Keeping the 'dagyaw' spirit alive among Pinoy fisherfolks

by May Anne Ramos, UN Online Volunteer

September 7, 2021

Members of the MAPBAHIELA showing off the certification of their biodiversity-friendly enterprise from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The fisherfolk association in Narra are also co-managing the marine protected areas in Lolo Bay, east coast of Palawan. Photo: DENR-SMARTSeas PH

Dagyaw is the Bisaya/Hiligaynon term for bayanihan, the Filipino tradition of working together to achieve a shared goal. Through the technical assistance provided by the DENR-SMARTSeas PH project to the people’s organizations it supports, the culture of dagyaw continues to flourish and be passed on to the younger generation.  

For the fisherfolk associations in Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) in Negros and Cebu as well as in southern Palawan, dagyaw has helped them in achieving milestones for their respective biodiversity-friendly enterprises (BDFE).

Ang dagyaw ay nagpapakita ng pagmamahal sa kapwa ng walang kabayaran (Dagyaw exhibits love for others with no expectations of anything in return),” shared United Fishermen’s Association of Capiñahan (UFAC) President Leonito Torres, adding that practicing dagyaw helped his organization construct their BDFE center using high-quality building materials. The budget that was supposedly for labor in construction was used in purchasing construction materials, while the members took turns in volunteering for building and construction.  This hands-on treatment helped in ensuring the sturdiness and strength of their BDFE center.

Members of the United Fishermen’s Association of Capiñahan volunteered their time and effort to build the biodiversity-friendly enterprise center. Photo: DENR

All the members of UFAC understand the concept and benefits of dagyaw, said Leonito, thus, he did not have to convince them to participate in association activities that do not entail payment. “Kusa na silang tumutulong. Hindi na kailangan pang hikayatin pa. Alam na nila ang kahalagahan at magandang naidudulot ng dagyaw sa aming samahan (I don’t have to encourage them because they volunteer to help. They already know the importance and benefits of dagyaw in our group).”

This is also the case with the members of Barangay Bolisong Fisherfolks Association (BBFA). The floating cottage of their enterprise was built through dagyaw. Loriza Caredo, BBFA secretary, explained that some of the members offered their services for the construction for free, promoting the sense of ownership.

Ang dagyaw ang pinaka-puso ng aming asosasyon,” Loriza said. “Bawat member kailangan mag-volunteer para maramdaman nila na ‘yung mga gamit sa asosasyon ay sa kanila rin ‘yon.  Para maramdaman nila na ksama sila sa grupo (Dagyaw is at the heart of our association. Each member must volunteer to realize a sense of ownership in what the organization is doing. They need to feel that they are part of the group).”

Those who could not help in labor-intensive tasks, like the women and their children, volunteered in preparing food for the members and keeping the working area clean. Loriza also explained that dagyaw is practiced through maintaining the cleanliness of their enterprise site and pooling funds for other materials needed in their business, like trash cans. Members never complained about doing free work for the association, as dagyaw or doing volunteer work was discussed and agreed upon from the beginning of the enterprise’s operation.

Dagyaw, meanwhile, is also a form of bonding for the members of Cabulutan Fisherfolk Association (CFA). It fosters camaraderie because it allows the members to work together and offer their time, skills, and resources without asking for anything in return.

The MAPBAHIELA used their Low Value Grant to continue and grow their mangrove crab culture and fattening enterprise, which primarily relies on a healthy mangrove ecosystem. Photo: DENR-SMARTSeas PH

According to Erlinda Abella, CFA Secretary, everyone can participate in dagyaw activities such as their regular coastal clean-up. She shared that small acts of kindness—like something as simple as putting back the marker boards when washed out by the waters in the marine sanctuary—go a long way in maintaining the protected area. And for those who cannot go out and do these tasks, giving “isang takal ng bigas” to contribute to the food for the volunteers is already a huge help.

Kapag naipon namin yung mga bigas, niluluto namin at napapakain namin lahat ng volunteers (After collecting rice, we cook it and feed the volunteers),” said Erlinda.

For the members of the Malatgao Aplaya Bagong Lipunan Highway El Salvador Association (MAPBAHIELA), dagyaw is something that they want to pass on to their children. Dagyaw is not only for the improvement and sustainability of their livelihood, but also a legacy they want to be remembered for.

Kasama namin yung mga anak namin tuwing nagtatanim ng mangroves o sa coastal clean-up. Naging regular na gawain na namin ‘yon. Parang bonding na rin namin bilang isang pamilya kasi gusto naming matutunan ng mga anak namin ang kahalagahan ng dagyaw (We always take our children when we plant mangroves or do coastal clean-up. It has become our regular activity and bonding as a family because we want the kids to know the value of dagyaw),” said MAPBAHIELA’s president Rollie Golez, who saw the gradual deforestation of mangroves in their community when he was still young.

Planting mangroves in their community and taking care of their environment through dagyaw have also become a way to introduce various animals to their children and develop their love for nature.

Gusto namin na makita at makilala ng mga bata ‘yung mga iba’t-ibang hayop at matutong pangalagaan ang kalikasan. Para talaga sa susunod na henerasyon ang mga ginagawa namin (We want the children to see and know various animals and learn how to care for nature. We are doing these for them),” Rollie shared.