is an extremely insecure industry. Factors like climate change, population increase, and overfishing, among others, have caused a decrease in fish catch.
Why don’t they just fish less?
Sounds easy right, just fish less. This is much easier said than done. Asking the fisherfolk to fish less is asking them to deprive their families of dinner and income. But, when fishing grounds run dry, families also go hungry.
The beacon of light! Alternative livelihood projects! These help reduce pressure on fish stocks and maintain financial security for the fisherfolk. Our projects here include: a Municipal Tilapia Hatchery, a Post Harvest Facility enhancement project, and a Fisheries Products Value Adding Center. These are all funded by BFAR and must be documented appropriately. We had finished showing our BFAR representative, Gloria, the Municipal Hatchery when it was my turn to direct the tryke driver to our next destination, The Cawit Livelihood Center.
‘Cawit Barangay Hall po’ I say to the tryke driver.
We start down the road and I assume I’ve done enough. Tryke drivers know Casiguran like the back of their hand, there’s no doubt he knows where a landmark like the Barangay Hall of Cawit is.
He passes the turn.
‘Wait, wait!’ I raise my voice over the tryke’s motor, in english. My Bicol proficiency is in no way reactive (yet) and it completely escapes me in times of urgency, ‘Cawit Barangay Hall!’
He stops the tryke and asks someone nearby ‘Hain an Cawit Barangay Hall?’
I think that I’m hearing him incorrectly; he doesn’t know where the Barangay Hall is? Based on body language, and limited language skills, I piece together that he is definitely asking people for directions. He doesn’t know where the Barangay Hall is, but I DO!
‘I know, I know- er, aram ko, aram ko!’ He looks down at me like I’m a little bit crazy. Granted, I probably look crazy, there are two Filipinos on the tryke but I’M the one trying to give directions. I point behind me, ‘back that way.’ He turns around and heads towards the turn.
‘Tuo!’ I tell him to turn right. He slowly takes the turn and slows again to ask someone.
‘It’s okay, aram ko, direcho!’ the woman from BFAR riding behind the driver is laughing now as I’m still trying to get the tryke driver to listen to me.
‘Chelsea knows how to get there but the tryke driver does not!’ She is thoroughly entertained by the entire situation.
We continue, slowly, down the road and as we come up to another turn, still laughing Gloria asks ‘Which way Chelsea!’
For the first time in four months of living in the Philippines, I don’t feel like the visitor. We turn left and pull in front of our destination. ‘Para, para po, right in here’
These are the little moments we were told about during training. Realizing you actually aren’t a giant stumbling two year old, and CAN manage basic life-sustaining transactions! It’s so exciting! Before Peace Corps, if you told me that knowing how to give directions in a small town would make me feel so accomplished I would have laughed. I still laugh, it’s hysterical that this makes me feel so great but hey, I’ll take it.
The Cawit Livelihood Center is a small house that serves as a Value-Adding Facility. The women who work here are Cawit Fisherfolk. They have been trained on different ways of preparing fish in order to help fisherfolk make more money off of their catch. They can also debone Silag (anchovy) faster than anyone I’ve ever met.
A few weeks ago, the center was in full action during our Fish Conservation Week. There was a fish deboning competition where the winner deboned 175 silag in 15 minutes. After that there was a cooking contest. My Grandpa would be pretty happy to hear that I ate an absurd amount of anchovies that day. Fried silag, silag lumpia, silag curry, these women know how to cook fish!
I recognized the women as they showed Gloria around their little facility and I felt comfortable in the familiarity of it all. I’m a homebody, but I love the challenge of finding that comfort while traveling. Building that settledness is rewarding, and perpetuates my love of travel and living abroad. Come visit, I know the way! 😉