The beach has a festive air: guitar music, the sound of
breaking waves, children playing in the sand, women chatting,
and fish vendors washing baskets in the surf. Out in the
Lingayen Gulf, silhouetted against the setting sun, the fishing
boats return. As each boat noses up to the beach it draws a
crowd of spectators eager to see the days catch - Spanish
mackerel, dorado, yellowfin, and sometimes a marlin too big for
one man to carry. The fisherman hauls the boat up on the sand,
the crowd drifts away to the next boat, and the vendor takes
the fish to the market.
Nearby Dado Galleta starts to close his shell shop, a flimsy
wooden stall with green shutters. Dado was once a fisherman but
quit 13 years ago to run his shop. When asked why he gave up
fishing he says; "It's too dangerous. Too many friends never
came home. I have a family now."
This is the beach north of Bauang, between the villages of
Paringao and Pagdalagan in the Province of La Union, the
Philippines. Here fishing has always been a part of life and
little has changed over the years: petrol engines have replaced
sails, tourism has grown into a major industry, but the
fisherman is still the backbone of the community.
But fish are no longer plentiful and many coral reefs that
previously supported abundant fish life have been destroyed,
mostly by dynamite and cyanide. Dado points to a strip of green
water a couple of hundred metres off the beach. "A few years
ago that reef was teeming with fish," he says, "Now it's dead -
no fish, not even a star fish, just a few jelly fish."
Many fishermen have given up and found jobs ashore. Dado's
brother, John, now works as a boat boy at the Manila Yacht
Club. Others, like his brother-in-law Leo Avenes, act as tour
guides. "Fishing is hard work," Leo says. "Catching tourists is
much easier than catching fish." But the transition from
fisherman to boatman is not automatic - bureaucracy's tentacles
have found their way to the beach.