Everyday just before sunrise or late in the afternoon before sunset, a group of local fisherfolks huddle by the shore in Brgy Malabor in Tibiao, a sleepy town in Antique on Panay island's western side. Soon a bell is rang and everyone gets on board a big and sturdy bamboo raft.
Everyone pulls a rope that will bring that raft some 100 meters off shore, where a large net waits to be hauled up, hopefully filled with a good bounty.
where the mountains meet the sea
Antique stretches along the western side of the Panay island, bordered by rugged mountains on the east and Sulu sea on the west. Not much plains here hence the nickname "land where the mountains meet the sea". There are various points of interest in the province, like the beautiful island of Mararison in Culasi.
Related post: Mararison island: Antique's rough gem
Here in Tibiao, folks come for the Kawa hot bath. But I was more interested in the way a group of fisherfolks of Malabor catch fish.
The beach in Malabor is a pebble beach, a stark comparison to the white sand of Mararison where I stayed for a few days before heading here. The water gets deep quite abruptly too, but this probably makes Malabor a rich fishing ground. Folks do not have to venture really far.
On the afternoon on my first day on Tibiao, lambaklad was on the top of my shot list but the raft stayed put. No fish to harvest, they said. I wondered how they knew that. I later found out they have "spotters", divers who check the huge net strategically laid along a deep chasm where schools of fish would likely pass by.
The word "lambaklad" came from two words: "lambat" which means net, and "baklad" which means corral. It is similar to the Japanese fish traps called otoshi-ami or "drop-in net".
I went back with a fellow photographer the next morning at dawn. There was already a small group by the shore warming themselves with coffee. "Do you want to ride on our raft? 50 pesos fare", one offered. Usually there are travel agencies who would organize "rides" on the lambaklad raft and they charge more than double the normal "fare", but that morning there are no other visitors there.
The bell rang, everyone boarded the raft and once we got to the designated place, everyone started pulling the net, everyone except us of course.
Every now and then someone would pick a fish or two which got stuck in the net. I was beginning to wonder: "Is that it? That's harvest?"
As the bottom of the net neared the surface a bubbling frenzy answered my previous question. The moment the net got unto the raft, fish of various shapes and sizes tumbled and tossed. Thats the harvest!
The catch was quickly sorted. It varies in season and on a good day they would get a plethora of fishes from tuna and mackerel to scads and marlins. That morning's harvest was modest compared to previous ones, but they got a lot of large flat fishes called bayang (each one can weigh 2-3 kilos). And judging from everyone's delightful remarks, this must be a good catch.
The whole operation took an hour or so, and everyone's back on shore just in time for breakfast. At the weighing station, local are already waiting to get their hands on the fresh catch, especially the bayangs.
Travel tipsHere are some of the things you can do while in Tibiao:
This Malabor as well and is just right across the highway from where the lambaklad raft is at. You can spend a relaxing 30 minutes here if you don't mind small fished nibbling at your feet. Takes a bit of getting used to during the first few minutes.
Kawa hot bath
Yup, it looks like she's getting ready to cook something. This is perfect for soaking your tired body after going around Tibiao or the nearby Culasi. Typical cost per bath is Php 200 pesos. Motorcycle ride from the highway going up the mountain village of Tuno where these kawa hot baths are is Php 70.00
Stay at Kasa Raya
Quaint roadside inn that offers affordable but clean rooms (fan and aircon). I preferred to stay here rather than in the resorts in Tuno like the Kayak Inn for the following reasons:
- Accessibility. Its on the main highway and would be difficult to miss. Buses from or heading to Iloilo and Kalibo pass right in front of it. The motorcycle terminal for Tuno/Kayak Inn is right across it. From there you can also hire a ride to Malabor. Its just a minutes from town if you need to get supplies and food.
- Clean and affordable. Room rate starts at Php 400, clean room and CR. Its a cozy place overall