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Living In La Union

One of our Lists members, Thomas Glenn shared about the Philippine Fishing Boat:

I took advantage of my boatman's fishing schedule to wet a line myself. We launched the boat at 6am and stayed out six hours. We never went beyond about two miles from shore following the drop-off of the reef. Contrast this with the long-range fishermen who must leave at midnight to arrive at the artificial reef some 80 miles to the north-east. And if the fish are plentiful, mainly the yellow-fin tuna, they can have their 220lb rated Styrofoam cooler full in less than an hour.

Another misconception dispelled, the mornings have been quite brisk since December and I had to wear a warm jacket throughout the excursion. Not shown below is the ski mask I wore during most of the trip, for both sun protection and to keep the cold breeze out of my ears. Although the Philippines are considered to have a tropical climate, we still can buy much needed sweaters and heavy blankets in the stores. The book that I brought to pass the time with remained in the bag along with the peanut butter sandwiches I didn't have occasion to eat.

I enjoyed participating in this activity, economic, cultural and social. It helped to bring me into a closer fellowship with my neighbors here. The fishermen are a distinct subculture. Their lot is one of almost perpetual poverty. Even a small hospital bill can bring economic ruin to a family. Most of the boatmen here are share-fishermen, working the boats of others for a 2/3 share of the catch. Many of them have owned their own boats at one time or another and have had to sell them to raise cash for an emergency. A new boat with a new motor costs about $1,000 with another $200 for a necessary GPS guidance unit and it's hard to put together that kind of capital if the fish aren't biting. One of them, one of three brothers all fishermen, tried to break out of the uncertain economy of fishing. He sold his house and invested in a van and equipment to process fresh fish into smoked fish. Great idea, but he didn't do the market research which would have shown that the customers want fresh fish and have no developed taste for the smoked variety. He still has the van, but the house is gone and he is back fishing with anther's boat.


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