Black Gold: Why Ilocanos don’t mind the risks in gathering ‘gamet’
LAOAG CITY — “Gamet”, that pricey seasonal seaweed that grows on sharp and slippery coral stones in the coastline of Burgos town, about 81 kilometers from this city, continues to sustain the livelihood of local residents here.
From November to March, seaweed pickers brave the cold breeze and strong waves to collect the blackish gamet that is akin to the Japanese nori. It is often used by Ilocanos in salad, soups and omelet dishes.
For Burgos town residents, the gamet is “black gold” because it commands a high price in the market. When dried, a square-foot sized gamet costs an average of P500.
Gamet, which is rich in iodine, calcium, iron, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and essential vitamins, is a favorite “pasalubong” of “balikbayans” after visiting the country.
For 50-year-old Natividad Parica of Bayog village, gamet picking has already been a way of life for her family.At the age of 10, she already started joining elders in picking gamet to help her family earn a living.
During the gamet season, she and her husband would go to the coastal rock formations where the seaweed grows. At one time, she was almost dragged to the sea when a huge wave crashed down on her while picking gamet.
Though gamet gathering is considered as “death-defying”, the Parica couple said the risk was well worth taking as it helped them in sending their children to school.
Accidents involving the pickers could sometimes be fatal abecause gamet grows on sharp and pointed rocks and strong and huge waves could knock them down and cause them to hit these stalagmite-like rocks.
“We are thankful for having this gift of nature. We were able to send our children to finish a degree in college because of gamet,” said Parica.
Another gamet picker, Gelacio Vila, 57, also shared how the seaweed improved his family’s standard of living. He 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 who are now professionals.
As a tribute to this town’s “black gold”, the village of Poblacion annually holds a “Gamet Festival” in the last week of December as a thanksgiving for its enormous contribution to the residents’ livelihood.
One of the highlights of the celebration is to recognize the gamet pickers who have substantially improved their family’s way of living.
In last year’s edition of the festival held December 28, Parica and Vila were among 11 villagers who were given cash incentive and a plaque of recognition.
According to Poblacion village chairman Joegie Jimenez, the gamet industry forms part of the rich culture and tradition of the Burgos townsfolk hence, thus, it is but fitting to recognize the pickers for their immense contribution to the local economy. (PNA)