Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mending nets, sewing (sowing) relationships

Today's interviews were at the Cala-anan resettlement site. It's one of the largest resettlement sites in CDO, and is home to former residents from many different barangays. When I tell people that I'm studying the different places where the survivors of Typhoon Sendong went, and what they have done for their livelihoods, a typical response is "have you been to Cala-anan?"
Relocation housing in Cala-anan
From the city's main market, it's a 40 minute (15P) jeepney ride. My translator, Ada and I rode a jeepney that was nearly empty when it left the terminal. This is highly unusual; most drivers will wait until the jeep is full or nearly full before departing. We stop frequently, picking up passengers. We pass the giant landfill site (site of tomorrow's interviews), the turnoff to a transitional housing area and another relocation site.

Along one of the side streets, in the doorway of her row house, sits an older woman. She is mending a net. Instead of thread she uses fine wire, carefully stitching the mesh to a round metal frame. The net is pink. Attached to the frame is a long, thin metal handle. It looks sturdy, yet light.

When we reach the part of the interview about livelihoods, and changes she has experienced in her livelihoods before and after Sendong, I ask her about the net. Her former barangay is next to the sea; I am anticipating to learn that she used to mend fishing nets (likely for a fisherman husband or son), and continues to do so in her new home. That the person using the net doesn't fish as frequently as before, because of the distance and added expense of commuting from such a distance.

I'm wrong.

The net is unrelated to her livelihood. Her apo (grandchildren) like to fish in the creek on the other side of the road. Their enthusiasm for fishing (the act of fishing, not necessarily catching anything) means there are many nets to repair. It makes her happy to make her apo happy.

When I look at the net again, it looks familiar. Not one of the store-bought butterfly nets you see in nature stores. No, it more closely resembles the handmade nets my Grandpa made for his grandchildren. The nets that my cousins and I used to catch minnows and crayfish in Lake Superior, and the chipmunks and squirrels that ventured onto one of bird (squirrel) feeders at camp. The nets that gave us endless hours of planning, practicing, failing and finally catching creatures. The nets that, more importantly, encouraged us to play and run around together for hours and hours and hours. The nets that Grandpa would repair again and again (the squirrels had a tendency to chew through the nets in their quest for freedom).

When I watch the woman mend the fish net with this insight, I see her sewing with something other than potential income or food as her motivation. It's something that money cannot buy. In mending this net, she is sowing relationships - among her apo, and between her and her apo.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Christine!! Well written. It brought back lots of memories of camp. I'm glad the all apo had the opportunity to have this relationship. Thanks for all your blogs...enjoyed them. Enjoy the rest of your stay and have a safe trip home. Love, Aunt Jenny