It seems simple enough in concept – attach bait to a hook, throw the line in the water, wait for the fish to bite and then reel them in. How hard can it be, right?
In some of my favorite video games like Okami, Harvest Moon and Legend of Legaia, fishing is a mini-game that usually involves a combination of controlling the strength of the pull on the line (through the joystick), lots of patience, and quick reflexes in pressing the right button. And just like the slot machines in amusement parks and card games you get to play within these adventures, fishing is always a nice break (which can sometimes distract you) from your main quest.
But apart from my extensive experience in virtual fishing, I really haven’t had a chance to go fishing in real life. So it was refreshing that fishing was part of the Kawil Tours itinerary coming from Coron and before heading to Culion.
Culion-based tour operator Kawil Tours gets its name from the traditional way of fishing, which remains the main source of income for the people from the island. The local founders even liken their own mission of promoting tourism to fishing. While tourism is booming in Coron, a stigma still remains in nearby Culion, mainly because of its reputation as a former leper colony. Like fishermen casting their net in the sea, the people behind Kawil Tours face challenges reeling in tourists, yet they remain optimistic.
As a highlight of their tours, they let guests experience the traditional method of fishing first-hand. The mission for the morning was to catch enough fish to spell the word KAWIL (and for us to eat for lunch). Our guides Renlee and Elee shared that during their previous trips, this fishing activity always brought out the competitive side of their guests.
“Minsan hindi na namin napupuntahan yung ibang stops sa island-hopping kasi ayaw pa umalis ng iba kung wala pa nahuhuli,” said Renlee. “Parating may kantsyawan kung sinong nakakarami.”
He shared how those who were able to catch lots of fish would nonchalantly ask their companions how many they had caught. Their best catch so far has been a 2-kilo fish locally referred to as ‘kurbata.’ Of course, when it came to eating, the guests would always claim that the fish they caught was the most delicious. We were immediately up for the challenge. I could imagine how frustrating it would be not to catch one. I was at least determined to catch more than Art.
Sitting still on the boat in the middle of the sea and waiting for the fish to bite was actually therapeutic. With a nylon string spooled around a piece of bamboo, and three hooks on the line attached to a sinker, fishing is really a game of patience and focus. In order to successfully reel in a fish, you need to be able to detect slight tugs on the line and quickly pull or loop the string back up on the bamboo ring to get a catch.
It seemed that my hours spent playing fishing mini-games paid off. After several false alarms of excitedly reeling in the line only to find the bait eaten and no fish, and a couple of entangled lines with Art and a boatman, I actually caught 3 fish – 1 decent sized one and 2 smallish ones!
Art meanwhile caught a grand total of one fish, which he insisted was bigger than any of the fish I caught. Still, final score: 3-1. I win. :p
Meanwhile, the guides and boatman brought in the bulk of the catch. We had more than 13 to spell KAWIL. After a celebratory shot with the fish, it was prepared in the boat’s kitchen. The fish was cooked three different ways – inihaw, fried and kinilaw with vinegar and fresh chili.
Earlier in the morning, after our overnight stay in Malcapuya Island we had a few pieces of sea urchin. Sea urchin is a delicacy in some countries like Japan, and can fetch a hefty price there. But here, it was just plucked fresh from the sea, doused with vinegar and served fresh. The meat of the sea urchin has the delicate texture of bone marrow but with a seafood taste. You just want to slurp it down.
It could be the sea air that built up our appetite, but really, nothing beats the taste of freshly caught fish enjoyed on a boat in the middle of the sea. And yes, I do believe that the fish I caught was the most delicious.
UPDATE 11/15/13: The Calamianes Group of Islands including Coron and Culion were among the areas directly hit by super typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan. The Kawil Tours boat only sustained minor damage compared to other boats with the same capacity of 1000 kilos. However, most of the other boats in Culion were totally wrecked or incurred major damages and would take longer time to repair. In the meantime, Culion’s resources are depleting and they need to urgently transport relief goods in the area.
If you want to help donate funds for the repair of Culion boats including that of Kawil, you can course donations through Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) in Ateneo, which is leading the operations for collecting relief goods for Culion, among other affected areas and is coordinating with the local parish, La Inmaculad Concepcion Parish of Culion, which is led by Jesuit priests. Once it is repaired, the Kawil boat will be used for relief operations and to transport relief goods in the area. Read more here and visit the Kawil Tours FB page for the latest updates.
This is my contribution to the November 2013 Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival hosted by Grasya Bangoy of This Grasya on the Road of Life with the theme Memories of Visayas. For previous Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival topics, click the logo on the left.