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Maitum’s Bangsi and Pawikan Hatchery
Part 11 of a series.
While Maitum’s unearthed treasures are something to be proud of, there’s actually more to this town thank you think.
From the Municipal Hall, we went towards the direction of the coast where the Old Poblacion is. The coast of Old Poblacion is where the bangsi or flying fish thrives. While fishing is still the top source of livelihood for the Maitumians, the Old Poblacion area did not have room for expansion, thus, the government center had to be moved to where it stands at present.
Black Stones in Maitum, Sarangani
On our way to Old Poblacion, we passed by a small river which had lots of black stones. According to the locals, the name Maitum (in Cebuano means black) was derived from the black stones in the river of the town. Legend tells of a love story between a native princess her warrior lover. The princess’ father was said to have disapproved of their marriage. Because of this, the love birds wanted to escape the wrath of the princess’ father so they decided to elope. Upon doing so, they passed through a river whose stones turned to black the moment they were by. Interesting, really.
BANGSI – FLYING FISH
The abundant seas of Maitum
The marinated bangsi is the top product of Maitum. In Old Poblacion, households are normally composed of husbands who are fishermen and wives who are marinated bangsi makers.
Women making nets to catch bangsi.
Scales and pectoral fins are removed. Fish are split to half. Internal organs are removed.
Fish are washed in cold water to avoid bacteria. Its flesh would then be sliced so the marinade would easily penetrate.
The flying fish would then be soaked in a brine solution for half an hour so salt penetrates the loins of the fish. And then, the fish would be placed in the marinade for tow hours.
The fish would then be placed on racks for them to drain. On sunrise the next day, dozens upon dozens of marinated flying fish would line along the shores of the bay for them to dry until noon.
After the whole process, the fish would then be gathered using stainless tongs for sanitary reasons. The fish would be sorted according to size. These would then be packed in plastic wraps and put in a freezer to ensure longer shelf life.
Among the creatures that abound in these waters is the pawikan or marine turtle.
PAWIKAN HATCHERY AND NESTING SITE
Founded in 2003, the shores of Old Poblacion, Maitum have witnessed more than three thousand hatchlings being released to its treacherous waters. Aside from the abundance of bangsi, the dark gray sands of Maitum are primary nesting grounds of the pawikan.
Unaware that they are threatened species, Danilo Dequiña confessed that he, his family and neighbors, collected, cooked and ate turtle eggs! But since he knew about their near-extinction, he himself took the initiative.
Danilo Dequiña, who was featured in Readers’ Digest as a hero.
Manong Danilo would walk along the shores of Old Poblacion in pitch black darkness, armed only with a pail and a flashlight, to find newly-laid pawikan eggs. On a good day, he could pick up at least a hundred. These eggs resemble ping-pong balls in size and appearance.
An adult sea turtle!
He would then bring them back to his hatchery, just a few meters away from the shore. There’s nothing fancy about the hatchery, just a sandy area under the coconut trees. Form over function. He then buries the eggs in the sand. Round plastic nets would mark and fence these areas.
After 45-70 days, the eggs will hatch! Manong Danilo will then put them on a basin where they will be fed. And at the right time, they will be released back to where they truly belong.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the local government of Maitum have assisted in providing necessary materials and technical education for the continued operations of the Pawikan Hatchery and Nesting Site.
Today, townsfolk are being educated to raise awareness on the pawikan and preserve such precious gem.
Then came our most-awaited part. We each had a baby pawikan to release to the sea!
As we released each one of these fragile baby pawikans, we hoped and prayed for the best, for their survival. Priceless and memorable moment!
In reality though, only 1% of these baby pawikans survive the harsh underwater conditions up to adulthood. Most of these babies are hunted by bigger sea creatures. Sad, but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s their natural habitat, life cycle and ecosystem.
The important thing is we have Manong Danilo and the people of Maitum, who have played their role in ensuring that these marine turtles get to see the world!
(…to be continued)