Padilla: Kujaw

Obiter Dictum

A YEAR after I was introduced to Cortes and it is only this year that I finally understand its rallying cry ‘kujaw’. ‘Kujaw’ is the Kamayo of the Cebuano word ‘kuyaw’ which, in this case, means awesome.

Cortes is a municipality in Surigao de Sur that faces the Philippine Sea making whose 16,000 residents mostly live off from the harvest from the sea. During the Smart Seas National Conference in Davao City, its current mayor, William Angos, proudly declared that most (if not all) of the fish sold at Tandag City comes from Cortes.

Angos, a lawyer by profession and schooled by the Jesuits was waxing philosophical about how his municipality was able to become a Hall of Famer in the MMK (nope, not Dear-Ate-Charo) or the Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan program of the DA-BFAR. MMK promotes fisheries protection and conservation, highlights the value of sustainable management of fisheries and aquatic resources, and encourages stakeholders’ engagement in guarding Philippine seas.

Angos, citing hard work and commitment said ‘to win the award there was nothing special to do but to do what was mandated.’

By toeing the line he meant wielding an iron fist about illegal fishing, observance of off-fishing season, declaration of marine protected areas, cleaning coastal waters and keeping this without any garbage or industrial effluence flowing to the sea, and effective mangrove protection and rehabilitation program.

While he was explaining the increase in the number of marine protected areas (MPA) in the municipality, one member of the Cortes contingent in the SmartSeas conference whispered that during the previous week, Angos was beside himself when he saw plastic trash along the coastline. Thus, an instant coastal clean-up happened with the ‘gi-sapot nga mayor’ briskly leading the pack.

But governance in Cortes is not all ‘yawyaw’.

“The fisherman is poor, if not, the poorest. He will listen and understand whatever is taught to him. But, at the end of the day, his mind is somewhere else and helping him provide for his family and protecting the MPAs will help him survive. Hindi pwede na mataba ang isda pero gutom ang mangingisda," Angos added.

Seeing that not all of Cortes children go to school because of the cost and the lack of public transportation, the municipality purchased school buses to pick up and deliver the children to school.

The municipality has now five school buses plying various routes every single day. Then there’s the concern for hygiene -- dental and hygiene kits are regularly distributed to the kids and Angos adds, ‘including nailcutters’.

Since last year, the municipality also formed its owned dragon boat team who call themselves ‘Kujaw Tiger Dragons’composed (of course) of fishermen. They have paddled in several competitions all over the country and bested even older teams so the simple fishermen of Cortes have also become competitive athletes.

If this doesn’t make them prouder of themselves then I don’t know what else will.

Awesome. Kujaw,di ba?


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