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Fisherman from Naga aspires to catch dream for his children’s future
July 05, 2023
MANDAUE CITY, Cebu – Armel Lamata learned to fish when he was just seven years old.
He learned the skill from his late grandfather, Marcelino Sasan. Fishing has been his life since.
The 31-year-old Armel has tried working elsewhere but he would always go back to fishing whenever he could.
Catching fish has been the main source of livelihood for his family, who reside in Seaside in Barangay North Poblacion in Naga City, Cebu. He lives there with his common-law partner, Beverly Hingon, 31, and their three children – Vanessa, 13; Shahara, 7; and Ziph Delan, 2.
But while he loves what he does, Armel said, he wanted a different kind of life for his children as being a fisherman is exhausting and requires hard physical work.
A Better Life
For someone who only finished first year high school, Armel said he always looks forward to seeing his children earn a degree and live a better life compared to what they now have.
“Ang importante makahuman sila og eskwela. Basta dili lang maparehas namo,” he said.
(What is important is that they are able to finish their studies. They should not have the kind of life that we now have.)
It is for this reason that he works very hard.
Armel said he would go out to sea everyday as a motorboat engine operator.
He would sail at 8 a.m. with a colleague or two coming from the Seaside Fishermen Association, where his father, Melchor Jr., is the president, and go back home after two hours.
At times, they would also go out to sea at 4 p.m. and come home by 10 in the evening.
Armel said they would either fish in the waters of Naga City or go to the waters of Bohol, especially if there was fair weather.
On ordinary days, they would catch three to five kilos of fish which they would sell to a relative, who is a vendor at the Naga City Public Market.
If they are lucky, they are able to bring home as much as 40 kilos of fish. Their catch would normally include tamarong, tulingan, malapati, and anduhaw.
Melchor said he is very proud of his son with the dignified profession that he chose, and how it helps support the dreams he has for his children.
From among his seven children, Armel was the only who opted to become a fisherman. Five of them are now working elsewhere with families of their own. His youngest son, who is only 17-years-old, is still in school.
As a father, Melchor said he is pleased knowing that Armel is also happy with what he has become.
“Bisan og maka trabaho pa na siya sa usa ka lokal na kompanya sa semento, ang huna-huna ana naa gihapon sa dagat. Inig uli managat pa gyud,” Melchor said.
(Even if he is able to get a job at a local cement company, he would continue to think of going out to sea. When he returns home from his work, he will still fish.)
If he had the time, Melchor said that he too would go out to sea.
Just like Armel, he learned to fish from his late father-in-law after his marriage in 1998.
Melchor works as a mechanical contractor for the same local cement company on a per project basis. But when he is without work, he would either fish or collect sea shells.
For Armel, he intends to continue to fish for as long as he can.
“Basta dili lang mag tapol sa dagat, naa man gyud kay makuha,” he said.
(As long as you don’t get lazy at sea, you can catch something.)
Fishing was never easy
According to Armel, the life of a fisherman is difficult. There had been several instances when he would get caught in a storm while at sea.
But he continues to persevere with his family in mind.
“Maningkamot lang gyud nga dili matikwang ang bangka. Kun mag lain ang panahon, huwat lang gyud usa nga mo lurang,” he said.
(We always try our best to keep our motorboat steady so that it won't capsize. If there's bad weather, we wait for it to pass [then we continue to fish].)
When Typhoon Betty entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility, Lamata said that he and the other fishermen in their area were unable to go out to sea for about a week.
In instances like this, they rely on the generosity of sari-sari store owners in their neighborhood for their consumption.
“Utang lang sa,” he said.
(We rely on credit.)
He would also help a neighbor in the assembly of trisikad sidecars if there was an opportunity to do so.
Armel also recalled when his family and that of the other fishermen in Seaside North Poblacion were almost left with nothing when Super Typhoon Odette hit on December 16, 2021.
Strong winds and huge waves brought by Odette damaged their boats and their homes. They had to evacuate after the water level started to rise.
"Nahurot gyud ni tanan diri," he recalled.
(We lost everything that we had.)
Livelihood Re-Starter Kit
It was fortunate that Aboitiz Power Corporation’s (AboitizPower) Therma Power-Visayas, Inc. (TPVI), in partnership with Aboitiz Foundation and the City of Naga, immediately came to their rescue.
In March, they turned over a livelihood re-starter kit that included a motorboat and fishing supplies to the Seaside Fishermen Association as part of their "Livelihood Recovery Projects" for accredited associations and cooperatives in Naga City.
The group, of which Armel is part of, was among the six associations that were chosen as project beneficiaries.
Last December 2022, TPVI also turned over a Rice Retailing Project to the Inoburan, Tina-an and Langtad Fishermen Association. Two months later, they conducted swine orientation for members of the Uling and Mainit Farmers Association as part of their Community Based Agro-enterprise for swine production.
Kian Santos, Reputation Manager of AboitizPower Thermal Business Group, said the project was inspired by the Productivity Initiatives of Sustainable Organizations (PISO) program of former Naga City Mayor Kristine Chiong and the Aboitiz Foundation's RE[START] Livelihood Recovery Project.
TPVI replicated the project in 2021 with 10 beneficiary associations and in 2022 with 6 beneficiary associations from the City of Naga.
"With the assistance of the City Agriculture Office (CAO) which is our project partner implentor, we continued this livelihood project through the provision of needed livelihood re-starter kits to selected cooperatives and organizations. The project aims to provide assistance to those associations affected by the pandemic and other calamities as well as provide an alternative livelihood for them to diversify their businesses," Santos said.
A big help
Santos said the Seaside Fishermen Association was selected as a program beneficiary because their home, Barangay North Poblacion, is one of the closest barangays to TPVI in terms of proximity.
With the re-starter kit, they saw a 10 percent increase in the association's income that will have to be reflected in the progress report that they will submit to the CAO.
He also shared a plan by the association to purchase another motorboat from the profit that they will earn from the livelihood support.
"Depending on post-project evaluation and the quality of maintenance of the beneficiaries, another round of assistance may be considered," Santos said.
With the help of TPVI, Aboitiz Foundation and the Naga City government, Seaside fishermen were able to slowly get back on their feet.
“Daku kaayo ni nga tabang namo labi kay nabongkag sa Odette ang among mga bangka,” Armel said.
(This was a big help for all of us especially after Odette destroyed our motorboats.)
Their association, which was established in 2005, now has 97 members that consist of fishermen and fish vendors.
TPVI's assistance has truly made a big difference, empowering local communities and fostering economic resilience to the fishermen in Naga City.
As for Melchor Jr., he is optimistic that once they put in the work, all members will be able to maximize the use of the donation and, hence, have a better life.
This article was written by Doris Bongcac and first appeared on CDN. https://cebudailynews.inquirer.net/513331/fisherman-from-naga-aspires-to-catch-dream-for-his-childrens-future
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