MANILA, Philippines?One of Metro Manila?s best kept secrets is right in its backyard.
Valenzuela City hosts one of the few remaining preserves in the country that serve as home to prize catch, and is on its way to becoming a popular destination for local fishing enthusiasts.
?Valenzuela is now very popular among many anglers because it is a convenient place for us to go to since it?s right here in Metro Manila,? said Bien Peńaranda, a game-/sport-fishing enthusiast and a member of the online fishing forum filanglers.org.
Three years ago, the fishponds of Barangay Coloong and Tagalag in Valenzuela were just regular fishponds serving the needs of fishermen in the Polo area.
Peńaranda was one of the handful of game fishers who eventually gravitated to the area after discovering the fishing spot located right in the heart of Metro Manila.
?Since then, I have been promoting Valenzuela with our group. It is a perfect spot for anglers who just want to fish without having to go all the way to Batangas, Cavite, or Quezon.?
The anglers loved it so much that they eventually organized a sport fishing tournament in the area in coordination with the Valenzuela city government.
With Peńaranda taking up the suggestion with Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian himself, the local government was more than willing to pursue the project.
The first gamefishing tournament was held in April 2008, and was followed by another in 2009. A third one is on the way this year.
?I have much to thank the members of the filanglers.org forum,? Gatchalian told Inquirer. ?Now, we even have an expatriate crowd coming all the way to Valenzuela to fish. They have also done their share in promoting Valenzuela as a fishing spot.?
The growing popularity of Coloong and Tagalag as convenient fishing areas for both Filipino and foreign gamefishers has given local fisherfolk more than its share of the bonanza. Fishpond owners also earn from hosting anglers in their ponds, while waiting for their marine harvests.
?It is actually a win-win situation for both anglers and fishpond owners. We save on fuel while doing the sport we love, and they have another source of income before harvest time to take care of their everyday expenses,? said John Paul Suanico, another filangler.org forum member.
These days, fishponds in Coloong and Tagalag have acquired a mini-resort look, with pond owners adding improvements to accommodate fishing enthusiasts.
Sari-sari (variety) stores and barbecue stands have sprouted in the vicinity, to the delight of housewives who needed the supplemental income.
?When the anglers come, the local fisherfolk are able to sell their fishes to their guests. The gamefishers help small businesses thrive,? said Gatchalian.
Recreational fishing or gamefishing (or sportfishing) is simply fishing done as a sport or for fun, unlike those done for commerce.
Filangler.org members explained that fishermen who get their catch from the freshwaters off Valenzuela are paid by the kilo, the standard practice among local gamefishers.
Another attraction for anglers is that fish caught in Valenzuela is priced much lower than the catch from Cavite or Batangas.
?In Valenzuela, we pay for the catch per kilo at farmgate prices. The price is almost double in other areas, and they charge you by the number of fishing poles you use,? said Peńaranda.
Apart from giving livelihood opportunities to Valenzuela residents, gamefishers say that promoting fishing as a sport also helps educate local fisherfolk on the value of their waters and its marine produce.
For most local fishermen, fishes in the sea are meant to be caught for food for the home or for sale, regardless of the size and the kind.
Among gamefishers, the usual practice is to throw back small-sized fishes to the waters to allow them to grow and reproduce. Constant interaction between fisherfolk and anglers result in mini lessons about the dangers of over fishing.
?By seeing anglers in action, the fishermen realize slowly that by letting go now, they can expect a bigger catch in the future,? said filangler Jefflin Choi.
Gamefishing, said the group members, can be an environment-friendly sport if enough people know about this aspect of giving back and getting more in return.
Fishing enthusiasts?disciplined in their craft and respectful of the waters?always put marine conservation on the top of their agenda, they added.