“Tener suerte y coger mucho pescado: masagal”. Diccionario Español-Ibatan
[por varios PP. Dominicos missioneros de las islas Batanes] (1914, p.395)
Ivatans would readily translate the word sagal as “suerte” (Spanish for ‘luck’) but
also add that it is specifically in relation to catching fish, so a “masagal” person is
‘someone who catches a lot of fish’. This essay’s aim is to explore experiences,
discourse, and practices linked to the notion of sagal, especially as shared among
those using traditional hook and line fishing methods. Sagal is a cultural notion
informed by specific experiences of direct engagement with the sea around Batanes.
The personal ‘ability to catch fish’—or having ‘luckiness in fishing’—contained in
the notion is not primarily about skill, experience, or technique but rather thought of
as a quality of being that is innate to certain people.
The Philippines is an archipelagic nation of more than 7,000 islands with marine resources under intense pressure from market-driven extraction, numerous maritime interests to protect, and pressing issues including pollution, overfishing and degradation of resources, ineffective regulation of coastal and marine resources, population growth, urbanization and poverty. Over 60 percent of the Philippines’ more than 100 million population live in coastal areas. From the perspective of demography alone, the significance of the fisheries sector for the Philippine population is considerable. Yet, ethnographic work written by Filipinos on coastal fishing communities in the Philippines is surprisingly sparse. In terms of published books and academic journals, there are more non-Filipino authors than local ones. Given the Philippines’ archipelagic character and reliance on aquatic resources, an important question looms: Why hasn’t the surrounding sea played a larger role in the rise of Philippine anthropology?
Documents reveal that, in recent times, some of the most prominent conflicts in fishing on Batan Island in Batanes in northern Philippines stem from interest in new ‘driftnet’ technology for catching flying fish. On closer investigation, these in essence consist of challenges to the fishing calendar that is traditionally enforced by collectivities of fishers belonging to particular ‘ports’ or vanua. A vanua denotes a particular landing spot, as well as a port-polity, which is a group of fishers that is organized, and has laws and a leader, that is assembled by means of ritual at the beginning of the summer fishing season. If one sees ‘vanua making’ as a ritual technology for collective success, what is really at issue in the conflicts between ‘traditional’ and new or ‘modern’ technologies are distinct common property regimes and opposed landscapes: a traditional notion of community and a cooperative framework for the commons, on the one hand, coming into conflict with a modern view of atomized fishers and an ‘open’ sea, on the other.
Some digital materials which are documentary of specific forms of social transgression comprise an apparent “market niche” for piracy. “Scandals” as unique commodities in the Philippines’s informal market for pirated disks are quite distinct from other digital entertainment, being originally candid/unstaged or “stolen”/taken without their subject’s knowledge and usually made to non-professional standards/equipment. Enterprisingly put on the market by pirate-entrepreneurs because of apparent consumer-audience interest in the content, such unique “reality” goods became conveniently available through networks of digital piracy outlets. In the context of consumption of pirated goods, the article reads “scandals” as expressive of everyday critique and resistance. The niche market for “scandals” functions as alternative media as these digital goods inherently evade government and (formal) corporate control as sources of news and entertainment. Indicators of the significance of “scandal” in the informal economy and the meaningful convergence between its piracy and consumer-audience demand are examined ethnographically: their translation into commodities through packaging, the range of sites for consumers to access “scandals,” pirate-entrepreneurs’ sales strategies and standards, and how the market behavior of these “scandals” apparently responded to the unfolding of the social scandals in real time as current events—events that themselves were influenced by the popular circulation and piracy of these commodities. Three cases that took place between 2005–2009—“Hello Garci,” the “Kat/Kho sex scandals,” and the “Maguindanao massacre” DVD—serve as diverse examples, each with their own issues of authenticity, morality, and social effects consequent to piracy and consumption.
With the observation that a potential for accidents is invented simultaneously with the coming to being of any new technology, it may be considered that scandals are an integral risk of ICT and of the sudden shift in speed and scale of communication and use of information introduced by these technologies. This chapter focuses on how Filipinos more than any other people in the world seem to be particularly interested in 'scandal' and at the forefront of exploring the potential of this facet of cybertechnologies. This is a phenomenon that is readily apparent when one looks up the statistics on GoogleTrends over the last five years or so for the single search term 'scandal'. The term 'scandal' in fact has come to have a new meaning for Pinoys, who are astute to its value and potential 'social life' both as a digital object and as a picture or story that is animated by resonance with other images and social narratives. This chapter explores ethnographically the apparent social fascination of Pinoys with 'scandal' as a creative product, and a digital object/commodity, gendered dimensions of 'scandal'making, and 'scandal'mongering as an emergent process of shaping values and opinions and of acting through cybertechnologies. The material discusses the production of 'scandal' as an inherent potential of the interactive new media, and how (paired with 'piracy' in a Third World setting), the movement of digitized 'scandals' from the participation, both playful and serious, in Filipino pop-cyberculture may impact on society.
Economics is said to be the ‘science of choice’, stereotypically focused on the area of activity/behavior that emerges from interactions between entities offering things up for sale and the consumers choosing among the available options. The economistic assumption is that such choices are to be based on ‘self-interest’ or the search for the most profitable exchange. Starting from this, this paper explores the ‘market’ for Anthropology as seen in the results of a 2004 survey by UP Mindanao, and in decision trees modeling the rationality in selecting their degree courses made by UP Diliman students who were taking up Economic Anthropology. (Both projects also conducted by students as pedagogical/educational exercises in social science and anthropology.)
The Ivatan notion of a vanua (port) has linguistic connections to thewider Austronesian world. This article explores the term vanua in the verb form Mayvanuvanua or “making a port,” which refers to a sacrificial rite performed at the beginning of the summer fishing season by mataw fishers in Batanes. “Making the vanua” reproduces port polities of fishers competing to attract and successfully capture the fish dorado for a limited (seasonal) period of time. The article outlines the rite’s symbolic elements and shows ethnographically the resulting collective as an organized group of fishers under a system of government, and moreover one which also relates to two other kinds of social groups in Batanes life: cooperative work groups (payuhwan) as well as groups of persons that drink together.
This paper explores the shared experience of poverty and life in the margins in fishing and copra-producing communities on the eastern side of Samal Island, Davao Gulf. Incorporating data from fieldwork experiences in 1996-97 and records of four fish compradors over 22 months, the paper describes the computation of income, prices and family budgets, and fisher generosity and community appropriation of fish on the shore to sketch the outlines of the moral economy. Analyzing the logic of demand-sharing and inter-dependency between domestic units, the paper follows the "social life" of fish that are important as food and are at the same time good as cash. This metaphor of fish being money is illuminated by a discussion of the credit relations with the compradors that also own sari-sari stores. Fish compradors also enable access to the market which is ruled by the system of "suki" or preferential exchange relationships. And as converters of value they mediate between community and the market, creating the boundaries between relations appropriate to each context.
The paper explores the meaning a a 'share' and 'sharing-out' as concepts (relatively underdiscussed in economic anthropology), and as themes particularly salient and central to Ivatan social life and economy. What are shares? The evolution of the mataw shares system in Mahatao exposes changing and conflicting principles for contemporary shares distribution. As practiced by matawfishers in Batanes today, formal sharepartners, close associates, and persons sent by chance all have a place in the economy of arayu, the matawfisher's product, which moves in spheres of exchange and sharing in which money does not have a similar value. The value of arayu (dried fillets of dorado) lies both in creating community and in participating in the market. The paper explores the cultural logic of arayu production and circulation and extracts a model of 'shares' where relations of hunting and gathering 'procurement' and of capitalist 'production' are linked.
In the frontier zone of Southeastern Mindanao, the general sociological observation that social reality stands “in immediate relation to the distribution of power” proves to be a much more complex and dynamic state of being. This paper outlines several recurrent conversations about a particular island location in Southern Philippines. The sizeable island of Samal in the Davao Gulf is at its closest point only 15 minutes away from Davao City. It became the “Island Garden City of Samal” in 1998, but before that surprisingly few people in Davao City were even aware that there was an island called “Samal” nearby. Traveling around the island and conducting fieldwork in 1996-1997 I encountered many kinds of people and several recurrent conversations about Samal as a place. These local discourses tell of interregional migration and movement, and reflect active local engagement with the processes of “Bisayanization” and integration within the national mainstream, globalization, capitalism, and modernization in the Davao region. The paper situates each of the different kinds of claims on the landscape within the existing ethnographic, demographic, and historical picture for the region, and ends up describing a setting that is actually many different kinds of reality at the same time. Six narratives of the landscape are discussed: Samal Island as valuable real estate; as mythic place of “giants” and “ancestral domain”; as out-of-the-way and risky, where a visitor should watch out for “poisoning”; as recently settled frontier; as a promised and prophesied land; and, finally, as a landscape also inhabited by unseen beings that are “not like us,” widely feared to be exacting taxes in human life as large scale government and multinational-led infrastructural development proceeded in 1997. The paper examines each of these in turn, as they describe and address larger issues of identity, land and power.
This paper highlights two different fishers’ knowledge systems in the Philippines. These fishers’ knowledge systems underlie distinct strategies for sustaining a continued livelihood from the sea. They encompass paradigms for success in fishing and are oriented to contend with change and uncertainty. They incorporate ideas about closing or opening resources and sharing or exchanging opportunities with outsiders. What fishers seek to manage are the conditions of making a living, which include moral concerns of equity in relation to scarce opportunities. Not all resources are well known
and some are highly enigmatic. Fishers’ relations with resources are linked to the current
economic and social values of fish within both market and community economies.