By KC Santos
NAVOTAS, MANILA – Emy Dionisio has always wanted to help uplift the lives of people residing in this coastal city.
Navotas is considered the “Fishing Capital of the Philippines,” with its close proximity to the Manila Bay as well as rivers like the Daang Kawayan, Dampalit and the Binuangan. However, this also means Navotas is prone to flooding which drastically affects the livelihood of citizens.
Emy wanted to become a teacher but had to quit college due to financial constraints. However, she didn’t stop learning and instead took advantage of free livelihood workshops conducted by several academic and government institutions.
When she found the skills on how to make by-products out of fish, she and some friends formed “Kamanhod”, the Bicolano term for “kapatiran.”
With enough support from the residents of the Northbay Boulevard South, Emy started making local fish-based produce like patis (fish sauce), bagoong (fish or shrimp paste), and tinapa (smoked fish).
The materials the group uses are sourced directly from the nearby Navotas fish port.
After six months in the business, Emy realized the hardship that goes into providing a sustainable means of income for her fellow workers and their families. She said the competition with more well-known brands is always a big challenge.
To address this, her group had to cheapen the price of their products, even when the cost of production is high and comparable to that of their mainstream competitors.
“Kailangan po namin tibayan ang loob namin kasi hindi naman po yata tama na i-asa na lamang namin ang pang-araw-araw na gastusin namin sa gobyerno (We have to remain undaunted because we don’t want to depend on the government to provide for our daily needs),” Emy said.
To make the production less costly, the workers of Kamanhod simultaneously produce other local products like chicharon (fried pork rinds) and peanut butter.
The products at P6 to P 120 don’t make up for the needs of their team just yet but they are confident that someday, the products of Navotas will be noticed and given the value in deserves.
“Sana makita ng mga investors na kami na salat ang pamumuhay ay marunong magpahalaga sa kinikita namin, kahit gaano kaliit. Hindi naman kami nangangarap ng karangyaan, ngunit masarap din siguro mamuhay ng simple basta’t may hanapbuhay (We hope investors would see that people who have less show more value to what they earn no matter how little. We don’t need to be rich, only to live better and simple lives with a sustained source of income),” she said.
The Kamanhod livelihood community consists of 150 members. Emy is hoping that the organization will continue to grow and someday be a representative of the fishing industry of Navotas.
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