Battling Life’s Uncertainties through Compassion

The City of San Fernando in La Union is a booming metropolis of the North. Although uncertain, rural dwellers move to the City hoping for a better life. Arnel Cabradilla, 51, is a fisherman living in Barangay Poro in the City of San Fernando. Their family was originally from Bauang, La Union. But life was still difficult in the city – because of the lack of formal education, his father resorted to fishing to provide for their family’s daily needs. As a child, Arnel was dedicated to his studies hoping to have a brighter future. But due to poverty, he only finished first year of high school and had to start working for a living at the age of 17.

Now that he has his own family, fishing has been their primary source of livelihood. There are days when he is blessed with plenty of catches, but he goes home empty-handed on some days, often with a loss from fishing expenses. He usually resorted to 5-6 loans so that he can feed his family. This uncertainty brings anxiety to him and his family. This is the usual scenario for many of the fishers in the community.

At present, Arnel no longer borrows from 5-6 loans which charge as high as 20% interest rate over an agreed period of time. As a member of the Poro Sea Lovers Association (PSLA), he has access to the organization’s micro-financing program. Through the program, the financially underserved members of PSLA can avail of loans with a minimal interest rate of 5% per month payable within one month. This makes it a more convenient option for fishers like Arnel. This is especially helpful in times of struggle such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought about a lot of uncertainties in people’s lives. As the Vice President of PSLA, he felt the distress of his fellow members. Acting out of compassion, he initiated the waiving of penalties for late payment during the pandemic together with the other officers. He believes that the greatness of an organization is measured by the compassion of its members towards each other.

The greatness of a community can also be measured by the compassion of the residents towards the environment. As an organization, the PSLA envisions a disciplined, peaceful, and united community that protects the seas of Barangay Poro. Through collaboration with the public and private sectors, PSLA promotes sustainable fishing and environment-friendly livelihood activities not just in Barangay Poro, but also in other barangays of San Fernando City.

Arnel is also the Vice President of the Poro Marine Protected Area Management Council (PMMC) which has played a significant role in the improvement of the conditions of the Poro MPA. Its Bantay Dagat arm conducts regular patrolling, coastal clean-ups, and educational caravans even amidst the Community Quarantine. In this way, PMMC helps revitalize the fish stocks in the seas of Poro.

Through Arnel’s leadership, the PMMC and PSLA members are also extending their compassion towards the larger community through helping with the cleaning and clearing operations, packing and distribution of relief goods, and dissemination of relevant information to the communities affected by the community quarantine. Last June, the LGU acknowledged Arnel whose leadership and unrelenting service has influenced his fellow members to fight life’s uncertainties with compassion.

The PSLA and the PMMC were both formed by the ISO under the project entitled, ‘Facilitating Public-Private Partnership through Co-Management of a Marine Protected Area’, through the funding support of the Caltex Foundation, Inc. Both organizations are accredited by the City Government of San Fernando.

Written by Rizzvill Espina, ISO Project Assistant for La Union, and Elsie Bejar, ISO Project Coordinator for La Union

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