From Sea to Table: An Interview with El Nido Resorts’ Local Fish Suppliers

The following blog post is the final in a month-long series about our fishing partners in El Nido. You can read the previous blog post here. 

I take pride in helping my fellow fishermen from whom I source the fish supply since I buy at a higher price compared to the market price.

Kuyo Lando, local fish supplier of El Nido Resorts

The restaurants at El Nido Resorts’ Islands–Pangulasian, Lagen, Miniloc and Apulit—may offer different fish-based meals, but they all have one thing in common: the fresh catch on display at the buffets and used as ingredients in the entrées are sourced sustainably from local fish suppliers. In El Nido, our three main local suppliers—Kuya Lando, Kuya Edgardo, and Ate Sherly—have all reliably partnered with El Nido Resorts for between two to nine years and have benefited from the above-market price paid by the resorts for fish. 

To dive deeper into their lives and challenges as fish suppliers, we asked Kuya Lando, Kuya Edgardo, and Ate Sherly several questions. The following is a translated and condensed version of our interview. 

How did you learn to fish?  

Kuya Edgardo: I learned from my older brother and have passed that knowledge down to my kids. When they turn five, I start taking them on fishing trips with me. 

Ate Sherly: My husband learned it from his uncle when we moved here to El Nido. At the ages of 9 or 10, my sons were taught how to fish by my husband. 

What are your fishing methods? 

We all use net fishing and sometimes do bottom-line fishing. 

What species do you catch? 

Kuya Lando: Beltfish, short mackerel, yellow stripe scad, mackerel tuna. 

KE: Threadfin Bream, Ponyfish, beltfish, blackfin scad 

AS: Threadfin Bream and assorted fish 

Where do you fish? 

KL: Mostly around Lagen Island 

KE: Around Pangulasian Island 

AS: My husband usually fishes near Pangulasian. 

Where and to whom do you sell your fish? 

KL: I sell to Pangulasian and Lagen Island Resorts as well as to my neighbors and in the barangay market.  

KE: I supply to Miniloc and Lagen Island Resorts and my neighborhood. 

AS: Both Miniloc and Pangulasian Resorts. If I have no orders from them, I go to the El Nido town market. 

Ate Sherly and her husband pose near their boat after dropping off an order of fish. 

What does a typical day look like for you? 

KL: I usually fish from 4 AM till 8 AM and might fish again from 5 PM to 8 PM. I fish every day, even with bad weather. If I have any orders from the Resort and what I caught wasn’t enough, I buy from other fishermen to fulfill the order. I just got back fishing for the day and managed to sell Php 300 (USD 6.16) worth of fish.  

KE: I usually head out at dawn to fish, then return at 7:00 or 7:30 AM. Afterwards, I sell my catch and fix my net. The next day, I repeat. When I deliver to the Resorts, I occasionally supplement my own supply with shellfish from the wet market.

AS: My husband and sons fish from 4:30 AM to 7:30 AM. Afterwards, they tend to their nets and repair any damage. I then sell the catch to my trusted vendor in the market or to the Resorts. 

What is your favorite fish-based meal?  

KE: “Paksiw,” a fish-based meal that is common here in El Nido. I prepare it with just vinegar and a little bit of oil. 
AS: Fried fish. 

Paksiw, Kuya Edgardo’s favorite seafood dish. 

What are the biggest challenges that you face as fishermen? 

KL: As a fisherman, my biggest challenge is the decrease in catch. As a supplier, it is waiting on the next order so that I can deliver.  Before the pandemic, the resort used to take any excess fish I had, but now the orders need to be followed more strictly. 

AS: Low catches can be very difficult to deal with, especially on weeks where my husband catches no fish at all. Sometimes we get lucky and have 20 kilos, but it can be very random which forces us to be thrifty. 

How has COVID-19 impacted your day-to-day operations? 

KE: The sea is quieter now that there are only fishermen and no tourists boats around. However, since a lot of people have shifted back to fishing, there is fierce competition for fish now. One fisherman before became ten. It was very hard at first, especially with the lockdown and other COVID-19 restrictions. Three meals per day was hard to achieve to before, and it’s come to the point that even two meal per day is a challenge. 

AS: Fish prices dropped, but fuel and rice prices stayed the same which made it hard to be profitable, but we had to bear with it. 

Kuya Lando unloads a fresh catch from his boat.

How have you benefited from partnering with El Nido Resorts? 

KL: During the pandemic they sent me a care package! 

KE: With the higher price the resort pays for fish, I am able to send my son to school. 

AS: I am grateful because I used the money from the resort to fix my house. 

What is the future of fishing for your community? 

KL: In the long run, fishing will become harder because catches are decreasing. 

KE and AS: As fishermen, we wait for the hard times to pass. We are fishermen so we will always fish no matter what the future may hold. 

What would you like to say to readers or potential guests? 

KL: I take pride in helping my fellow fishermen from whom I source the fish supply since I buy at a higher price compared to the market price.  

KE: That I am very “tolerant” with times. I trust in my prayers and believe that I can get by without complaining about the harsh life, one that I am used to. 

AS: I just want a simple life. I always want to help other people, but it’s difficult when I have nothing now because I have nothing to give. 

Izzy George is a rising junior at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs. Originally from North Carolina, USA, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and backpacking in her free time. In the future, she hopes to unlock the synergies between sustainable resource management and economic development to address challenges surrounding food security, gender equity, and climate change.

Carsten Schoer is an International Business and Finance major at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. On campus, he is part of Zeeba Investment Fund and the Compass Fellowship among other organizations. With a passion for social impact, DEI, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability, Carsten strives to improve any environment he finds himself in.

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