It’s not every day that you wake up on the morning of Christmas Eve in a coastal town in the Philippines. It’s also not every day that you wake up, that same morning, to look out onto the beach and see a crowd begin to gather to fish.
In the town of Claveria, located at the northern tip of the Philippines, a group of locals gathered on the beach to await the final preparations of some fishermen. Having had a late night yesterday, I decided that I would sleep in. It didn’t turn out that way. My cousin knocked on my door at seven in the morning and told me to come out to the beach. I got up and looked out onto the beach and seeing what was about to happen piqued my interests. I grabbed my camera, walked up to the beach and started to watch them prepare. A local explained the process to me and what role everyone would play. The process for it, written out, seemed simple enough. The boat would drop a net at two different points equal to the maximum length of the net. From there, two people would swim back to bring the net ashore and would then converge those ends to the middle. It would then be reeled in from that point with the help of the locals. Typing up the method seems to make it look easy. Watching it up close and experiencing it, the process is actually more intensive than it appears.
From the launch of the boat, I noticed that many of the people were very young. Children and teenagers made up most of the crew that went out to sea. I wasn’t sure if they were just some of the locals helping but it seemed like they were preparing to become part of the trade.
We watched as they arrived at the first point. They dropped the first part of the net as someone dove into the sea to bring the rope back to shore. The locals would then play their roles. By connecting themselves to the rope, they would become anchors to prevent the net from drifting away; and would walk the net to the middle point. While a slight drizzle began, we waited and we watched. When the boat arrived at the other point, the same process would happen.
Once both sides have been anchored down, the locals converged to the middle and would begin to reel it in. It was a game of patience. Much of the process until now was waiting and walking. It was only until the actual part of the net made it back to shore that things became thrilling. Everyone began to look fired up while many of the fishermen were guiding the net in. They were also making sure the fish stayed within the net. You could hear the screams from nearshore of having a “good catch”. While documenting, I noticed that there were more and more people arriving at the shore. Some helped while others watched. It felt like this simple fishing excursion became something more.
By the time the fish finally reached the shore, the number of people had doubled. When they began to undo the net, many began to crowd around to see how much was actually caught. There were tons of fish. They weren’t giant, but there were a lot of them. The fishmonger began to divide the fish amongst those who had helped and then began to sell the catch right on the shore.
By the end of the excursion, everyone seemed really happy. It was Christmas Eve after all, so everyone seemed in good spirits. Being an outsider, you realize this is part of their daily lives. You also realize it is a community that helps each other. I may have only experienced this once but there was something about that day’s fishing trip that made it seemed more lively that I would have expected. Maybe it was the holiday, but regardless, it was definitely something I was glad to have experienced.