Fishing in Taal: A fish dealer's plight

George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 17 2020 02:27 AM

After the January 12 eruption, the Department of Health warned the public not to consume fish from the Taal Lake as it could result in serious health problems.

But fish dealer Lino Dalisay, fondly called Tatay Lino by friends, thinks otherwise.

The 71-year-old native of Tanauan, who relocated to Barangay Lumang Lipa in Mataasnakahoy, insists that the tilapia and bangus harvested from the lake are safe to eat.

“Kung delikado yan kainin, eh di sana patay na kami? Isang linggo na namin kinakain yan e buhay pa naman kami.”

(If it was dangerous to eat then we should be dead by now. We’ve been eating them for a week and we’re still alive.)

Aside from dealing with government warnings against eating fish from Taal Lake, an abundant supply brought about by escaped fish from damaged cages has wreaked havoc on prices.

The usual prices of P100-P120 per kilo have dropped down to a measly 30 and 40.

Previously priced between P100-P120 per kilo, tilapia is now being sold for only P30/kilo while bangus is at P40/kilo

Tatay Lino shared that one of his competitors in their hometown, A certain Aling Merly, was stopped by the police as she attempted to transport her goods to Lucena City Quezon.

“Kinuha nila lahat, pati mga box nya na lalagyan. Tinangay lahat. Wala sya kinita doon.” (They got everything, even her containers. She didn't earn anything.)

Department of Health Assistant Secretary Marie Laxamana explained Tuesday that people who will consume fish from the lake could experience stomach pains and vomiting, as the fish could be affected by sulfur caused by the eruption.

“Dahil sa pesbul-pesbul na yan, nagkamali ang paratang dito sa mga isda. Kumakalat ang balita na hindi daw ligtas kainin ang isda. Edi sana patay na kami?” (Because of Facebook, the fish are seen as unsafe. News is spreading that it’s unsafe to eat fish. If so, then shouldn’t we be dead?)

Since the demand for fish from Taal lake is practically non-existent, dealers and fishermen are feeling the crunch.

Says Rosie, wife of Lino, “Kawawa naman ang tao dito, yun na lang ang pinagkakakitaan namin. Wala nang gustong bumili ng isda.” (It's so pitiful for the people here, that's our only source of income, No one wants to buy fish anymore.)

Tatay Lino is skeptical that Taal would explode, sharing his experience during the 1965 eruption.

“Alam mo kaya di ako naniniwala na puputok yan? Binata na ako noong pumutok' yan ng 1965. Ay grabe ang lindol noon at buong langit ang kidlat. E ngayon tignan mo wala na, tahimik na. Hindi nila ako mapapalikas dito.” (You know why I dont believe it will erupt? I was already a young man when it erupted back in 1965. The earthquakes then were so strong and the whole sky erupted in lightning. But now, look at it, it’s so calm. They cant make me leave.)

Even then, he refused to leave their small sari-sari store by the shore despite the forced evacuation ordered by authorities.

“Mas nakakamatay ang walang kita, kesa sa bulkan na 'yan ngayon.” (Not having a living is deadlier than that volcano.)

As he starts digging shallow graves for the hundreds of dead fish harvested from the lake, Tatay Lino couldn’t help but joke.

“Ala, ay maghuhukay na ako ng sarili kong libingan dine.”
(I’ll dig my own grave here.)

Local fishermen get ready for a day's work. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

A local fisherman sorts out dead fish from the fresh ones as they untangle their fish nets. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Locals gather fresh fish to bring to their homes. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Lino Dalisay airs his frustration about the spreading of "fake news" about the fish in their area. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Dead fish are harvested in Taal Lake. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

A fisherman untangles a dead fish from his net. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Lino Dalisay shares a photo of his wife beside a poster of Coco Martin. One of children is named "Cardo". George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Locals are forced to eat their own catch instead because of the low demand for fish from Taal. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Local fishermen sort out dead fish from the fresh ones as they untangle their nets. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Dead fish are harvested in the lake along with fresh ones. Dead ones are identified by their light color, as opposed to the darker color of the fresh ones. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Tatay Lino buries dead fish in a shallow grave. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Local fishermen finish a day's work. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News