“To be lucky and to catch a lot of fish”: masagal in Batanes


Mangahas MF. “To be lucky and to catch a lot of fish”: masagal in Batanes. National Museum Journal of Cultural Heritage. Submitted.


“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.