‘We are losing our bangkas due to the pandemic’

‘We are losing our bangkas due to the pandemic’

Text By Tracy Cabrera / Photos By Benjamin Cuaresma

THE Philippines is blessed with over seven thousand islands waiting to be explored through boating or various outdoor activities.

Historically Filipinos have a cultural affinity with anything related to the outdoors, ocean, lakes, and rivers and the use of our indigenous wooden boats, known as bangkas, brings everyone closer to that desire and help everyone to live a fun, exciting,healthy, and responsible lifestyle.

Before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, everyone had the chance to enjoy the pleasure of boating—making it a local and foreign tourist attraction that is mainstream, fun and affordable.

There are wooden-hulled bangkas and the more recent inflatable, rigid hull inflatable and fiberglass motorboats that are durable, inexpensive, attractive and something that Pinoys believe will give everyone an amount of pride in owning one.

And Pinoys strive to create an environment where boating enthusiasts can come together and share their boating experience.

But this has been drastically curtailed by the unexpected outbreak of a deadly virus we now call as the novel coronavirus or nCoV—its onslaught has wrought havoc in all industries and boating has not been spared by it adverse effects, and not to mention the fear it has sowed among the populace because of its infectious nature that has claimed almost 4,000 innocent lives.

Mang Canor—not the famous Mang Canor of YouTube fame who has been maliciously connected to some macho sexual exploits—is a 58-year-old bangkero, or boatman, who owns his own vessel which he uses to fish from time to time or during the times there were no lockdowns, to bring tourists on tours around Manila Bay and even traveling to the nearby islands in the bay like El Fraile, Caballo and historic Corregidor with its old guns still in place that were left behind by American forces after the end of the Second World War.

“Maganda ang kita noon. Nangingisda lang ako kapag wala talagang mga biyahero at turista. Malaki kasi ang kita kapag nagsasakay ako ng mga turista para mamasyal sa Manila Bay para makita nila ang ganda ng ating karagatan,” the soon-to-be senior citizen enthused.

Mang Canor lives in a small shanty on the coast of Navotas City, where Metro Manila’s most famous fishport can be found.

“Dahil dito sa pandemia nawala ang kita naming mga mamamalakaya,” he grieves, using the Pinoy term for deep-sea fisherman and hinting his Bulacan roots where the use of vernacular is deeply embedded and utilized.

Hardship and hunger is written all over Mang Canor’s face.

“Sana mabigyan din kami ng pansin ng pamahalaan at ni Pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte. Nawalan kami ng hanap buhay dahil sa Covid(-19) at wala din naman kaming mapuntahan para humingi ng tulong,” he appealed.

Mang Canor is just one of the ‘boatmen’ and fisherfolk who live along the long coastline of Manila Bay that stretches from Bataan to Cavite.

Though resilient to the hardships they face in their daily existence and indomitable in their hope for God’s provisions, they crave for a little attention.

“Naghahanap na rin po ako ng ibang pagkakakitaan tulad ng ibang mga nawalan ng hanap buhay. Survival na po ito,” he said.

In a final note, the 58-year-old expressed deeper feelings while mentioning those others who ended up jobless, homeless and penniless because of Covid-19 health crisis.

“Mabuti pa iyong mga jeepney driver nabigyan ng ayuda, kailan naman po kaya kami?” he asked in conclusion.

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