Parasarap Sinarapan

So much have been written and published about the Sinarapan (Mistichthys luzonensis).


Not much attention though have been given to the brawny Boie’nen fishermen of sinarapan – not world renowned for their world-unique skills nor their commendable character.


Nevertheless the unsung heroes behind sinarapan fame! World-class and unique all at once!


The PARASARAP as he is known in the Boie’nen language as I learned in my younger days was a brawny man with sinewy arms and sun-weathered skin with tight-fitting locally-hand-weaved buri-straw hat or the wide cone-shaped sayap.


The Parasarap is the only fisherman who single-handedly harvests thousands of fish in his small dugout boat that is not more than 10 feet long.  His main implement, the Sarap is a fusion of the hand-operated dip and scoop fishnets. What is unique about the sarap is that it could easily pass as the only one-man operated fishnet of its kind worldwide.


The net of the sarap is a square purao mesh measuring 12 feet perhaps at each side and made out of closely woven abaca fibers the bottom side of which is sewn-close together to make a pocket. All the material used for its making are locally available and produced.


The pocket’s free right and left edges of the purao are each lashed strategically along the length of bamboo poles with both poles in turn lashed firmly together by their base or larger ends that is just big enough to a man’s grip where the purao pocket is. At this intersecting part of the poles are planted wooden pegs on each pole to firmly secure its joint and serve also as a lever to help in the sarap’s manual manipulation by the lone Parasarap. The tapered ends of the bamboo poles are spread apart to open the fishnet scoop in an 11:05 o’clock clock-hand position.


The Parasarap goes fishing with the neatly rolled sarap, a sagwan/paddle, bakol/bamboo basket, rankapan/boat seat, abab/coconut-shell-bottom half (for bilging water from the boat) and of course his dugout boat or banka’.  With these, the Parasarap casts off to the pristine blue water of the Lawe’d/Lake Buhi to catch sinarapan.


In the olden days, he would have his own farm of abe’ng or vertical-fish hide that attracts the sinarapan to roost and congregate in and around each one of these.  Thus making it easy to scoop the large school of sinarapan from around it. He would have many of this abe’ng spread selectively along his sinarapan fishing site.


An abe’ng is made up of one-full length of bamboo pole the butt of which is sharpened and securely planted in the lake bottom with the tapered-end sticking out of the water. It’s top portion’s branches and leaves are left intact with a couple of whole coconut fronds measuring perhaps 10-feet long are tied around it and just a foot perhaps of the frond’s tip and bamboo leaves sticking out of the water surface to make it easy to locate.


At his fishing site the Parasarap unfurls his sarap readying it to scoop sinarapan by the hundreds with each dip of this world-unique fishing tool – the sarap.  The operation is very tricky; he dips his sarap from one side of his banca’ which is a lot easier the first time around when the sarap is still a lot lighter still dry.


He very carefully dips the sarap in the water so as not to scare away the school of sinarapan.  The tricky part though is raising the sarap to scoop up sinarapan!  I have seen a Parasarap bent over the side of his banca’ with both arms underwater, his rear end higher than his head while extending fully his sarap in the water and occasionally alternating one hand to operate his sagwan very quietly to better position his banca’ for catching sinarapan.


Once the whole sarap is out of the water he makes sure that all of the caught sinarapan gather together at the bottom of the sarap’s pocket. Once this is done he gathers the pocket from the outside and positions its inner opening above the bakol’s waiting mouth to deposit in it his sinarapan harvest.  With his sinarapan catch secure in the pocket he lets his sarap fall gently on the water surface where it floats buoyed by its bamboo arms so he could collect and transfer his precious sinarapan catch in the bakol.  He dislodges whatever sinarapan still sticks in the sarap pocket by splashing water on the other side of the net to dislodge each and every single sinarapan into the waiting bakol.


The still wriggling almost silvery translucent sinarapan settles evenly inside the bakol as water drains from them slowly.  As this happens he has to pick out undesirable small-fish species and debris with the sinarapan and remove these from the bakol of gathered sinarapan.


The Parasarap makes sure though to leave behind with the sinarapan catch the hardy irin-irin that remains alive longer than sinarapan: irin-irin are the living proof of the freshness of his catch when his wife peddles it around town with these irin-irin still wriggling on top of the cake of sinarapan. Some Parasarap would even go to the extent of keeping these irin-irin in a water container to keep them vibrant longer.


The Parasarap repeats this process many times until he has made enough catch in his bakol. As in every ‘fishing expedition’ as the saying goes, his sarap could come out empty.  Strength, patience and perseverance are the best allies of a Parasarap especially on lean-fishing days. These too I believe are the defining traits of his character.