SINCE time immemorial, the month of May would normally offer a “sigh of relief” to fisherfolks along the Macajalar Bay of Cagayan de Oro City, owing to abundant catch of “tamban” (herring, sardine) fish.
This month is no different as the so-called “tamban season” came as a saving grace from heaven to many poor families, particularly those living in the seaside barangays of Bayabas, Bonbon, and Macabalan that rely heavily on the government’s 4Ps program and amelioration aid during these most trying times of pandemic.
“Abunda kaayo ang tamban karong bulana. Daghan kabig pero kontento na ‘mi sa kuha nga tagduha ka foams matag gabii (The sardines are abundant this month. There are a lot of catch but we are contented with two foams per night),” said the youthful Dodie Paasa, also a jeepney driver, who shared that the sea is more reliable for livelihood nowadays than the streets.
“Palangga kaayo ang mga bana sa ilang asawa karon sa baybay kay permi daghan kuha. Kaya ang napulo ka foams o bayente ka bandera (Wives are so caring for their husbands now that they catch a lot of fish. It can fill up to ten foams or 20 basins),” Islaw Timkang butted in.
The 32-year-old Kokoy Baal, who learned the trade from his father, said each foam can be sold from P7,000 up to P9,000 to regular “komprador” depending on the quality of tamban that is good for kinilaw (Philippine ceviche) and sardines delicacy.
“Lima man gud ka klase ang tamban naay tuloy, tayapad, yellowish, lopoy ug hilos hilos. Limpyo sinaw ang kuha kon dagko nga pangisdaan sama sa sinsoro or tapay tapay ang mo-ariya. Pero gibawal na kana sila karon duol sa baybay kay mabentahaan luoy kaayo ang gagmay’ng mananagat (There are five kinds of tamban, namely ‘tuloy’, ‘tayapad’, yellowish, ‘lopoy’ and ‘hilos hilos’. The catch can be clean and shiny using big fishing boats but that is already prohibited because it is a disadvantage to small-scale fisherfolks),” said back-to-fishing biz musician Marvin Pagalan.
A son of a fish vendor, Mamart Jadap said there was a time in Bonbon that tamban season had been divinely prolonged up to December to everyone’s great delight.
“Sobra-sobra kaayo ‘to nga grasya basin unta mautro karong tuiga pang survival sa Covid (That blessing was overpouring, I hope it will happen again this year to help us survive through the Covid-19),” was Jadap’s prayer.
The tall and lanky Baal, who either goes on fishing at night or do “labor” at daybreak recalled that 2018 was a year of misfortune for the local fishing business.
“Niabot gyod isa ka tuig nga mingaw ang tamban, ang mga mangingisda sige na lang prenda sa ilang mga butang (There came a year when tamban was seldom found and the fishermen pawned their possessions),” he remembered.
“Maong dili gyod nato abusaran ang kalikasan para ang grasya magpabilin (We should not abuse nature so it will continue to yield blessings),” suggests RTC (Regional Trial Court) driver Kim Canete, who loves to join “mamukotay” on weekend.
However, every season of rich tamban harvest has also its downside that beach lovers would certainly hate.
A spillage of it or great tons of tamban waste would be left rotten at seashore that is both an eye-sore and not pleasing to the smell of bay-watching individuals.
“It’s a horrible sight kay mga dunot nga tamban paborito sa ilaga. Pag masapon sila sa high tide mao nang aduna pud kitay makita nga patay’ng ilaga sa daplin. Maka bad shot sa atong pagpahangin sa baybay (It’s a horrible sight because rats are fond of rotten tamban. When the high tide comes, the dead rats are found in the shore, a bad shot if you want to relax),” one wheels-driving visitor Frank Urton told SunStar Cagayan de Oro.
Egor del Puerto, whose family recently invested on fishing boat, said fishermen can do clearing of their fishing nets off the Cagayan de Oro river.
“Pero sa kadaghan sa kuha kapoyon na sila pagpanaktak maong diretso na sa baybay kay daghan man motabo og punit sa isda mabahinan pud sila sa grasya (Fishermen sometimes get tired of cleaning their nets, anyway many will also pick up the fish and get a share from the catch),” said Del Puerto.
Veteran fisherman Caloy Mabalacad said that while the excess is indeed an ugly sight and stinking, it’s just but a temporary setback.
“Mabanlas ra gihapon ang hugaw pag taob (high tide) unya ang mga patay nga tamban kaonon ra gihapon sa mga janitors sa dagat sama sa kasag (The high tide will wipe out the mess and the dead fish will be consumed by the ‘janitors’ of the sea like the crabs),” Mabalacad said.
Baal said there’s a lesson in there to avoid spoiling the shores with rotten fishes.
“Kon ma kontento lang sa duha ka foam nga kuha dili na magkalat ang sobra-sobra nga madunot lang sa kadaplinan (If two foams are enough, do not get too much catch to avoid waste).”
Also, Baal said a good catch of tamban in Bonbon is a great help to the inmates or the growing jail populace in the city.
“Ang BJMP tag napulo ka foams ila padiskarga sa pick up twice a week kay ila man tabalon (salted fish) para rasyon sa piniriso. Barato ra sab ang hatag sa ila kay suki naman (The BJMP would have ten foams of tamban to be delivered by a pick up twice a week, they would make salted fish for the inmates’ ration),” Baal said.
Tamban fish may be considered as poor man’s last option. But local folks in Bonbon would always take pride to tell that it’s also a favorite dish, especially kinilaw, to some prominent families in the city.
“Gakaon daw sila’g barilis o malasugue sa restaurant, pero lahi ra gyod kuno ang tamban nga kinilaw sa panlasa (They ate yellowfin tuna or malasugue in restaurants but they said sardine ceviche is really extraordinary for their taste buds),” Baal shared.