MIAG-AO, Iloilo – It is said in Western Visayas that if you have not tasted "diwal", you have not savored the country’s most delicious shellfish.
Angelwing in English and known scientifically as Pholas orientalis, is a prized commodity owing to its succulent texture and unique flavor.
In our visits to Western Visayas many years back, we had been treated to this juicy bivalve so named because its shell, when open, resembles the wings of an angel.
But not so in our trips to this "seafood country" in recent times.
Indigenous to the region, "diwal" used to be abundantly found in wet markets and were served in seafood restaurants in Panay Island provinces (particularly in Iloilo and Capiz) and even as far as Metro Manila.
However, the natural growth and development of the species could not sustain the increasing demand because of its indiscriminate exploitation.
"From the mid-1990s," noted the U.P. Visayas (UPV) here, "diwal started to become scarce in traditional grounds, and fishermen lost an important source of livelihood. It is an alarming situation, and efforts should be exerted in order to revitalize the once-lucrative industry."
Along this line, researchers Dr. Liberato Laurena and Lily Ann Piñosa of the UPV Brackishwater Aquaculture Center, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, have in recent years been conducting studies on the endangered species.
They noted that efforts to refine technology toward rehabilitation of the shellfish have been hampered by the scarcity and, in some cases, complete disappearance of the organisms in their traditional grounds.
Thus, an inventory of the stock in Western Visayas was necessary so that appropriate plan can be established.
A preliminary survey of the traditional grounds showed that in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, diwal has disappeared.
In Ivisan, Pontevedra, and Panay in Capiz, diwal was reported to have appeared in March and April last year but in small quantity. In another survey the following September, however, no angelwing was found possibly because of incessant harvest.
In Roxas City (Capiz), which is regarded as the "seafood capital of the Philippines," the species had appeared in Punta Cogon and Barra in small quantities.
"There was reported harvesting but the city government issued a ban in April for collection. In September, there were some diwal found," UPV reported.
Indeed, joint efforts by the government, the R&D community, and the people could save this prized shellfish from extinotion. – Rudy A. Fernandez