Saturday, May 04, 2013

The Place of Salt Up North

While most of the kids, my age, go wearing-next-to-nothing and partying like there's no tomorrow on populated beaches all over the country, I spent barely 30 hours in Anda, Pangasinan and re-discovered how the  sea is more than just a place to go skinny dipping--- it is first and always a source of life.


It was my first time to ride a bus alone to a place that is hundreds of kilometers away from Manila (and my mom didn't know I travelled alone. Sssssshhhhhh. *wink*). I came from Bo Sanchez's Breakthrough retreat 2013 in PICC before I took a bus from Pasay to Pangasinan (Ooooh 3 P's. PICC. Pasay. Pangasinan. WHUT?). The plan was to ride a bus from Manila to Alaminos, transfer to a mini-bus from Alaminos to Anda and meet my friends in some "bayan" there. Eazy breezy? Simple wimple? NOT. It was an 8-freakin'-hour-long land trip alone.  What was I thinking? But given the chance, would I have done the same thing? Now that's eazy breezy. There's your simple wimple. It's an I-wouldn't-even-think-twice-YES.

I met my friends a little later than 8 that evening. In Manila, I would've just gotten out of the office and would've been off to another hang out with friends or family. In the province, my friends had already eaten dinner, freshened up, and were all ready to go to bed. I bet they would have gone to bed if they weren't waiting for me that night! HAHA.

Our host was a local community whom my friend, a Community Development degree holder, once had his undergraduate community work with. For six months, he stayed with the community, learned their way of life--their practices, their livelihood, their day-to-day living, and gotten to know and love everyone there as well. 

The place was in Anda, Pangasinan. It is the biggest island belonging to the famous Hundred Islands. The place we stayed at is a 30-minute tric-ride away from the bayan and a five minute walk to the sea.

Woke up before the sun rose in the morning to fish. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I brought a shawl, a hat, and my sun glasses. I was never good with mingling with people I've just met the first time. I bet most of the locals would have noticed I'm a bit more aloof than most of the friends I was with during our stay there. Trust me, I was far from friendly BUT not because I'm mataray (Okaay, I am but I wasn't being mataray then! Promise.) but because I am shy. (Working on it though.)

After meeting the locals who were up and bubbly at 4 in the morning (Could I have been in Manila, I would have still been in dreamland aaaand I bet I would have sneered at you if you tried to wake me up!) we headed to the sea. I was half groggy but the barely three-hour sleep was worth it for no camera lens would have given justice to the myriad of colors the skies was painted with that morning. And yes, I would still have traded sleep to bare witness to it over and over again.

One of the locals (Sorry. I forgot his name. I met a lot of Kuya's and Ate's that day. Aside from being half groggy in the morning, some of them really look alike! I swear! It was impossible to remember them all! Half-kiddng. Half-meant :P), tagged me and my friend along to his usual morning routine--ride a canoe, fish, feed and sort.

As a local of Manila, I felt privileged with the breathe of fresh air GOD graced my lungs with that morning. As a city girl who barely knew how to swim, I was a bit scared of the unfamiliar terrain I found myself in but was trying my best to hide the fear out of pride and out of shame to my friend. As an Engineer, I couldn't help but be in awe by how the locals were able to design these fishing systems for their livelihood. I was expecting we'd go fishing old style---as in canoe in the middle of the sea with fish rod and gross live bait. But NO. We rode a motor-driven canoe to the middle of the sea, where various fish traps were set up to catch fish over night, ready to be sorted and sold the next morning.

This is one of the fish traps I was talking about. I don't know what the locals call it but it's made of fishnet and bamboo. It was triangular in form, designed to catch fish (and other sea animals) and positioned in a way that the waves will lead the caught fish to that pointed area where the fisherman would just get his share of the catch in the morning. Now, that's what you call AWESOME ENGINEERING!

After getting the fish from the humongous nets, Kuya and my friend started sorting them out into two small plastic tubs and a basket where the stronger sea animals were kept alive. Apparently, live fish sells a bit higher in the market. 

We proceeded to a some sort of a cottage where the men sort their catch and weigh it in before selling to the market. This is where they separate the fish according to species and size. This is also where they set a portion of their catch for personal consumption. 

Aaand this is also where I had a light bulb moment of why lechon was such a big deal in the province-- it is because they eat fish everyday! They won't have to buy fish because they just save a portion of their catch for personal consumption. Lechon, on the other hand, would have to be bought so they usually save it for special occasions.

Before sorting was done, we rode the canoe again to feed their school of fishes. Pangasinan is famous for the Dagupan Bangus. I was told that in Anda, they help grow and feed the cousin of the Dagupan Bangus! hihi. 

Before 8AM, we were already done! We headed back to the house for the sumptuous sea food breakfast. :)
Imagine being done with work by 8AM. Wild. One of my friends said "Dito hindi mo alam paano mo uubusin oras. Sa Manila, di mo alam paano mo pagkakasyahin yung oras". Soooooooo true! Our two hour trip to the sea felt like forever!

I couldn't help but compare how different life in the province is from life in Manila. Things are sooooo much simpler there. Everyone is nice and giving and welcoming. Everyone knows everyone. No deadlines. No traffic. No agitated in-a-hurry people. 

However, there is also no running water (you'd have to catch pails of water from a well). No public transportation. No fast food. No fast anything. :P  I swear if I stay long term, I'll die of impatience or boredom. (No offense meant).

I guess the best part of the trip (aside from spending quality time with friends), is being able to see not only the sea but life in itself from a new perspective. More of these soon. :)
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