Surviving the tides of life

fishermen coral reef

Most of the volunteers for the artificial coral reefs project are the fishermen of Brgy. Hagakhakin. Once the coral reefs are placed underwater and become a breeding place of marine species, the fishermen are hopeful for a regular bountiful catch to gain more income for their families.

Back in July 2014, Adelfa Paulite cannot believe her eyes.

All around her, she saw families with damaged houses and fishermen with destroyed boats after Typhoon Glenda hit their coastal community of Hagakhakin in the town of Gumaca, Quezon Province.

For a community that relies on the sea, the aftermath of the typhoon means majority of them having to start all over again.

“Mayroong halos 400 na kabahayan sa aming barangay. Sa bilang na ‘yun, 15 hanggang 20 kabahayan lang ang walang damage. Sobrang devastated talaga kami ‘nung panahon na ‘yun,” shared Brgy. Capt. Adelfa, 43.

The Lamon Bay where residents fish as their primary source of living was affected. Coral reefs were damaged, which affected the catch of around 80 fishermen in the community.

From almost a thousand pesos of income a day, their catch now only gives them PhP60 a day or worse, none at all.

“Nasira ang kanlungan ng mga isda. Mahina ang kita sa dagat kaya kailangang magtrabaho na rin sa kabundukan para may mapagkunan ng panggastos sa pamilya,” said Exequiel Zamora, 69, the president of the fishermen association in the said village.

Barangay Capt. Adelfa mentioned that they received relief assistance such as food and construction materials for their damaged houses. But more than these types of assistance, they know they have to work on having a stable income again.

Thus, as a community, they pushed for a rehabilitation project through the construction of artificial coral reefs.

Paddling solutions

The community residents of Brgy. Hagakhakin implemented the artificial coral reefs project through the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) program. This project is a first of DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS in the CALABARZON region with the aim to promote environmental protection and sustainable development of natural resources.

Here, the community was provided with PhP833,835 grant and volunteers were organized and trained on project proposal development, construction estimates and procurement to implement the project.

The volunteers took charge on the processing of the needed documents, canvassing of the construction materials, and consulting project developers from other towns who have implemented such kind of project.

“Talagang ninais naming makiisa sa proyekto dahil para sa amin din naman iyan, kami rin ang lubos na makikinabang,” said Exequiel, who also acted as a volunteer timekeeper and caretaker of materials during the construction of the coral reefs.

Also, some residents were hired as laborers for the project for PhP250 a day. According to Exequiel, this has given them a short-term source of income for their families.

“Kumita na agad kami kahit hindi pa man nailalagay ang proyekto sa dagat. At mas masisiguro pa ang pangmatagalang kita, kapag nailagay na namin iyan,” added Exequiel.

coral reef

Sixty three units of artificial coral reefs are ready to be submerged in the waters to serve as new home to marine species in typhoon-damaged coastal community of Hagakhakin in Gumaca town, Quezon Province.

Rowing to success

To date, the community volunteers have constructed a total of 63 artificial coral reefs. They are just waiting for the ideal season to ferry the coral reefs into the waters and put them in place.

“Lalagyan ‘to ng mga kawayan at drums sa gilid para lumutang. Magagawa lang naming hilahin ito papunta sa dagat kapag mataas na ang tubig. Kaya hinihintay namin ang full moon at new moon kung saan tataas ang tubig para maisagawa na ito,” explained Exequiel.

On the other hand, Brgy. Capt. Adelfa is certain on the positive outcome once the coral reefs are installed in the sea.

“Base sa karanasan ng ibang bayan na gumawa na ng ganito, one year lang at lulumutin na ang mga corals tapos titirhan na ito ng mga isda. Makikinabang na agad ang mga mangingisda namin,” she shared.

As part of the barangay council’s counterpart, Brgy. Capt. Adelfa mentioned the creation of an ordinance declaring the area as a fish sanctuary. Fishing boundaries will be made to preserve the area and coast guards will be posted to monitor the fishing activities.

Overcoming waves

Eugenio Tierra, 53, a fisherman in the village and also a volunteer of the project, shared his excitement on the project’s potential.

“Kahit ‘yung mga susunod na henerasyon, pagdating ng araw, pakikinabangan pa rin nila ang proyekto kaya’t napakahalaga sa amin niyan,” said Eugenio.

A father of 10 children, Eugenio admitted that it was hard to make ends meet with the small income he earns now from fishing. He believes that the project will soon give them again a stable income, which is important to feed his family. For him, this will also prove his determination of giving his family a good life and not simply relying on the grants they receive as a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

As a beneficiary of Pantawid Pamilya, another DSWD program, Eugenio’s family receives PhP1,600 a month in support for the children’s health, nutritional, and educational needs. Before they receive the grant, his family must ensure that they comply with the conditions of the program including attendance to monthly health check-ups and Family Development Sessions among others.

“Malaki ang pasasalamat namin sa gobyerno dahil sa Pantawid Pamilya pero alam naming tulong lang iyan. Dapat pa rin kaming magtrabaho at kumita para sa aming pamilya. Kaya malaki talaga ang magagawa ng proyekto namin sa Kalahi para sa pangkabuhayan namin,” Eugenio added.

Valuing the catch

With the dedication and bayanihan of Exequiel, Eugenio and the rest of the community volunteers for the project, Brgy. Capt. Adelfa cannot help but be proud of her barangay.

“Pinapahalagahan ko yung sistema ng Kalahi na hinihimok ang komunidad na magtulungan at magdesisyon para sa proyektong pambarangay. Nagkakaroon ang mga tao ng ownership sa proyekto. Dahil sila ang gumawa at sila rin ang makikinabang, nandoon ‘yung puso para sa proyekto,” she added.

Today, Brgy. Capt. Adelfa believes that no typhoon can ruin a community where residents work together to get up again and dream for a good future altogether. Thanks to these experiences, their community is now more resilient and prepared in facing any challenge in life.#

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