by Manila Standard

Atimonan, Quezon—Among the usual “ayuda” given to Filipinos during the quarantine is canned sardines.

 

Pickled with love. Locals pitch in to produce the bottled Spanish sardines.

 

Why sardines? Why not? It is nutritious, affordable and convenient. Sardines are always the go-to food of when disasters hit.

A community in Atimonan, Quezon is leading the way in showing what can be done with locally sourced fishes, especially “tamban,” (herring), which is the primary raw material for sardines production, to sustain an alternative livelihood for families of small fisherfolk amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

This was made possible through the Kaisa sa Kasanayan at Kabuhayan program of Atimonan One Energy, Inc. (A1E), which involves livelihood projects —mostly revolving around fishing, farming and service needs–that now boost family incomes for Atimonan residents.

Transforming the “poor man’s dish”

The local production of sardines is led by the Atimonan Coastal Food Production Association (ACFPA), which was established in 2018 by 27 members, most of whom were wives of fish vendors. Since then, ACFA has been able to transform this “poor man’s dish” into a gourmet item and provide a source of income to the small fisherfolk, especially during the off-seasons.

Named Aplaya (which means seashore), locally caught “tamban” are hand-processed, and packaged in premium corn oil, with no preservatives.  They are sold not only in Atimonan, but have now reached markets, as far as Metro Manila and Subic.

Sustainability is key

“Thanks to A1E for helping us introduce our Spanish sardines, among others, to markets outside Atimonan,” said ACFPA president Maritess Atienza.

The ACFPA sardine factory was set up in Barangay Zone 4 along the Atimonan coast, due to its proximity to the sea where the fish used for the sardines — are abundant.

Atimonan Mayor Rustico Joven Mendoza pledged full support for the business, and committed to accommodate ACFPA in a proposed community fish landing center in Poblacion, Atimonan.

“As the sardines production project help augment our income and prepare us for new normal, we intend to manage the project well and make it sustainable,” vowed ACFPA’s Atienza.

“The fish is from Atimonan and is processed in Atimonan by Atimonanins,” she proudly declared.

Closing the gap in living standards

A fast-growing town known for its beautiful beaches, the agro-industrial development of Atimonan is part of the LGU’s socio-economic development program that it hopes will contribute in increasing the local residents’ income, create more jobs and strengthen markets in both sectors. It will also further close the gap in living standards with the more industrialized urban areas.

Among the key industrial infrastructure projects to rise soon in Atimonan is a 1,200-megawatt high-efficiency low emission (HELE) coal power plant which is being built by A1E, a subsidiary of Meralco Powergen (MGen).

“Whatever we do, we do in partnership with other NGOs, with the local government unit, with the barangay officials so they have a say and a stake in whatever development plans we have,” MGen vice-president and head of external affairs Litz M. Manuel-Santana said.

Atimonan’s best. Spanish-style sardines in corn oil produced by the Atimonan Coastal Food Production Association (ACFPA).

 

She added that MGen is aggressively helping to market the sardines to make the project more sustainable.

Given the quality of Atimonan’s gourmet sardines, this will not be a problem as Filipinos continue to enjoy this delicacy, often paired with hot rice or its usual sautéed version sometimes mixed with egg.