Hawkeyed Fisherfolks of Maladiona

Now that caring for the environment has become an advocacy for a few rather than an obligation to many, the Matanglawin Fisherfolks Association (MAFA) of Sitio Maladiona, Barangay Salvacion, Camarines Sur has chosen to be one with the few.

“Mahalin ang karagatan, Pangalagaan ang kalikasan” (Love the sea, take care of the environment) has been MAFA’s battle cry for 5 years now. Young and inexperienced as these 48 member-fisherfolks may be in running an organization, their genuine love for the sea and undying commitment to protect it make them veterans at coastal resource management.

For these fisherfolks, the sea is life. “Maraming mangingisda tulad namin na sa pangingingisda lang talaga umaasa…wala kaming ibang maaasahan kundi ang dagat lang,” (Many fisherfolks like us depend on fishing alone…we have nothing else to depend on but the sea.) Salve Hermina, President of MAFA, said. She admits that protecting the sea is not an easy task. Many challenges await them.

One challenge that MAFA is faced with is the rampant incidence of illegal fishing in Maladiona. For Ignacio Manalo, MAFA’s Sergeant at Arms, “masugpo lahat ng mga nag-iilegal fishing sa paligid,” (suppress all that are into illegal fishing in the area) is his personal mission.

Strict law enforcement is key to solving this problem.

Seeing that MAFA had struggled with this challenge over the years, the Caritas Diocese of Libmanan (CDL) through its Coastal Resource Management (CRM) Program came to the rescue. CRM’s main advocacy is stewardship of creation by strengthening people’s organizations such as MAFA. CDL provides workshops and trainings to capacitate fisherfolk organizations on coastal resource management. They teach them how to take care, manage, and restore their coastal resources.

With the new skills and learning they got from their CRM training with CDL, MAFA is stronger and bolder than ever. They have already capacitated a group of fisherfolks they call “Bantay Dagat (Sea Patrol) Team” to ensure that Maladiona is free from illegal fishing activities.

“Iyong mga nag-iilegal fishing, natatakot pag dumadating sila sa amin. ‘Pag nakikita na nila ang aming mga patrol boats na pumapalaot, takot na takot na sila,” (Those that engage in illegal fishing are afraid when they come near our area. When they see our patrol boats in the coast, they feel frightened.) Manang Salve proudly said.

The barangay council is also very supportive of MAFA. Barangay Captain Roman Canuel said “Bilang barangay official, nakita ko po ang kanilang pagsusumikap na pangalagaan ang aming karagatan.Nakita ko pong sirang-sira na po ang mga corals ng dagat. Pinagsisikapan po naming maibalik ang dating ganda ng karagatan. Sa tulong po ng CDL at ng MAFA, sana po ay maibabalik sa dati ang aming karagatan.” (As a barangay official, I saw their effort in protecting the sea. I saw that the coral reefs in our sea are already damaged. We are trying our best to restore it. With the help of CDL and MAFA, I hope we will bring back the beauty and bounty of the sea just like before.)

In their pursuit of protecting the sea, many other individual efforts from the members of MAFA were made. Ignacio Manalo, born and raised in Sitio Maladiona and active member of the organization, planted 10,000 mangroves below his property. When asked why he did this, he humbly responded, “Imbes na putol nang putol ang mga tao ng kahoy, magtanim sila para may pamahayan ang mga isda.” (Instead of habitually cutting down trees, people should plant more so that fishes can have their shelter on water.) Inspired by Mang Ignacio, another fisherfolk voluntarily planted his share of 3,000 mangroves.

Another inspiring story is Mang Diego Janolan’s goat raising secret. He is a native of San Rafael, Camarines Sur but has settled in Maladiona for the past 20 years. He is also an active member of MAFA and was tasked by the organization to take care of a female goat given by the Department of Agriculture. The female goat gave birth to two male goats. Now, Mang Diego has successfully raised 9 goats. Mang Diego shared his secret to success: “Para rin lang silang tao kaya dapat silang alagaan nang mabuti.” (They are just like humans so they have to be well taken care of.)

MAFA’s success stories are testament of the deep love they have for the sea. They hope to encourage more fisherfolks in nearby coastal areas to join them in their advocacy for a safer sea and cleaner coast.

Just like what any hawk would naturally do and what only a few people today would whole-heartedly commit to, the Matanglawin (Eyes of a Hawk) Fisherfolks Association will always have a sharp eye for predators who would threaten to damage their home, their life—the sea.

Rok is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Development Communication major in Development Journalism from Xavier University—Ateneo de Cagayan. She’s interested in writing articles, organizing activities, leadership, reading novels and volunteer work.