SHE for the Sea

At 54, Lilibeth is just one among many empowered Filipinas today. She juggles taking care of her family and managing the household on one hand, and supporting her fisher husband’s livelihood on the other. And there’s more to this hardworking woman than meets the eye.

Lilibeth is a beneficiary of a partnership between BFAR-USAID Fish Right Program and Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF) which supports fisherfolk communities in Negros Occidental.

At some point in her unmarried years, she worked away from home and left her family behind – not because she wanted to but because she needed to. 

“I only finished high school because we didn’t have enough money. Life was so difficult that I needed to work in Hong Kong and Singapore for eight years,” said Lilibeth. Now that she is a wife and a mother of two, Lilibeth still puts her family’s needs before herself.

She shares, “[As a mother], as long as we can, we will do our best to support our children, to have them finish school, and to give them a brighter future.”

Lilibeth shares how proud she is of her kids and how they willingly help their family. 

Their eldest, Mark, helps with the harvesting of crabs. “We each have our respective roles. My eldest son and I are responsible for preparing the bait, while my husband takes care of setting up the “panggal” or crab traps,” she said. And while they are out harvesting crabs or catching fish, their youngest is in charge of household chores.

Lilibeth is proud that her children are mature enough to take on these responsibilities even when they don’t need to and are not asked to. She admits, however, that their earnings sometimes fall short. This is also one of the reasons why, six years ago, she joined Project Dungganon of the Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF).

“I started with a loan of just 5,000 pesos as additional capital for our business,” she recalled. 

Lilibeth remains a member of Dungganon and is thankful for the NWTF’s support. Now and then, she borrows money to buy new equipment for fishing or to repair their old boat to help improve their livelihood. Someday, she hopes to start selling rice or gasoline, both common necessities in their community.

She is already looking to the day when her children will carry on their business and livelihood. “We taught them the business even when they were still young because that is how it was for us,” she explained. “This is how we earn to make ends meet. Our children need to learn what we do and how we do it, so someday, they can run the business and fend for themselves.”

But that is not the only thing Lilibeth has taught her children. She and her husband have set an example of how to fish and harvest crabs responsibly.

As someone who has lived by the sea most of her life, Lilibeth’s appreciation of marine resources is manifested in how she and her family are making efforts to protect the marine environment.

“We join groups and organizations in mangrove planting and coastal cleanup activities in our community,” Lilibeth shared. Indeed, taking care of the sea is a family affair: Her husband is a Bantay Dagat volunteer, and their children help with mangrove planting, along with other kids in the community.

Lilibeth believes it is important to plant more “mangroves because it serves as a home for the fish and crabs.” In addition, she has made it a practice to return bukakahan (berried female crabs) to the sea “so they can reproduce and there will be more crabs to catch in the future,” she said, echoing a key message of the USAID Fish Right Program’s blue swimming crab awareness campaign among fisherfolk communities on Negros island, including the community where she and her family live in Manapla, Negros Occidental.

Dungganon Client Lilibeth with Lizel, a member of our NWTF family during one of the scheduled visits to the community.

The NWTF complements Fish Right’s campaign with its business and livelihood training, which aims to provide an alternative source of income to women and families in fishing communities and thus help reduce pressure on fish stocks, allowing them to reproduce and recover.

Lilibeth is thankful for the privilege of participating in NWTF and Fish Right seminars, trainings, and awareness campaigns, and the opportunities that come along with it to create new business while also learning new ways to protect the vital marine resources on which her family and community depend.

As we celebrate the International Women’s Month this March, let us honor strong and inspiring women like Lilibeth, women who not only nurture their family but nurture Mother Earth as well by caring for our oceans.


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