“SHADOW OF THE FISHERFOLK”
Samahan ng mga Mangingisda sa Buluan Lake (SMBL)
Brgy. Popol, Buluan, Maguindanao

Buluan municipality in Maguindanao is home to a majority of our Maguindanaoan brothers and sisters. Like the name itself, it is also the place where the known Buluan Lake is located. With an estimated surface area of 61.34 sq. km (23.68 sq. mi), it is the third largest lake in Mindanao where in its vast expanse are teeming with different species of freshwater fish like the Indian Roho or locally termed as Taruk, Silver perch or Pot-pot, Red Tilapia or Waku-waku among others.

The rich all natural lake was a source of livelihood for some of the residents of Buluan, particularly the residents of Barangay Popol. They started thinking of putting up a project in the lake like fishpen, to augment their day to day living. The ARMM-BFAR in Maguindanao Province was already helping the group by providing fishing paraphernalia and series of trainings in Aquaculture Management, fish/cage/pen management and Value-Adding. Soon after, they were encouraged by the agency to register their group as association so that they could avail of other livelihood projects given by BFAR. It was in the year 2014, when they registered and started with 20 members, many of whom are already owner of 30 fishpens with and estimated area of 300 has/fishpen. Slowly, they were able to learn the ropes, the ins and outs of managing their project. At first, they would patiently wait for 4 months before they could harvest. Thus the coined phrase, “Shadow of the Fisherfolk, which means Sipag at Tiyaga sa pagbabantay at madalas na pagbisita” (Hardwork and Perseverance by constant visitation and monitoring). The time frame is quite long due to the strict ordinance from the LGU that any form of commercial feeding is not allowed in the entire lake, so that the stocks will purely rely on natural foods available in the area. It has also a regulation from the provincial government that nobody could add up anymore to give space for the water pathways.

But like any other ventures, no success is gain without ups and downs. There was a time that the group has experienced a blow up in their respective areas like the fish kills where tons and tons of their stocks were affected. They were not ready, they didn’t even know what was the reason of such upheaval. Until they found out it came from the spraying from the nearby banana plantation. They learned to cope with the experience and vowed not to be affected again. With series of consultations and coordination with the people concerned, control measures was thought of, like they rely on PAGASA Weather forecast, should there be heavy rain, the nearby plantation wont spray and the LGU too has constructed proper drainage to prevent the chemical to flow directly to the lake.

Presently, the SMBL has a total member of 42 and already enjoying the fruit of their labor. They are now doing selective harvesting using mesh size 2k, to sort the more bigger ones in a 1-2 pc/kilo, on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis with 18 Tons of harvest during Peak months and 7 Tons during lean or clearing period. Produced/harvest are marketed to nearby municipalities, towns and cities. More than giving easy life for its members by answering to their basic needs, some members has ventured to other business as well. The Association has also gained recognition with its volume of produce and has been receiving invitations to participate in different activities which made the LGU of Buluan a success because of its non-stop support to them and the result is improvement and development and peaceful way of living in the whole of the municipality.