Filipino women have always played a vital role in society and are traditionally called the ‘ilaw ng tahanan.’ However, their presence and contributions as a sector need to be recognized further. 

Women form a large part of the country’s agricultural and fisheries workforce despite being seen as a male-dominated industry. A study on women in fisheries concluded that “Fishing as an occupation is more than just fish production,” and an ordinary day shows this (Siason, 2015). 

She stays home to look after the children and tends to their livestock or small farm. When her husband arrives, she sorts the fish and trades them in the market. She preserves fish and squid to sell, earning additional income for the family. She may even volunteer in a health- or social welfare-related organization in her local community after a full day’s work, then attends the meeting of their local fishing association. Before dawn the following day, she assists her husband again in preparing and loading the fishing gear into the boat. “She” represents many women in the country.

PSFI has worked hand-in-hand with these women. In the past year, a group of women from the Sitio Calitang Fishing Association reached out to the team to participate in the Palawan Eco Agro Park (PEAP) program. PEAP was formed as a sustainable training, demonstration, and information center of agricultural and entrepreneurial opportunities to support the development of Palawan’s farmers and entrepreneurs.

Cherry Burlas (59 y/o), who had just founded and become the president of the Fishing Association, initially became involved with PSFI in October 2022 through the Leadership Enhancement and Attitude Development (LEAD) workshop to learn about the responsibilities of being a leader. She volunteered to participate in PEAP’s mushroom processing trainings a month later. 

Florenda Masibag (36 y/o), the treasurer of their fishing association, specified that she wanted to earn extra income for her family of five. This was especially needed when the seas were rough and they could not fish. 

Sitio Calitang Fishing Association Treasurer, Florenda Masibag (right most), joins other women of El Nido in a mushroom production and processing training.

She and her fellow officers have a shared mission of empowering the women in their community by building their skills. Ligaya Villar, their secretary, said she actively encouraged the 119 members of their association and other women to participate in the trainings to better provide for their families. 

Cherry, Florenda, and Ligaya are crucial in Sitio Calitang as women leaders who are especially aware of the community’s situation and needs. 

Cherry Burlas (2nd person on lower right), Founder and President of the Sitio Calitang Fishing Association attends a Mushroom Processing Training held in PSFI’s Palawan Eco-Agro Park (PEAP) in El Nido along with other community members.

According to Madarcos et al. (2021), women like them in small-scale coastal communities are the ones who typically attend community meetings, seminars, and training provided by various government and non-government organizations.

Although, with leadership come hardships. During the start of their fishing association’s involvement with PEAP, many were not inclined to participate.

Parang ikaw nalang may gusto, yung iba wala na. Tulad ng dagat, minsan tataib, minsan hihibas,” Cherry confided. 

They have all come to accept that, at times, they have to put others first. To keep the association’s finances afloat, Florenda unintentionally used personal savings. Ligaya fulfills her duties as their secretary while serving as the barangay’s sanitary inspector, often leaving little time for herself.

They shoulder the responsibility of being a mother, wife, association officer, and a social worker for the good of the community. 

Despite the challenges in income and their members’ participation in their association, the three noted that programs like LEAD and PEAP reminded them to take pride in themselves and to have faith in their community’s progress. 

The three women saw association members becoming more active because of the mushroom processing workshops. The most significant changes they noticed among members were the ignited sense of commitment, interest in self-improvement, and a renewed compassion for one another. Ligaya mentioned that even senior citizens have been invited to participate in the workshops. 

They share big dreams of a more empowered community. Cherry leads their vision of a united and capable association, “Sama-sama kaming aangat, walang maiiwan.” 

Cherry Burlas, Founder and President of the Sitio Calitang Fishing Association

As mothers and wives, they also dream for their children or grandchildren to finish their education— to create a more comfortable life for themselves. 

These women are gradually creating a more empowered community, and PSFI is ready to support them throughout their journey.  

The three women shared their heartfelt message for others like them to persevere through hardships for their families and communities while recognizing their skills and value to their communities.   

Hindi po tayo ‘babae lang’. Lahat ng kaya gawin ng mister, kayang gawin ng babae.
– Florenda Masibag

Lahat may kakayahang mabuhay, at may karapatang umasenso sa buhay.
– Ligaya Villar

“Hindi lang po tayo hanggang bahay lamang. Karapatan nating lahat na magkaroon ng kakayahan at makapag-ambag sa ating komunidad.”
– Cherry Burlas

From left to right: Wenchie Clamor (PSFI Program Officer), Cherry Burlas (SItio Calitang President and Founder), Ligaya Villar (Secretary), Lorenda Burla (Treasurer); Top: Edgar Clamor (PSFI Program Officer and Farm Administrator, PEAP),

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  • Conlu, Prudencia (1994). Development of fisheries in the region: the role of Filipino Women in Fishing Communities. Presented during Workshop on Research and Training on Population and Development Dynamics of Rural Fishing Communities in Asia and Africa. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from 
  • Madarcos, J. R., Creencia, L. A., Roberts, B. R., White, M. P., Nayoan, J., Morrissey, K., & Fleming, L. E. (2021). Understanding local perceptions of the drivers/pressures on the coastal marine environment in Palawan, Philippines. Frontiers in Marine Science, 8.    
  • Siason, I. M. (2015). Women in Fisheries in the Philippines. University of the Philippines-Visayas. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from   
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