By Myra Gene Gautier and Stephanie Di Tibubos*
When entering the Municipality of Tigbauan, the soothing sea breeze combined with the earthly smell of grasses and forest welcome residents and visitors. The unique combination of water and land elements make this town ideal for leisure. Just twenty three kilometers away from the busy metropolitan of Iloilo City, anyone can get an easy refuge in this haven to relax, enjoy and be near again to Mother Nature.
Tigbauan is known for its beach resorts like Sol Y Mar, Coco Grove, Reynaldo’s and Le Maer Mar. But this town is not just known for its beaches.
Tigbauan is also known for guinamos (shrimp paste). That’s why when passing the first three barangay of Tigbauan from Iloilo City, Barroc, Atabayan and Baguingin, the strong and heavy smell of hipon (baby shrimps) permeates the air. However, guinamos is not the sole product from Tigbauan. Kasag (crabs) is also abundant here.
Even we, who are locals of this town, have no idea how large the kasag business is. Not until our Humanities 1 professor suggested that we make a study about the kasag of Tigbauan.
First, we went to the place where we could surely find kasag – the Tigbauan Public Market. We were not disappointed because when we went there we saw a vendor selling kasag and we interviewed her about the product she was selling. That time the market value of kasag per kilo in Tigbauan Market is 160 pesos. Through that interview, we found ourselves riding a tricycle to reach the place where kasag is very abundant. After a short period of time, we reached our destination- Binyaan.
Binyaan is a sitio situated between the adjacent barangays of Atabayan and Baguingin. The place has wide-stretched seashore and most of the people are engaged in fishing.
Our adventure started last August 9, 2008 around 9:30 in the morning. Upon arrival in Binyaan, we looked around for people who can teach us about kasag. Surveying the place, we saw pump boats with many panggal (crab pots) and we concluded that the main source of living of people in Binyaan is from catching kasag.
Luckily, we met Manong Glecerio Gileogan, one of the fishermen and the biggest crab catcher of Sitio Binyaan. He has been a fisherman for so many years. He is also an owner of a regular sized pump boat which carries 380 panggal.
He introduced us to Manong Herman Drilon Sr, whom they call their suki. The fishermen surong (deliver) all their catch to Manong Herman and get paid for 120 per kilo. Manong Herman buys the crabs in their place and sells it either to the wet markets or to restaurants like Tatoy’s and Breakthrough. He also sells crabs to Jazz, an exporter of crabs to Taiwan and Japan.
CRAB CATCHING NOW AND BEFORE
We have learned a lot of folk wisdom about crabs during our interview with the good people of Binyaan.
The process of catching crabs before was different compared to the process of catching them now. Ten years ago, frogs were used as traditional paon (bait). However as time went by, they realized that crabs caught by frog bait don’t stay long due to the poison brought by the frog. With this kind of problem, fishermen found new ways of catching crabs. The wonder of sapsap (Slipmouth fish) was discovered. It was used as paon (bait) to attract crabs. Fishermen have noticed that the crabs caught through sapsap bait last longer and dugay mahuro (stayed fresher for a longer period of time).
Usually, one banyera (container) of sapsap costing 400.00 pesos is shared by four fishermen. The sapsap are then dried and sometimes they put a little quantity of salt to preserve the fish for future use. Sapsap is used as bait because it is cheap but effective.
Although the fishermen can catch crabs all year round, it is during the Habagat (south west wind/monsoon) typically during the period of July to October when crabs are very abundant. The fishermen catch crabs all year round. They frequently palawod (going to the sea to fish) twice a day usually at daytime around 4:00 am and return to the seashore around 9:00 am and at night time around 4:00pm and return 8:00pm. If the catch is not good the fishermen don’t palawod at all.
The frequency of palowod depends on the quantity of kasag catch. Sometimes, they just aria (leave) the panggal in the morning and returned to the sea in the afternoon to batak (pull) the panggal.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
For us, crab catching needs determination, hard work and dedication plus a little amount of luck. The earnings from the crab business are meager and it can’t pay off the efforts that fishermen exerted. It is just enough for their one day of living and the next day they will search again. That’s the usual life of people engaged in the sea business.
The following are steps in catching crabs:
First, the fishermen need to put paraun in panggal. Paraun is the setting of sapsap baits in the panggal. The bait is tied with a small nylon thread.
After setting the paraun, the boat will be launched to the sea from the seashore known as saug. Saug is the manner of pushing the boat to the sea from the shore. It is the bayanihan of the people near the sea. They have a unique way of getting a buylo or timing, someone will count- “isa…darwa…ay…tatlo..!” and they push together.
Then the fishermen will ride the boat and set forth to the sea or lawod. Palawod is a term used in going to the middle of the sea to catch crabs. There are several locations in fishing like Bulag and Costa Mario. Bulag is the portion of the sea that separates Iloilo and Guimaras. Costa Mario is a suitable place for kasag catching and is found in the territories of Oton. Its name comes from the beach called Costa Mario which is situated parallel to this sea.
Lastly, when the fishermen find the best place for catching crabs, they will aria the panggal and batak it after some time. Aria is the mode of throwing the panggal to the sea. All panggal have a rope that connects all with an approximate one meter distance from one panggal to another.
After some hours, the fishermen will batak (pull) the panggal to see if there is a catch.
The words we’ve mentioned above may be foreign to your ears because these are jargon of the fishermen. Indeed, the sea has a rich vocabulary.
What sea creatures can be caught in panggal? Crabs are not the only sea creatures trapped in a panggal. During our last visit to Binyaan, the catch was composed of different kinds of fish namely pakol (fish with popping eyes) and pisogo (the orange fish), small octopus, lukon (prawns) and shrimps.
VARIETIES OF CRABS
Manong Herman taught us that there are many varieties of crabs. There are five kinds of crabs usually caught in the seas of Tigbauan and sometimes adjacent to Oton. These are the following: (a) Langwayan, (b) Burok, (c) Pintukan, (d) Krusan and (e) Intsik-intsik. They differ in color, sizes and style of shell.
Krusan is the export variety of crabs because this is the biggest of all crabs caught in Tigbauan. Krusan is the name of this crab because of the pattern of its shell which forms a cross. The Krusan must weigh 500 grams or more for it to become an export-quality kasag.
Langwayan is the male version of Burok and its color is blue. It usually grows big like Kurusan. Only large langwayan is being exported but on rare occasions because the demand in the international market is low. However, according to Manong Glecerio, he prefers langwayan than krusan because it is not parat (salty).
Burok is the female counterpart of Langwayan. Its color is green and is not that attractive in terms of color. Because this is a female crab, it is the one that carries the eggs. Usually, this type of crab is available in the local market.
Pintukan as what the name implies, it got its name because of the pintuk or points on the shell. This kind of crab usually doesn’t grow big. It is best for Tambo or Laswa (vegetable soup) and Bihon. The price of this crab per kilo is cheap. In Tigbauan Market it usually ranges from 60 pesos to 100 pesos.
Intsik-intsik is called in such a way because its eyes are singkit (slanted eyes). It is the cheapest of all the crabs. Before, there was no prevailing market for Intsik-intsik because the size of this crab is small and the meat inside it is not that big and compact. The shell of the biggest Intsik-intsik measures 5 inches. Its color is violet. They said that the meat is manamis- namis (sugary). The unique characteristic of this crab is its dark violet long claws.
LOGIC: To sum it all, although these crabs vary in color and in sizes, these will turn to orange in color when cooked. With the help of soft drinks named Sprite and Seven up, the meat inside the crabs become tastier.
UNDERNEATH THE CRAB REVEALS A STORY
Crabs do have sex. But the question is “How can we determine the sex of crabs?” Take for example this crab we can see in the picture that the crab on the upper portion has a narrow opening. It means that it is a male crab. The lower portion of the picture is a female one because of the wideness of bukaka (egg compartment belly). To determine the sex of the crabs is based on the narrowness or wideness of the opening at the lower portion of the shell. A narrow opening= male crab. A wide opening= female crab.
Trivia: But do you know that there are also homosexual crabs? These crabs have openings which are neither narrow nor wide.
Manong Herman also sells export-quality kasag to exporters like Jazz (a crab exporter based in Oton). The crab must still be alive and it should be at least 500 grams or up. He sells it for 500 pesos per kilo. After catching, Manong Herman puts the crabs in an aquarium having an oxygen pump in order to revive the crabs. He will then observe the crabs inside the aquarium and after an hour, he will decide if the crabs are export-quality or not.
When exporting, the crab will be submerged in iced water in order for the crabs to sleep (the maximum hours for the crabs to sleep are 8 hours). After being put to sleep, the crab will be wrap in paper. A hole is provided in the mouth for breathing. It is transported to Manila by airplane. It is to make the crabs still fresh and good to eat. These crabs are being sent to Manila to be exported to Taiwan and Japan.
FAT OR NOT?
Kasag which are fat have that delicious yellow aligue inside. Yum!Yum! But how do we determine if the crab is fat or not without opening the shell?
A wise buyer must know the right quality of crab to buy or when the right time is to buy fat crabs. Fat crabs usually have tagbong (heavy weight) and the claws of the crab are hard. Fat crabs can be found during hana mag-ugsad (before full moon) and dulom pasiklahon (last quarter). These quarters in the calendar is the time when the crabs eat a lot for the preparation of their spawning season. If you want to order crabs, don’t order during aya-ay or the period where the tides changes rapidly. There is no low tide or high tide during this time.
So you know now the hints in buying fat and fresh crabs. Before you barge to the market, consult Mr. Calendar.
Adieu for now, See you later…
At around 11:45 of the 10th day of August, we finished interviewing the fisher folks of Binyaan. We decided to go back the next day to join them in catching crabs to have a first hand experience.
August 11, 2008. The adventure continued. At around 8:00 in the morning, we reached Sitio Binyaan again. It was so hot. We asked Manong Glicerio to let us join them in the aria of panggals in the sea. Just like other fisherman, we also helped in pushing the pump boat to the sea. It was mabalud (strong current). At somewhere in the middle of the sea, they started to aria the panggal one by one and the distance of each panggal is one meter. There were 6 or more dried sapsap on each panggal. It is to attract the kasag and for it to enter the panggal just like catching fish. It took 30 minutes to 1 hour for them to finish dropping the panggal.
The fishermen said that they have many ways of aria: these are L-shape, diagonal, vertical and U-shape depending on the current of the water. We left the panggal and would gather it the next day.
It was 7:30 in the morning for the last day of our kasag adventure. We were late that is why we didn’t join them in getting the panggal in the sea. So we waited for them and they arrived at around 9. It was so hot. They caught only two and half kilos of crabs. They also caught two prawns and a fish with bulgy eyes named pakol.
This adventure opens our eyes that life is not about pahapos but like a nosebleed long exam in Math 100. It is full of HARDSHIPS.
The people behind the Kasag Business in Binyaan…
Information about the authors:
I’m Myra Gene Gautier and one of the adventurers of the kasag adventure. I’m a second year BSBA Major in Marketing student. We are six in the family and I’m the second. My mother is a teacher and my father is a fisherman (he catches fish but not crabs). I love to read books and to travel. You can get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am Stephanie Di Tibubos. I am also a second year BSBA Major in Marketing student. I’m the youngest among us four siblings. My mother is a retired government employee and my father –well, he used to ride the seas before (except that he didn’t catch crabs). Now, he’s a Technical Superintendent. I love to eat, to shop and to travel.
You can get in touch with me at email@example.com.
We are classmates in all subjects in our first and second year in University in the Philippines Visayas College of Management. And we both like to eat kasag.