Text by: Bombette G. Marin
Photos by: Gerard Villareal
BARANGAY Asluman in Gigante Norte, Carles, Iloilo will celebrate its 4th Tikab-Tikab Festival on March 22-25, 2018.
It was only recently that scallops in Gigante Islands became popular, and islanders quickly realized they were surrounded by a valuable commodity, literally waiting each season to be scooped from the bottom, shipped to the mainland, and sold at a premium.
Highlighting the celebration are events that will open on March 22 (Thursday) with a Parade and presentation from students of Asluman Elementary School; March 23 (Friday) Miss Gay, Dance Contest for Women hosted by Women’s Association; March 24 (Saturday) Lin-ay Sang Tikab-Tikab Festival, Live Band; March 25 (Sunday) Tribal Dance Competition of Granada National High School.
The seafood industry in the area sells one particular quality that sets it apart – scallops, which highly prized as a food source. These brightly multi-colored, symmetrical, fan-shaped shells are highly-valued because these are used as motifs in art and design.
In Barangay Asluman, fishermen dive 15 feet underwater to harvest scallops by hand, but majority of scallops in the area harvested by draggers. When harvested, scallops are still flipping and alive.
Divers bring them to shore hours after harvest and do not soak them in anything, which means they are very fresh. Usually, buyers can feel them move.
The shells are hand-delivered to customers right to their picnic cottages. The island residents who use traditional harvesting techniques are a vital, singular connection to their past.
The market is confined essentially to scallop meats, though demand for whole scallops is emerging due to its colorful shell. These are marketed mainly to restaurants in the city but are also available from specialty seafood shops around northern Iloilo.
Fresh scallops tend to be more highly valued than frozen.
Gigante Islands is an island chain situated in the northernmost tip of Iloilo Province. It is approximately 18 kilometers from the main port in Barangay Bancal, Carles or an hour and a half motorized pump boat ride or 45-minute by fast craft depending on sea condition.
A part of the municipality of Carles, it is comprised of two large islands: Gigante Sur (south) with barangays Lantangan and Gabi; and Gigante Norte (north) with barangays Granada and Asluman.
The two islands are separated by an 800-meter-wide channel. Gigante Norte can be reached after a 30-minute motorized boat ride from Gigante Sur.
Gigante Islands lie in the Visayan Sea, acclaimed to be the richest fishing ground in Southeast Asia.
The islands are home to some of the most biologically diverse and richest coastal and marine resources. The Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE), a biodiversity conservation organization, has identified endemic species of a frog (Platymantis insulatu) listed as critical and a gecko (Gigantes Limestone Gecko) listed as endangered under the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Several rare endemic bird species were also identified in the area.