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Braving the big waves: A fisherman’s unsung story to make both ends meet

No big wave can topple a fisherman’s drive to keep afloat from life’s challenges.

This is the mantra of Marlon Manaois, a 26 year old fisherman in Barangay Medol, Municipality of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat province. He is the second child in a brood of eight in a family of fishermen.

Due to poverty, Marlon only finished elementary school, and at the age of 15, he started sailing and  braving the sea waves to help his parents put food on the table every day.

This selfless young man told this writer that he gets at least P500 to P1,000 from his day-to-day fishing activity, just enough to survive and take care of the the daily needs of his family.

“Hindi ako natatakot sa alon, kasi nasanay na rin ako (I’m not afraid of the waves because I’m already used to  them),” he says, adding that his daily routine became more exciting after an opportunity opened up in their village.

Set to sail. Marlon (right), together with his friend and some tourists, prepares the pump boat to ferry visitors to the island. Marlon’s pump boat can carry up to five tourists.

Three years ago, Marlon was one of the lucky fishermen in his community who were tapped to ferry visitors from the shore to Medol Island and vice versa. He says the extra work also adds income, and he is happy for the opportunity.

"Malaking tulong ‘yung paghahatid namin sa mga pasahero sa Medol (Providing transport for tourists going to Medol Island is such a great help for us)," Marlon quips. The young fisherman says he earns P40 for every tourist he ferries to and from the island.

When asked about his dream or goal in life, the humble fisherman only said, "Magkaroon lang ng maayos na kita, okay na (To only have a stable source of income is already enough for me)."

For Marlon, facing his fear of big waves means helping  his family to make ends meet. Aside from fulfilling his purpose as a fisherman, he is also a boat operator and a tour guide.

Medol Island, nowadays, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the municipality. The small island is 200 meters from the shore of the barangay. One can walk or swim to the island during low tide.

Fairus Talapas Abdullah, chairperson of Barangay Medol, says the island is a big help in opening Palimbang to tourists, particularly those who are hesitant to visit the area due to issues of peace and order.

Chairperson Abdullah recounts an incident of a land conflict between families in the nearby barangay of Langali, also in Palimbang, which sowed fear among the people—locals and tourists alike. She says the situation brought what was supposed to be booming tourism in the area to a standstill.

But the situation, she says, did not stop the local government from envisioning  Palimbang as a tourism haven in Sultan Kudarat; thus, it initiated the settlement of the land conflict, which in turn received a nod from warring families.

A back view of Medol Island with its rock formations could potentially be developed as a diving site.

Medol Island officially opened at a time when restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed residents to patronize local destinations.

Although the amenities on the island have to undergo refurbishment, it did not deter local tourists from flocking to see its pristine beauty.   It never disappoints, as visitors are always in awe of what the island offers.

Aside from touring the island, visitors can go fishing and taste the fresh catch of different species of fish in the area.

Medol Island, apart from its physical endowments, also boasts a rock formation, which is a good site for diving once developed, says chairperson Abdullah.

She reiterates how the opening of the island has been a big help to residents because it has ushered in livelihood opportunities in the area, particularly for fishermen.

“Iyong mga may pump boat naman na nangingisda ay nagkakaroon na rin ng kabuhayan kasi dito sa amin, sa kanila ‘yung income. Halimbawa sa amin na kinukuha namin na porysento, binibigay na talaga namin sa kanila,” says the barangay official.

(Those who have pump boats and are fishermen found an additional source of livelihood here. We give all the income that we get from ferrying the tourists back and forth to the island to the boatmen.)

Data from the Palimbang Municipal Tourism Office showed some 7,000 tourist arrivals in 2022. Most of them were local tourists.

A local tourist from Koronadal City in South Cotabato promenades along the vast stretch of Medol Island’s shoreline. This tourist says she came to the island to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and relax with her family.

Recognizing the influx of tourists and the vast potential of Medol Island, the municipal government vows to protect the area, deploying some "tanods" from the community to secure it from any human-induced activities such as poaching or theft, harassment, and the like.

Mayor Joenime Kapina said the town’s tourism development is underway. He admits that Palimbang, being a second-class municipality, still has a long way to go as compared to its neighboring towns with booming tourism industries already in place.

Kapina says he is not backing down though, as he expresses his determination to gradually make Palimbang, through its coastal barangays like Medol, chart its own development and progress in the long run.

We need more revenue to boost our local economy, and one thing that will help us achieve this goal is by developing our tourism sites, like Medol Island, so we can attract not just local but also more foreign tourists.

"Ang assurance ko lang, ang Palimbang ay generally peaceful, 24/7 pinapaasa ko ang mga taga-labas na ang Palimbang ay safe na puntahan (I assure you, especially those who are not from here, that Palimbang is generally peaceful 24/7)," Mayor Kapina assures, inviting the public to come and see the beauty of the town, especially Medol Island.

True to what the LGU tagline says, "Manisan ka, Palimbang!" Indeed, you are beautiful, Palimbang! (SJDM – PIA Region XII)

About the Author

Kate Shiene Austria

Information Officer III

Information Officer III under the Creative and Production Services Division of the Philippine Information Agency. 

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