17th Tuna Fest honors unsung heroes of the sea

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (3 September 2015) – The 17th Tuna Festival has begun with City Mayor Ronnel Rivera paying  tribute to the unsung heroes of the city’s fishing industry.

The opening day of Tuna Festival Tuesday (September 1) became a day of sad remembering as Mayor Rivera unveiled a memorial shrine for some 300 fishermen who went missing during the height of Typhoon Pablo last 2012.

These fishermen were mostly from General Santos City and Sarangani.

The shrine is rectangular in shape and was made of black marble. A golden anchor was mounted beside it to symbolize the city’s steadfast support to the fishing industry.

The names of the missing fishermen were engraved in a gold-plated metal that was attached to the shrine. An epitaph for them was written on the opposite side.

Families and relatives of these fishermen were also present during the unveiling of the shrine which is located inside Plaza Heneral Santos. Many of them cried, others emotional, while narrating the sad plight of their missing family member.

One of them was Marisol Atillo, 43, a resident of Buayan and currently an employee of the City Social Welfare and Development Office. Her husband, Edwin, went missing when he was still 42 years old. He was assigned to one of the boats of the LPS Fishing during the typhoon.

“It was really a saddening experience. I just don’t know what to do that time. We couldn’t even mourn because we didn’t have his body. We didn’t know where to go,” Atillo lamented.

“We are now comforted that a shrine for my husband and the rest of the missing fishermen were constructed. We have now a place to go to remember and pray for them,” she stated.

The construction of the memorial shrine was made possible through the venture of the city government and the fishing firms that the missing fishermen had been employed with. The shrine cost P130,000.

Mayor Rivera said that it is necessary for the city to give value to the industry that placed Gensan in the map as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines.

“The fishing industry of Gensan is the undisputed economic backbone of the city. Imagine if it did not arrive to us, do you think that General Santos would grow as it is right now?” Mayor Rivera said.

“That is why the Tuna Festival this year will give focus on giving appreciation on the industry as well as the people that working for it,” the mayor stated.

Mayor Rivera is a scion of the Rivera family, owner of RD Fishing which is a subsidiary of the conglomerate RD Group of Companies.

The tuna boom in General Santos broke out in the mid-1970s as Japanese traders arrived to look for new supplies of sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna. The hefty price commanded by sashimi-grade tuna in the Japanese market encouraged investors to finance tuna fishing ventures in the city. The tuna boom also attracted fishers from neighboring provinces. (Gensan CPIO/ Ian John Lagare)