The boatmaker of Talibaew
CALASIAO, Philippines – Mario Velasco Baroro says he’s made more or less 100 boats.
Most of them are sold to his neighbors in Barangay Talibaew, in Calasiao, Pangasinan.
The village is known in Pangasinan as the boat village. Almost every family in Talibaew owns a boat even if only 20% of the residents are fishermen.
Baroro’s boats saw action during Typhoon Lando (international name Koppu) which began its onslaught in Pangasinan last Saturday, October 17.
"'Yan ang ginagamit nila pang-evacuate (They use it to evacuate),” said Barangay Captain Elpidio Untalan.
The Tuesday after, these boats could be seen everywhere as residents returned to their homes from evacuation centers.
With the streets still underwater, some residents were using them to ferry each other in and out of the village. Others were riding them to do errands.
The Baroro boat has its own distinctive look. It’s made of metal with ridged floors and 3 benches. At the request of a customer, it even comes with its own wood and metal paddle.
One boat costs P6,500 or P7,000 but Baroro also makes a cheaper version at P5,000. This “tipid” (money-saving) boat, made of thinner metal, is the best-seller.
Forty-nine-year-old Baroro began making boats 5 years ago. He used to repair the bodies of cars – experience he now uses to make metal boats.
His boat-making business has helped him put his two kids to school, the eldest of whom has graduated from college.
Baroro's business did really well before the main road in Talibaew was raised. Back then, the road would be completely submerged and there was no way around except by boat.
“Nung hindi pa tinaas yung kalsada, aabot ng kulang-kulang 20 pieces sa isang buwan. Ngayon bihira na, mga kuwan na, dalawa o tatlo na lang, nabawasan na,” he told Rappler.
(Before, when the road was not yet raised, I would make 20 boats every month. Now, it’s less, only one or two boats every month.)
But he doesn't mind the fewer orders since the improved road has made life easier for residents, including himself.
Most of the orders start coming in in May, before the rainy season, all the way until the stormy month of October.
He even had to rush one order in the middle of a heavy downpour, he told Rappler. He continued building the boat on top of the rain-drenched roof of his house because his workshop on the first floor was flooded.
Though he sticks to the same tried-and-tested shape, he is able to customize some units.
“Sometimes I make the boat longer or more spacious. Some want it short, others a bit wider,” he said in Filipino.
Return to normalcy
Baroro’s boats are a big help in disaster risk reduction efforts, said Barangay Captain Elpidio Untalan.
"The floods here get very deep so people get themselves boats. If they need to move around, they can use their boats," he said in Filipino.
Boat-owning has been part of Talibaew residents’ lives for the past 30 years, he added. It has become necessary because of the frequent flooding in the area caused by strong rains or the release of water in the San Roque Dam.
Talibaew is criss-crossed by rivers and streams that tend to overflow when dam waters are released, said Untalan.
Baroro said he is happy that his boats help Talibaew return to normalcy after disastrous floods.
“Sanay na kami dito lalo na pag may bangka. Kahit baha, parang walang baha,” he said as he sits inside one of his own creations.
(We are used to it especially when we have a boat. Even if it’s flooding, it’s like there is no flood.)
Of the 11 casualties in Pangasinan from Lando reported as of posting, none were from Talibaew.
With the worst of the Typhoon past, Talibaew residents now use their boats, not to escape from the deluge, but to piece their lives back together. – Rappler.com