“Happiness to me means that one of my daughters can go to school and graduate from University”
Romeo Laureta is 45 years old and since he was a child he has known that without studies the only option is doing hard jobs like his. Romeo is a fisherman, this is what his father taught him when he was little and the only thing he knows how to do.
When he was a kid he dreamt about leaving Philippines to work in other countries, but destiny forced him to work very hard since an early age and to quit his studies. His father died at age 39 and 14 years old Romeo had to start fishing to feed his family
“I scarified myself for my youngest sister because she had to eat”
Romeo would have liked to go to school, so he has instilled into his kids that they have to study to get a better future. His daughter Lyra is 15 years old and due to her dad’s ideas it is no wonder that when she grows up she wants to be a business woman and live in the United States.
His daughter has great wishes, but she knows that these are difficult to accomplish with the scarce resources the family has got to help her make them possible. Romeo was raised in the Batáan province, in the Philippine island of Luzón. When he was 22 years old he traveled on holidays to Palawan Island to visit his sister and stayed in this island cause of love. He met his wife Josieymel at a beach party, he felt in love so madly that he decided not to go back home and leave the job he had in his town at a maintenance company.
The couple has had five children and all resemble their mother. They wanted a male child to help them make a living the day they get older, but now that they’ve managed to have a baby boy, Josieymel is pregnant again and they are impatient to know the sex of their sixth child.
The family lives in Cabigsing, at the barangay Buena Suerte, where fishermen live with their families in small bamboo houses near the muddy waters beach. His home is very modest, without any electro domestics and it only has got an aged plastic table. All the family sleeps on the wooden floor on the second floor.
In the area there are permanent electric power blackouts and they don´t have water supply, so they have to go to the well everyday with plastic cylinders and a wheelbarrow. Romeo started to work from scratch in the island, without a net or money to buy a boat and counting only on the lessons he had from his dad when he was a kid. He didn´t have a single dime to invest, but he has always been a fighter.
For five years he fished with a fishing rod since morning till night to get money and he sailed in other fishermen’s boat till he was able to buy one of his own. His fishing boat is called “Lyramae” like his two oldest daughters, but he can´t afford to buy the paint to write the name on it. He built his fishing boat with the aid of his mum’s second husband and it took three months to have it ready before it could be used to fish. His fishing boat is shaped like a white and green piranha, it has a white tarpaulin rolled up for sunny or stormy days and bamboo bars on each side to protect him from the waves. His wish is to have a bigger boat so he can give tours to tourists around El Nido islands and earn more money this way. But to achieve this he has to double his hard working hours.
Romeo feels lonely when he is in deep sea; he goes out into the sea at night so that fish won´t see the net. Every day he takes out his boat at four in the morning when it is still dark and goes back to fish at four in the afternoon before the sunset. He fishes far away from the beach and if his engine breaks down, he knows he won´t get back home.
“One time the engine broke down and I had to row from seven in the morning till one in the afternoon. When there are a lot of waves I’m afraid of my boat capsizing”
When he returns to the beach he arranges his net of one thousand five hundred meters; it is large and folding it requires more than one hour every time he sails out to fish. His only helper is his wife, Josieymel, when she is not busy with housework.
This autumn has been very bad in the area in terms of fishing and Romeo, as other fishermen, has returned home many times with nothing else but some fish to feed his family.
“Many times I am very sad when I come back home and I have nothing to give to my family”
Besides, Romeo is fully aware of the fact that he is getting older and he won´t be able to do this job for many more years, “the toughest part is pulling out the net from the sea, I am sweating and it gets very hard. Every time I go fishing I have to do it twice a day”, except when weather conditions are bad and he can´t go out to fish, but then he feels very bad because he can´t get any income. Tropical climate plus the location of his barangay make it an earthquake and typhoon prone place.
“Sometimes at home we eat fish because we can´t afford to buy meat, there are times when we can only eat what I fish”
The happiest moment of his day is when he gets back home and he has fish to provide to his family. Romeo fights everyday to provide a better future and conditions than the ones he had when he was a child and he had to become the family head to feed his younger sisters and brothers.
“I am happy, I am full of dreams, I want my wishes to become true so my children can finish their studies”
Acknowledgements: Nieves Rosento, Efren Faustino and Mark de Castro.