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January 1, 2018

The Fishing Industry of Balayan by Lorenzo Brotonel, 1916

This page contains the complete transcription of the 1916 ethnographic paper written by one Lorenzo Brotonel from .jpeg scans of the originals made available by the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections. Corrections for grammar had been made in certain parts but no attempt was made to rewrite the original paper. Original pagination is indicated for citation purposes.

[Cover page.]

Tagalog Paper No. 226.



Lorenzo Brotonel


  1. TAGALOG: Balayan, Province of Batangas, Luzon.
  2. Economic Life: Fishing-Industry.
Manila March 16, 1916
[p. 1]

My main object in writing this thesis is to show, at least in a general way, the different steps in the development of the fishing industry in my hometown, Balayan.

Before proceeding to the descriptions of the different [blurred word] or apparatus used for catching fish, and the different methods by which they are used, let me divide first these apparatus into two great divisions: (1) Those that are used in saltwater, and (2) those that are used in freshwater. I am going to speak first of those used in freshwater.

The most primitive way of catching fish, which is known to the people of my town is by hand. This is done simply white cautiously groping the hands beneath the stones and between the crevices of rocks which are submerged in the water. This is a very inefficient method, because not all the fish that touch the hands are caught. Besides that it is inefficient, only small fishes can be caught by such method. This way of catching fish is called in Tagalog “kapa.” By this method, it happened that a small fish or a lobster was caught in a hole or a crevice of the rock from which there was no chance of escape. This fact suggests another method, which consists simply in placing bamboo tubes or bundles of sticks in the water. After a week or two, these bamboo tubes and bundles of sticks are taken suddenly out of the water. Thus, the fishes and lobsters that are living in them are caught.

A steel letter development of the bamboo shoot is that what

[p. 2]

we call in Tagalog “bañgon.” it is made of bamboo splits woven like a basket in a cylindrical form but tapering at one end. At the entrance or malls there is a sort of funnel-shaped piece, which is also made of bamboo splits. It is called “galaw.” it serves the purpose of preventing the fish or lobsters from returning out. Before putting the “bañgon” into the water, it is first baited inside either buy roasted coconut meat or roasted rice husks. After staying for one night and the water, it is taken out in the fishes and lobsters that are inside are taken out through the tapering and which has been closed only by a movable piece of bamboo tube. The picture of the “bañgon” is as follows:

a further development of the “bañgon” is that which we call in Tagalog “sañga.” it is exactly like the “bañgon” with the exception, however, that it is much larger in size. It is placed in that part of the river where the water is confined to a narrow channel and runs swift enough so as to prevent the fish, which happens to pass through the channel, from turning back.

Hand-in-hand with the development of the fishing instruments, which are made of bamboo splits, goes the development of the fish nets and hook and line. The first hook was only a piece of crooked metal, either iron, or steel, or copper. It had no bar. Only one hook was tied to a line at a time. Later on, barbed hooks were 52 a line at a time. This latter development is of course more efficient for two fish can be caught at a time.

[p.3 ]

The first fish net which we develop is called in Tagalog “sima.” it is a piece of net about one meter long and one-half meter wide tied on to poles. It is roughly represented by the accompanying sketch:

The “sima” is used by placing it against the current near some stones or accumulations of shrubs or grass. One man holds it in position as seen in the figure above, and another man takes away the stones and the accumulation of grass which are in front of it. Then the “sima” is raised up suddenly and, thus, the fish and lobsters that have entered into it are caught. The “sima” is also used at night as follows:

A man put small heaps of shrubs or grass at various places in the river especially in those places where the water is quiet and shallow. Beneath these heaps of grass or shrubs, beats of fine roasted rice husks are placed. One hour after having placed the baits, the “sima” is used to catch the lobsters and shrimps that have been eating the baits.

Another kind of fish net which is often used in freshwater is that which we call in Tagalog “dala.” Its shape is like that of a funnel or a tent. Bits of lead are fastened around the rim so that it may sink into the water at once. Its rough sketch is the following:

[p. 4]

The fishermen use the dala in the following way: he places his first folded around his arm in such a way that it will spread out when he throws it. Then, he goes around and looks for a group of band of fish. As soon as he sees one, he approaches it cautiously and then throws his “dala” upon it so as to cover or encircle the whole group. The fishes are entangled around the rim. The fisherman picks up the dala by the string which is at the middle.

Another very efficient way of catching fish in the river is as follows:

A heap of sticks, grass, woods and shrubs which had been purposely placed in the water is surrounded by a corral of bamboo splits tied together by a kind of vine called “hagnaya.” After having completely surrounded the heap, the sticks, grass, woods and shrubs are removed from the inside of the corral. Then, the sima is used to catch the fish which are inside the corral.

I am now going to speak of the fishing implements which are used in saltwater.

First in the order of development comes the hook and line. At first, only one hook is fastened to a line at a time, and the fisherman stands on the shore. Later on, two or more hooks are fastened to a line and the fisherman rides in a “banca” or canoe and fishes in deeper water. He uses small fish and shrimps for baits. This is a very inefficient way of fishing.

Following the hook and line comes the “sacag.” It is exactly like the “sima” except that it is four or five times as large. Its use is also somewhat different from that of the “sima”

[p. 5]

The “sima” is placed in a stationary position while it is being pushed on along all the time only lifting it up from time to time to take the fish and lobsters that have already entered it. As it is always used at night, the fisherman always carries on the top of his hat, of bamboo splits, a torch light. This light attracts the fish.

Next to the “dala” comes the “pante.” It is a long fish-net with buoys of pieces of wood along one side and pieces of lead along the other. It is handier than the common big fish net, for it is smaller, and made of finer threads. One can hold one end of it and another man, the other end. These two men walk forward in a parallel direction while three or four other men strike the water in front of it with long sticks or poles. When the men who draw the net and those who strike the water are already about two meters apart from each other, they will stop and they lift up the net. This is a very efficient method of fishing except that the very big fish cannot be caught in it.

The most efficient apparatus for catching fish, and the one which is used nowadays even in civilized countries, is that commonly known by the name fish-net. It is called in Tagalog “pukot.” There are two kinds of “pukot.” One kind is called “panguilid” and the other is called “panlaot.” The other is called “panguilid” because it is used only in shallow water or near the shores.

As soon as the fishermen see a group of fish near the shore, they immediately surround it with the net of “pukot” (panguilid).

[p. 6]

Then, they pull the “pukot” to the seashore little by little. Everybody who helps to pull it, be he a stranger, is given a small portion of the fish that shall be caught.

The “pukot” which is called “panlaot” is used only in deep waters. It is loaded in a good order in a big “banca.” Then, the “banca” propelled by the fishermen goes around in search of a group of big fish. As soon as one is found, the net is dropped hastily around it. Then two or more men called “buso” dive into the water and fasten together and lower the ends of the net. Then, it is drawn up into the “banca.” Sometimes, fish to the amount of five or eight hundred pesos is caught at a time.

Hand in hand with the development of fish nets is the development of fish corrals called in Tagalog “baklad.” There are two kinds of “baklad.” One of them is called “panak” and the other is simply called “baklad.” They are both made of small bamboo splits fastened with each other in a row by a kind of vine called “hagnaya.” This vine is of red color and lasts long in the water. The “baklad” as viewed on ground-[unreadable word] appears as follows:

[p. 7]

There is no difference between the “panak” and the “baklad” except that the former is placed in shallower water. The time for making “baklad” is May. The “panak” and the “baklad” are not as efficient as the “pukot” om catching fish, for they are stationary and can catch only those fish that enter them voluntarily and stay inside long enough so as to be overtaken by the fishermen who visit the “baklads” only once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

The most common methods of preserving fish in our town are “saing” or cooking it simply in salt and water, drying, smoking and salting.

At present, we do not export much fish to other towns, for our fishing industry is only able to supply our market. Sometimes, however, we do export a little, and I hope that in a not distant future, Balayan will be able to supply the markets of the neighboring towns also. I base my prophecy upon the fact that Balayan is the only town in Batangas Province that has the best harbor and fishing grounds.

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Notes and references: Transcribed from “The Fishing Industry of Balayan,” by Lorenzo Brotonel, 1916, online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.

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