IT HAS always fascinated me to see a person eat “batad," a small shell found along the shoreline. A very popular snack among the residents of Bago City, the abundant shells are boiled and drained in buckets.

At the marketplace, the ladies would sell "batad" at the sidewalk. Some peddle it around the city retailed in small plastic bags. Equally fascinating is how one gets the small flesh inside the shell. They use a thorn of a shrub called “roma," found along the shoreline, to get the flesh.

This fascination led me to visit at the crack of dawn the shoreline along Barangay Sampinit in Bago City. As the sun slowly rises, the shoreline community starts its daily routine.

First to arrive are the fishermen preparing to go out to sea. Once the fishermen are ready, they look for a break in the pattern of the waves to cast their boats. At the same time there are fishermen returning having cast their nets at night. Waiting on the shores are the buyers.

The fishermen with no boats start to cast their nets in a “U” pattern, then slowly haul the net ashore tightening the “U”, catching the small fishes that stray or inhabit the area.

It is saddening to watch these fishermen catch not only the small fishes but also the debris and garbage that cling to their nets. Fishes caught are nipis, gusaw, lawayan and other small fishes. This reminds me of an advice given me by a very good cook, Tita Cuenca, who said that small fishes are tastier.

Also on the shore at this early hour are the shell gatherers, with buckets and “umal nga binangon," large knives that have been dulled by time. They dig through the sand for shells like litog, pinsutan, ugpan, tahong, gatas-gatas ,tuway, kahang-kahang, unggad-unggad, and tabahong.

Mostly ladies, the shell gatherers squat, dig and move for hours. After their digs to the market they go to sell their shells.

Seasonally, the shore yields its bounty of small shrimps or "hipon." This sought-after shrimp is made into our local "guinamos bisaya," or pounded and made into our "guinamos nga binayo." When dried, it is called "kalkag" used in soups and fried rice."

Watching this shoreline drama, what comes to my mind is that given this bounty that one can find in the water or under the sand, all that is needed is the resourcefulness of people to be able to feed their families. Nature has provided us with food but it is up to us to reap the bounty. (Clem Del Castillo)


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