I truly find comfort by the sea. In Cebu, we lived near the ocean, and so it was easy to swim on a whim. We could take a ten- to fifteen-minute tricycle ride from our village to the nearest beach, if no one wanted to drive us there. Even preparing a snack was easy, since there were always vendors peddling snacks at the beach, and back then, junk food was a rare find. What people sold on baskets mounted on their heads were home-cooked rice cakes, boiled bananas and sweet potatoes, the occasional barbecues, and the fresh-as-you-can-get kinilaw of all sorts. Some of these sour goodies were packed in clear plastic pouches or portioned in old coffee jars. These vendors sold a variety of kinilaw, depending on what was available. 

No one ever made kinilaw from frozen fish or fish that has been sitting on the market counter for hours. The fish we made kinilaw with always had the clearest eyes, the reddest gills, and the smell of the sea. At the beach, we always ate kinilaw with boiled kamote or barely ripe bananas.

In coastal towns, the low tide drew women and children who foraged for all sorts of seafood served by the ebbing tides, with the help of the setting sun. The tidal flats provided all sorts of treats underneath rocks, seashells and between mangrove trees which these folks gathered with small baskets tied around their waists or in cans they carried around. The catch determined the meal. All sorts of seafood can be made into kinilaw, or to be kilaw—eaten raw. Oysters, sea urchins, giant clams, shrimp, squid, octopus, sea cucumber, crabs, almost all sorts of fish and seaweed can end up as dinner.

The variety of marine life in our kinilaw reflects the biodiversity of our seas and the quality of our marine life.  It is said that we are having less and less of all these fresh seafood available to us locally. So the younger generations, alienated from the food of our forefathers, may enjoy nothing more than stories of food that they may never taste in their lifetime.

Our seas are in crisis; today we now have fewer fish than we had just a few decades ago.  There are  just too many boats chasing very few fishes. This is a dilemma when over six million Filipinos depend on the seas for their livelihood.  The sea used to provide these people’s daily food requirements. Now, many of our coastal communities barely have food on their tables.

The continuing decline in the income from fishing because of the increasing cost components is driving some fishermen to resort to destructive fishing practices that damage the very marine habitats that the fishing industry depends on. Put this together with the global impact of climate change to our seas and the costs are unimaginable. 

The declining state of our seas does not only pose a threat to our rich culinary heritage, but also warns of potentially irreversible losses to livelihoods and economies.

This is why our leaders need to revisit our strategy on marine protected areas, to enhance resiliency via sustainable practices, and fast. The future of our children relies on it.