Monday, February 26, 2018

Ilocos ‘black gold’ sustains livelihood of Burgos residents

Staff reporter
Burgos, Ilocos Norte—Gamet, a pricey seasonal seaweed that grows on sharp and slippery coral stones in the coastline of this town continues to sustain the livelihood of residents here.

From November to March, seaweed pickers brave the cold breeze and strong waves to collect gamet akin to a Japanese nori. Ilocano salad, soups and omelet dishes often feature gamet.

For Burgos town residents, they consider this a “black gold” as it commands a high price in the market. A square foot size when dried costs an average of PHP500. Because of its nutritious content and light weight, mostly balikbayans and tourists buy this for take-home or pasalubong to friends and relatives.

For 58-year-old Natividad Parica of Brgy. Bayog, she said gamet picking has already been a way of life for her family.

Mrs. Parica recalled that at the age of 10, she already started joining elders to pick gamet to help earn a living.

During the gamet season, she and her husband would go to the coastal rock formations where gamet grows.

At one time, she recalled a huge wave crashed down on her almost dragging her to the sea her while picking gamet.

Though many consider gamet gathering as “death-defying”, the Parica couple acknowledged it helped them a lot in sending their children to school.

“We are thankful for having this gift of nature. We were able to send our children and finished a degree in college because of gamet,” said Mrs. Parica.

Another gamet picker, Gelacio Vila, 57, also shared how gamet picking improved his family’s lifestyle.

With nine growing children, Mr.  Vila said it was through gamet picking that his children were able to finish college.

Now, the Vila couple enjoys traveling abroad courtesy of their children.

As a tribute to this town’s ‘black gold’, the Brgy. Poblacion government led by barangay chairperson Joegie Jimenez annually celebrates gamet festival every end month of December as a way of thanksgiving.

One of the major highlights of the festival is to recognize the “skills and expertise” of gamet pickers which have uplifted the economic condition of residents in the area.

According to Mr. Jimenez, the gamet industry forms part of the rich culture and tradition of the Burgos townsfolk hence, it is just fitting to recognize the gamet pickers for their immense contribution to the local economy.

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