Roots and Resilience


Written by Pia Lopez | Pictures by Gaps Sabuero, Kitya Ferrer and Caye Simpoo

On March 14th, while we witnessed the whole nation go indoors and the economy put on hold, something unexpected happened on this island. Gardens started to sprout, a new economy was formed, and people started to rediscover the roots of food and survival. Siargao shifted towards resilience by a collective effort towards self-sustenance and sustainability.

The national strategy was practical and necessary - contain the spread of the virus through enhanced social quarantine to “flatten the curve.” But after this system of defence was put in place another crisis creeps up, but unlike the non-partial disease, the crisis of the economy affects those at the bottom the most. Therefore, the economy is also an ethical concern, for if the virus does not kill us, hunger may.

Most societies cannot shutdown their economy, not because of capitalistic concerns, but because the economy equates to the supply of food and necessities for human survival. So this is the next challenge for our leaders, to stop the virus while keeping the economy moving. Harvard political theorist, Danielle Allen, suggests, “We should be aiming for pandemic resilience.” According to Allen, pandemic resilience’s objective is to prevent the virus from spreading, whilst trying to maintain an economy which supports survival. During this time of quarantine, leaders and experts ideally figure out how to negotiate a way through the pandemic through a combination of developing a vaccine and herd immunity.

Here, we celebrate the island rising towards pandemic resilience through the efforts of a community…

Siargao Barter

Bartering usually occurs when there is hyperinflation or deflation of a currency, or when monetary exchange is unfavourable as in times of crisis. When there is a short supply of money, it is a plausible way to keep the economy or an exchange of goods and services flowing, even if it is a mere trickle. Needless to say, during economic lockdown when there is a shortage of cash flow, bartering becomes necessary.

Siargao Barter founder, Caye, recounts how it all came about: “When the ECQ was announced on March 18th, 2020, I temporarily lost hope with the situation - I had no income coming in and my businesses mainly depended on online sales from Facebook and IG. It took me sometime to really get my grip until one day on March 27th, since I had all the time in the world and my friends were egging me on to make a group, I went on to make one and added my friends one-by-one.

I just didn't expect it to blow up like it has as in just one week, we have more than a thousand members and hundreds of successful barters already. It's been amazing really because it has helped us provide for our daily needs and also allowed us to meet wonderful people in the process.”

Indeed, bartering offers people a crucial lifeline during times like these. It nurtures a more modest valuation system: helps re-evaluate what we have, how much we have, and what we don’t need.“I’m not sure how it's impacting the local economy but for sure it's making it grow still, but on another branch. People don't worry as much when they don't have cash because they know they can just check what they have and barter it for what they need,” Caye shares. Hopefully, this form of economy keeps its place when the economy re-opens again.

Here are the member rules outfitted for quarantine:

Barter Guidelines

  1. Show photo of what you have and indicate what you want in exchange, or mention what you need in exchange for what you have. Simple. It can be anything - except those that require physical overlapping thereby violating the rule of physical distance of at least 1 meter apart.

  2. No cash transactions allowed. Period.

  3. Only barter and swap allowed.

  4. No advertising in any form.

  5. Anyone who engages in a barter or swap transaction must clean, sanitise, and disinfect items. Well, maybe except for plants but at least it must be presentable(?).

  6. Deliver, meet up, or pick up only

  7. After barter/swap for item(s) is done, please delete your post to make way for the other ones.

Let's keep it simple and fun!

Goin’ Fishing

When you think of the old Siargao it was synonymous with fishing. There were no indigenous people recorded on this island, and there are many tales of who first settled here. One of those stories rumoured Siargao as a resting stop for fishermen from nearby islands such as Bohol and the mainland. Arguably, the first of these fishermen were probably some of those who first settled on the island. Whether true or not, the island primarily survived on fishing until tourism took root during the early 2010's. With saltwater running through their veins, it was natural for many men, whom on March 15th were declared jobless until further notice, to return to their roots and catch fish by spear or hook. Fishing is considered essential, just like going to the grocery store to buy food, hunting is survival in its purest form. Perhaps, fishing may have even prevented mass panic and crimes associated with hunger.

Quarantine Cuisine

This local chef embraces the spirit of resilience through food. After the announcement that enhanced quarantine had been declared, Kitya Ferrer embarked on a rediscovery of old-world coastal cuisine. If shipment of food stops, we essentially have all the resources we need to survive, especially food. Living on an island, we rely mostly from imported goods. Disruption of shipment can lead to panic and hunger. However, the moment we realise that we have everything that we need in abundance - the panic subsides and the crisis ends. From spear, hook, and machete to table, Kitya conducted a field study on survival cuisine. Here is a visual account of Kitya’s food expedition:

Clam digging is done with a machete or fork shovel during low tides. Pictured below is the process from sand to table with an medley of clam platters: Clam with olives, grilled garlic clams, and clam pasta with truffle sauce. >

Snails or dayo-dayo is harvested in the mud flats or mangroves. Pictured below is dayo dayo ala gata or snails with coconut milk.

Kitya took spearfishing seriously. She and her friends often combined their catch and combined for lavish meals. In one of the photographs is Kitya’s priced flounder catch.

Five Finger Shell. One of the easiest to harvest on the menu, displayed are ways to prepare the five-finger shells or saang right on the beach: steamed and grilled.

Eel. Leave hunting and cooking eels to the experienced as most eel’s skins are poisonous.

Seagrapes: Seagrapes or lato may be harvested along certain parts of the beach. In Siargao, it is usually prepared with chopped ginger, onions, and asian peppers drenched in bahal or vinegar with spices. A coastal delicacy, it is often referred to as “green caviar.”

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