In the Bible, Jesus called lowly fishermen to the ministry of sharing the gospel. While casting a net into the sea, Jesus told them to become fishers of men instead. It could have been a good venture to continue catching fish and earning for a living, but the story casts a wider vision. There is greater value on investing in men and women for others, and imbuing them with a broader sense of perspective so that they too will share in God’s mission.
Marte ‘Kutoy’ Davila, 64, is a fisherman by profession. He is also the president of the Libo Fishers and Farmers Association (LIFIFA), a registered fisherfolk association (FA) in the Municipality of Panukulan, Quezon. LIFIFA is one of the local fishers’ associations which the Institute of Social Order (ISO) assisted on its organizational development, capacity building, values formation, natural resource management (NRM), and disaster risk reduction-climate change adaptation (DRR-CCA). From being a project beneficiary organization, LIFIFA is now a partner of the ISO in its efforts to promote community-based coastal resources management.
Before, poverty pushed Marte to engage in illegal fishing activities. Compared to regular fish catch, illegal fishing promised larger catch and therefore easier influx of money. He engaged in it so that his family could eat at least once a day and to increase his regular catch as a small-scale fisher. When he became a member of LIFIFA, he learned about fishery laws and ISO’s community-based coastal resource management (CB-CRM) strategy. He realized that what he was doing was wrong and strived to learn more by consistently attending activities organized by the Institute. He became an active member and eventually, became the president of the organization. As the president of LIFIFA at present, the former illegal fisher now teaches sustainable fishing and the protection of natural resources. He also now advocates/pushes for the rights of the fishers in their community.
In addition to this, Marte also assists the ISO in doing solid community organizing in Panukulan. According to him, his learnings from being involved in the ISO provided him the inspiration to share what he experienced and know with his fellow fishers. Under his leadership, LIFIFA has assisted in forming 3 fishers’ organizations, namely the Matangkap Association of Fishers (MatangkAF) from Brgy. Matangkap, Kalipunan ng mga Mangingisda ng Pandan (KMP) from Brgy. Pandan, and Bonbon Fishers and Farmers Association (BFFA) in Brgy. Bonbon, in Panukulan, all of which are now the expansion barangays of the ISO-PJF Project in Panukulan. He has also participated in dialogues with different national government agencies (NGAs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) to promote poverty alleviation for the fisherfolk sectors, and partnered with NGA projects for the rehabilitation of the environment of Panukulan.
These gave him the opportunity to visit the other ISO project areas to encourage his fellow fishers to organize themselves in protecting their coastal and marine resources. He has proven time and again that his educational background and social standing would not stop him from helping others and from protecting the environment. From being a simple fisherman, he became a “Fisher of Men and Women”, encouraging them to care for each other and to care and protect Mother Nature.
LIFIFA will once again be a partner of the ISO in the ISI-PJF project entitled “Building a Climate and Disaster Resilient Community in Panukulan, Quezon Through Participative Governance”. Under this project, using training modules that will be developed by the ISO, Marte will be able to further sharpen his organizing skills as mentor of other FAs. This is testament of how ISO, through its projects, encouraged someone like Marte to share to others what he has learned and influence them to become more responsible custodians and managers of the natural resources around them.
Written by Asher Earl John Gianan, ISO Project Assistant for Quezon, and Fe Combalicer, ISO Project Coordinator for Quezon and Culion