Killing goose that lays golden egg
Stalls selling lampirong or capiz shell (placuna placenta) cooked or raw now dot
the national road from Oton to Guimbal towns in southern Iloilo. You cannot find
the same scene in northern Iloilo.
The phenomenon started about two to three years ago. The current price is P20
per kilo of the ready-to-eat kind but you can haggle to the sort of a promo of 5
k + 1 k for P100, meaning your P100 would fetch six kilos instead of five.
The mother-of-pearl shell had disappeared in the ‘70s from massive extraction to
supply cottage industries fabricating and exporting lamps, chandeliers, plate
and cup holders, and other designs for interior decorations made from its shiny,
semi-transparent, pearlescent shells.
In the mid-90s, the South East Asian Fishery Research Development Center
(SEAFDEC), a consortium of Pacific Rim countries, experimented on reseeding
southern Iloilo from Oton down to Miag-ao, and succeeded. The juvenile lampirong
were spawned and hatched at the SEAFDEC laboratory at Tigbauan, Iloilo.
Through the years, the spawns spread and reached southern Negros Occidental
where they abound and are heavily concentrated now to form the so-called
“lampirong belt”. Your Beekeeper asked the stall owners where they got their
wares and they answered, from fishers who harvested them off Negros Occidental.
That means, there are only scattered colonies of lampirong off southern Iloilo
and no lampirong belt as off southern Negros Occidental.
From Oton, a traveller can finish a kilo of that before reaching the town of
Miag-ao, 40 kilometers south of Iloilo. One may throw the shells away but for
growers of poultry, the calcium-rich shells are better collected and pounded to
powder to mix with feeds to strengthen the bones of the birds or thicken the
I would term a freshly cooked lampirong, pardon my lack of imagination,
delicious. It’s different from any other shell. The meat is tender from just a
But we may not enjoy lampirong as it serves as magnet attracting hordes of
commercial harvesters that may consign it to extinction anew as it did in the
Columnist Edgar Cadagat, who is known for his advocacy for human and Mother
Earth’s rights bewails that the shoals off Hinigaran town, 60 kilometers from
Bacolod City, “is attracting hordes of seashell divers, pumpboat operators and
Hinigaran coast holds the biggest concentration of lampirong but with the trend
of harvesting and the local government preferring to turn a blind eye, lampirong
“will be gone faster than nature is able to produce.”
The biggest handicraft shop using lampirong shells is already gone now in
southern Iloilo. There may be no more of that but the danger facing Hinigaran
fishers may replicate off Oton and Tigbauan where lampirong was first re-seeded.
The town of Hinigaran alone daily attracts about 500 pumpboats with a crew
averaging four persons. Each boat collects the average one-half ton per daily
harvest using divers equipped with compressors that supply them with oxygen
through a hose wound around their waist and passing under their thighs.
Lampirong is a soft and convenient source, not only of income but also of
protein for fishers and their families of southern Negros Occidental and Iloilo.
The commercial extractors ship them fresh to Manila where they are sold at P50
per kilo. Shops turn them into decors to include lamps.
The disappearance of lampirong from uncontrolled harvesting means marginal
fisher folks losing their livelihood and cheap source of protein. It will also
hurt capitalists financing pumpboats and divers, and owners of handicraft shops
in Metro Manila, that in turn, would lead to shutdowns and unemployment.
Southern Iloilo towns, so far, have yet to enact laws designating certain areas
of their coasts “protected” for lampirong to spawn and multiply.
The more threatened ones though are the fishers of southern Negros Occidental,
the town of Hinigaran in particular. The abundance of lampirong may have turned
its officialdom blind to the dark scenario ahead. The local bigwigs might have a
direct hand or co-conspirators themselves as financiers in the bonanza that
consigns them them to the mass amnesia on the folktale of the stupid farmer who
killed the goose that laid the golden egg.
Their obsession for profits might have drugged them to hallucinate that what
unfolds right under their nose is inexhaustible cornucopia. They don’t see a
dying sea becoming the carcass of the goose that once laid the golden egg.