My project with my wife, “Daughter of Lawaan”, has bogged down a little recently because of our desire to go through her history sequentially, and that puts a certain pressure on the storytelling– but occasionally we have a spontaneous discussion that is better than ayhting we could do in an organized fashion, and that’s what happened tonight.
We went to dinner and were talking. I’m not sure what started it …somehow we began talking about this parcel of beachfront property in her town, Guinoban, where she used to swim as a child. It was beaufitul, almost a cove, with rocks on both sides, and beautiful sand in between. It was a perect swimming spot. Coconut trees behind it, then the forest, sweeping up to an overlook where you could built a house, or a small resort even. But now ….the highway interferes, and sometime, maybe ten years ago, someone sold all the sand there is no more sand, only rocks. So it goes…..
But still it has potential. Only the peson who owned it died, and parceled up the land to the children, so there are many people to deal with. And then somehow all the children sold the land ot a sister who lives in the US, who is holding onto it, believing it to be worth lots of money, so no one is doing anything with it, and the town gets no benefit, and the sand is gone, and that’s all there is.
We fantasized about what we could do with it. I told Rena how we could bring in sand from somewhere else (she agreed — this is done, it’s normal) — and then we could create a small boutique resort, some cottages above the beach. I was keen on two things that could be done — deep sea fishingfor salasugi (sailfish) and malasugi (marlin) during the season, and scuba diving the rest of the time. But she said the salasugi and malasugi fishing isn’t as good as it used to be, it’s very hard now. I asked her …but you used to say they caught them 1-2km offshore, so close, maybe now they just have to go farther and ifyou had the right boat, even a native made one but with a good motor an dset upf or fishing, you could do it. Maybe, she said, but they all have motorized boats now. “I’m not sure whether theyr’e really gone, or just farther out.” They are pelagic fish, after all, migratingthrough the area, so it would seem that the damage to the ecosystem in the mangroves and things like that wouldn’t have killed them
Somehow the conversation turned to other things that aren’t the same .. everything, really.
She talked about a rocky area where she could go as a child and always find crabs, crustaceans — all manner of food, a a guaranteed lunch. But now — barren. You could walk among the rocks for hours and find nothing. Gone.
We talked about how, as a child,she would go to the creeks with her mother – brackish creeks, running into the ocean — and gather clams that were large, like Manila clams only larger, and darker, not pretty but tasty. Then there were crabs. The Alimango were the first choice — fat, tasty, they look kind of like Dungeness but not as big. You get them in the mud — they are underneath the rocks, or the mangroves. (Rena said — can you imagine how many times the rocks get turned over by people looking for something? But if no one has turned it over for 4-5 days — maybe you find something!) When you see an Alimango, you just grab for it. You have to be careful, avoiding the pincers, by grabbing it from the back. As Rena says: “You just have to know how to do it so you don’t get pinched.”
There was another type of crab — tutut — a small one, body the size of a silver dollar, that didnt’ have much meat but had plenty of tasty fat and was great to eat with rice, especially when there wasn’t much else to eat. When Rena and her mom Tarcila would go crabbing for tutut, (it started when Rena was 9, and lasted until she was about 15) the system was that Mom Tarcila would use a sock over her hand and stick her hand, covered with the sock, down into a mudhole where the crab lived. The crab would grab the sock, then Tarcila would pull itout until the crab’s pincer would detach from the body. Then she would stick her hand, still in the sock, down th crabhole again. Then the crab would grab it with the other pincer, and Tarcila would pull off the pincer. “Okay, you can get the crab now,” she would say to Rena, meanng that Rena with her small, thin arm, could rach down and get the crab body that her mom’s arm was too big to get. “What if there’s more than one crab down there?” Rena thought — but never gave voice to the thought. She would stick her thin arm and hand down the hole, grab the pincerless crab, and dinner would be served. A half bucket of the “tutut” would feed the family, sort of, for the evening — not a lot of protein, but plenty of taste.
Another topic: Poison fishing. This was before dynamite fishing, or maybe in addition to it. Rena describes a wild vine, the roots of which grown long, in the forest. People would gather the roots and then tie them together into a bundle, then bury it into the mud for a week or more. At the end of that time, the vines would start smelling bad, and then they would pull it out, then beat it to a pulp. The sap or juice from the pulp would be white, kind of sticky, and then they would dip it into the water where they thought there were a good supply of fish, in the rocky area, and then the fish would die — float to the surface. The fishermen doning this would take most of the fish … but others could crowd into thearea and get some of the stragglers–especially if you were a cute kid. Some people, sometimes you can’t go in immediately — they make you wait until they get the best fish, then they let you go in and gather fish.
It never occurred to Rena, or to the people doing it, that they were destroying the eco-system.
I’m still dreaming about my fishing resort — maybe someday.