You don’t have to remain poor if you have the initiative to help yourself Just like Mariano Bañez, a Bicolano from Tinambac, Camarines Sur. He was a poor 29-year-old in 1961 when he headed for Cavite to look for work. He ended up as a helper in a small company that crushed oyster shells for use as ingredient in poultry feeds. The crushed oyster shell is calcium that made eggshell thicker and stronger.
As a helper, he received a very meager salary. But he endured the poor pay. However, three years later, he came to realize that he could not improve his financial status if he remained just a helper in the oyster-grinding firm. He sought employment as a gatherer of mussel (tahong) and oyster also in Cavite where there are many seashell farmers.
His new boss was a benevolent one. After a few years as a loyal employee, his employer gave him a one-hectare area where he could raise his own oysters. And that was how he was introduced into the oyster and fish business.
When we interviewed him in late 1997, he was already a very rich but still very humble man. He had 70 fish cages where he raised thousands of grouper or Lapu-lapu that he sold at P400 per kilo at that time. Lapu-lapu was really the fish that made him a prosperous man.
He started raising lapu-lapu in 1982. Actually, he did not know anything about growing lapu-lapu in cages that time but he tried it anyway because there were so many lapu-lapu fingerlings caught in Cavite then. He built a cage and stocked it with 10,000 fingerlings. To his surprise, the fingerlings grew fast and since then he decided to make raising lapu-lapu an honest-to-goodness business.
Mang Nano (that’s how most people called him) raised his lapu-lapu from very small fingerlings. The tiny ones cost 50 centavos while the fingerlings two to five inches long cost P5 each. Suppliers from outside Cavite brought to him the fingerlings for his growout operations.
Mang Nano just fed his fish with what was considered trash fish – asubi and talilong. He had four assistants in operating his 70 cages and the workers went out to fish every day. They usually caught four basins (banyera) of trash fish a day which were enough to feed the thousands of lapu-lapu. The fish were fed only once a day. Once they had eaten, they just stayed unmoving at the bottom of the cage, according to Mang Nano.
Lau-lapu becomes marketable in just four months of culture. Mang Nano grew them to just 500 grams to one kilo each because that was what the market wanted. These were sold live to a trader who distributed them to Chinese restaurants in the City.