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Kalampay getting scarce and costly


broiled kalampay

“Kalampay” for sale was almost unheard of 40 years ago. The freshwater crab teemed in Iloilo rivers and people caught it for free.  Today, it fetches P80 minimum per kilo.


Surprisingly, Iloilo River, dubbed the country’s biggest septic tank after Pasig River, is still home to crabs and shrimps that Ilonggos consume.

Mention the word today to the young generation and they would stare at you bewildered. “Kalampay? Ano ra man? (Kalampay? What’s that.)” They more they would stare at you blankly if you asked them what “katang” and “baringay” are.

The usage of term is getting scarcer like the fate of kalampay.

“Katang” is a juvenile kalampay, the size a half thumb while “baringay” are botton size ones that migrate inland from the sea where they are spawned. 

Forty years ago, in my hometown Igbaras, a mountain town 40 kilometers south of  Iloilo City,  one could catch kalampay by overturning boulders and rocks in the Tangyan River  where they hid. The katang were returned to the water. One could use a “sagyap” a sac-net tied around a vine formed into a ring for its mouth, or the bigger version “sihud”.  

Without the sagyap or sihud, a fisher could still bring something home by “panalog” or cathing barehand the bounties of the river. A two-hour panalog was enough to yield a day’s consumption of shrimps and fish, aside from the kalampay.

From the mouth of the Tangyan River in neighboring Guimbal town, the “baringay” migrated upstream all the way to the headwater of the river, in Sitio Tangyan which was part of Antique Province. People anticipated the seasonal waves of baringay crawling inland at night time because their diligence could earn them young crabs by the sacks they customarily prepared as animal feed.

Well, ask Igbaras kids today what “lente” and “panglente” means and they’ll just blink at you in their sweet ignorance. 

“Lente” is a pair of googles, that locals crafted from a piece of wood to fit a pair of glass lenses. The googles were tied on its ends by a strip of rubber. “Panglente” is to catch fish with the “lente” and a homemade spear gun, which was a piece of wood shaped into a rifle that fired the arrow-pointed steel rod. 

When fishers did the “panglente” in our childhood days, they swam into the river to find their target. And when they did that by literally dived underwater.

That most likely puzzles today’s youth in Igbaras who would insist swimming is impossible in their river. What they see now of the Tangyan River is at most an ankle-deep stream some portions of it drying up during summer. 

You can no longer dive and swim in the Tangyan River today, much less swim there to do the panglente. Its rocks and boulders that slow down the current are gone. Its curves which has no more boulders and where the stream slows down to form natural swimming pools, are gone. And yes, its bounties – fish, crabs, shrimp, snails and frogs – are gone.

Unabated quarrying depleted it of its boulders and rocks, and weakened the embankments upstream and downstream. Every year, the government spends tens of thousands of pesos to rechannel the river, that is, using earthmovers to divert the stream away from residential areas into a new channel dug in a straight line. The next year, it will repeat the same measure like a vicious cycle.

So long as quarrying persists, the Tangyan River will continue to be a sordid shadow of its abundant past. This once navigable river which supplied residents with much needed protein and calcium will remain scattered patches of ankle deep stagnant pools interspersed with lines of dried river bed summer.


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