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CEBU, April 22, 2024 – The waves could already be heard as the BFAR SAAD National Program Management Support Office (NPSMO) Team neared the shore. Riding in a small multicab, they were tasked to visit a growing Fisherfolk Association in one of the coastal areas of San Francisco, a municipality in Camotes Island, Cebu Province. The team was greeted by a group of fisherfolk clad in their pink association shirts. A thunderous announcement of their arrival clashed with the sound of cheer and children running and playing. After warm handshakes, the activity proceeded.
They were there to monitor and evaluate the livelihood projects provided by the program and were pleasantly surprised to see many women in attendance, some accompanied by their husbands and even their kids. The Nonoc Farmers and Fishermen Association previously received two (2) units of fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) boats and several fishing gears for their capture fishing.

Tomasa Maurillo greeted the team with utmost hospitality. At that moment, she recounted how she, a woman, came to lead as president of the fisherfolk association. Leading wasn’t easy for her she reveals; when she assumed the role, a handful of members opted to step away, skeptical of entrusting leadership to a woman. Adding to the challenge, she lacked formal education, which made their doubts even stronger. However, these reasons did not discourage her; rather, they enriched the drive she had to continue leading the association because those who remained continued to believe. She recognized that women were just as capable as men, particularly in fishing. Therefore, she took the initiative to ensure they had equal access to resources, especially those provided by the program. She makes sure everyone is heard whenever they have meetings. She also ensures that, as busy as she gets, she would not take for granted her time with family. Leading is both her responsibility and her passion. She expressed, “Gaan sa pamati og dakong garbo para sa akong kaugalingon (It makes my heart warm… [it] makes me proud of myself.)”

It is with their cooperation, understanding, and ability to listen to everyone that the association continues to this day. Currently, the boats they have received were already registered and operational. They are also planning to conduct a workshop on postharvest to benefit everyone, especially women like her, who continue to break boundaries in the fisheries industry.