CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Families in a fishing village in Cagayan de Oro have long relied on the lowly sardine for their livelihood, but they have not seen a significant catch from the Macajalar Bay since May when their annual tamban (herring) season started.
Their luck changed on Tuesday, August 23, when the fishermen in the village of Bonbon returned from their tamban hunt with boatloads of the delicious small beady-eyed and krill-like fishes, locally known as dulong.
Until this year, the fishermen of Bonbon caught an average of 60 to 100 boxes of tamban daily. These days, they said they consider themselves fortunate to collectively bring home nine kilograms of the lowly sardine fish that now command a price of P100 to P150 per kilo.
The tamban prices have become exorbitant in Cagayan de Oro given the crises that came one after another since the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt in the city.
In 2020, when the catch was good, tamban was only sold in Bonbon for as low as P10 to P20 per kilo.
“We can’t do anything now about the prices of tamban. Fuel prices have skyrocketed, and the costs of ice and labor have also gone up. Life is hard,” said deep sea diver Richel Baal, who also moonlights as a security guard.
For many of Bonbon’s fishing families, the sudden influx of the dulong in the Macajalar Bay, presumably from the rivers, saved the day.
One group of fishermen in Bonbon alone returned to their coastal village with approximately 4,000 kilograms of dulong in 100 boxes weighing 40 kilos each.
The fishermen said they found an abundant supply of the worm-like dulong in the waters off Tagoloan, a town in Misamis Oriental east of Bonbon village.
The biggest catch was brought home by two siblings from Sitio Baybay who hauled off 30 boxes of the small fishes that are known in Cagayan de Oro to thrive in freshwater after two nights of searching for tamban.
Villager Esteban Oguimas told Rappler that one fisherman, Tokan Pactolerin, sold the dulong by as much as P6,000 a box.
“There were so many that some agreed to sell their catch for only P4,000 to P5,000 per box,” said fisher Islaw Timkang.
Timkang was among the less-equipped fishermen who offered to help the Pactolerin brothers who had the right kind of fishing nets with them. In exchange, they were given eight 40-kilo boxes of dulong as their share.
Timkang said they decided to sell the dulong for every kilo which commanded a price of at least P100 each.
The price was relatively cheap given that it was sold in the city’s markets by as much as P200 per kilo, said fish vendor Jhon Ereño.
Dulong, which is also called hipon or anga by locals, is known to thrive in rivers, usually around boulders and rocks in the upstreams where their eggs are glued on.
Fishermen said they suspected the recent heavy rains that spawned rampaging waters downstream caused the influx of the small fishes in the Macajalar Bay.
They said they normally find dulong in the Macajalar Bay once a year, normally every January, and it came as a welcome surprise to them to spot an unusually abundant supply of the fishes in the bay in August.
“It’s such a great blessing considering our tamban fishing crisis these days,” said fisherman Dodie Paasa, beaming. – Rappler.com