Road to Revival

Experienced Mangrove Conservationist Fabiana Balgemino continues to transform abandoned fishponds in her area into enriching livelihoods.

Ms. Fabiana (right) prepares the netting for the mangroves alongside Ms. Nancy Lamadrid (left)

Fabiana, 60, has been a part of the mangrove conservation efforts in Siruma, Camarines Sur, for a long while. She remembers a time when her community’s fishponds were full of life — but after many years and many people leaving behind the small village, the fishponds grew empty and dilapidated. So when she and her samahan encountered aquasilviculture for the first time four years ago, they took it as a chance to revive their barren fishponds and transform them into livelihoods. “Yung pagsimula pa lang ng aquasilvi[culture], nandoon na kami,” (When aquasilviculture started, we were already there). She reminisces.

Planning and tactic session of SAMMAPABBA leaders and members in establishing and managing aquasilviculture pond

Alongside her daily routine of preparing and selling kakanin, she makes it a habit to visit their mangrove-fisheries, to keep herself familiar with every living thing in the water: mudcrabs, shellfish, snails, and more. She believes in the power of her people’s memory to fortify their ability to keep their mangrove-fisheries and community alive: “Ang hanapbuhay dito sa lugar namin ay pangingisda… Gusto namin na yung mga fishpond ay mataniman [ng mga mangrove propagule] para mas lalo pa p o dumami ang mga isda na mangingitlog doon at maiwasan ang pagguho ng lupa.” (Our main livelihood here is fishing… We want the fishponds planted [with mangrove propagules] so fishes could increase and lay their eggs there and prevent soil erosion.)

However, she fears the strength of the typhoons that take away the life of their mangrove-fisheries. “Yun talaga ang problema namin, kasi wala naman kaming problema sa tao” (That is really our problem, because we have no problems with the people). When typhoons occur, runoff from the mountain floods their area before returning to the bay. Though Fabiana and the samahan have learned to harvest before typhoon season, they seek more ways to save their mangrove-fisheries from the increasingly unpredictable weather conditions. Faithful to their continuity as a community, they strive to remain, remember, and restore the dignity of their lives and livelihood.

Cover Photo: Fabiana Balgemino
Feature Photo: Nory Acebar

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A collaborative project of the Ateneo de Manila AB Sociology students, Ateneo Socio-Cultural Fieldschool, Institute of Social Order (ISO), and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology-Anthropological and Sociological Initiatives of the Ateneo (DSA-ASIA).

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