by Dr. Angelita B. Broncano
Two years after typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) ravaged Samar, the people in Sitio Pacao and Sitio Himyangan, Brgy. Villareal, continue to survive. On December 6-8, 2015, Dr. Angelita Broncano, CESDEV Director, and Ms. Rubilyn Litao visited these two communities to monitor the Harris project funded by Together in Hope. It reached out to these affected communities by donating a huge amount which was used to purchase 10 pump boats (5 for Sitio Pacao & 5 for Sitio Himyangan) and to rehabilitate the community’s tahong farms (mussel farms).
There were already success stories generated from the project. Their first tahong harvest had yielded good income. A total of 26 families from both communities have benefitted from the proceeds of the “tahong” farm. The fisher folks ensured that part of their income was allocated to buy more poles to replace the old ones and to buy “balsa” (raft) to transport their mussels from the farm to the seashore. A bigger chunk of their income was distributed to the members of the organization. Some of them bought GI sheets for their house roofing while others purchased piglets to augment their meager income. In Sitio Himyangan, the 5 pump boats are being used by other members of the community who pay a small fee for the maintenance of the pump boats.
Normally, harvesting of “tahong” takes 7 months. But because of the threat of red tide in some parts of Samar, the fisher folks have already decided to delay their harvest so as to maximize the potential earnings of their farm. Prior to the red tide incident, 1 sack of tahong cost them P1,200. But because of the red tide, middle men are pushing down the price to P300-600 per sack. These middle men are using the red tide issue to derive bigger profits from the sale of tahong. To prove that there was no red tide in the area, the CESDev staff and some of the fisher folks had our simple lunch with big tahong as our main dish.
Problems that continue to face the fishing village are the imminent threat of red tide, natural diseases common to tahong farms, and good and steady market. While waiting for harvest and during lean months, members of the community fish and get crabs from the sea. The pump boats serve as their mode of transportation for goods and services.
We left the place full of hope and challenges that ultimately their needs would be met. Crucial in all these things is the level of organizational strength and capability of the community members to face those challenges.