Discipline: Philippine History
Historical accounts of the Philippines by foreign travellers in the nineteenth century provide striking depictions of the richness of the country’s aquatic resources and the dependence of the early Filipinos on fisheries products for their sustenance. Despite these descriptions indicating their integral role in the everyday lives of Filipinos, there are very few archival documents that reflect the importance of both fish produce and fishing among Spain’s colonial subjects in the 1800s. This study is a preliminary inquiry on the information and insights that could be gathered from the Pesquerías de Manila (Fish Corrals of Manila), a bundle from the Philippine National Archives that deals specifically with the fish enclosure licenses that were issued in several towns that were part of the Province of Manila from 1881 to 1884. An examination of these documents provides a glimpse of the rules and regulations with respect to the issuance of corral licenses and the responsibilities that went along with such privileges. It describes the spatial distribution of these traps and the characteristics of their licensees in Manila’s districts and nearby towns as well as reveals the possibility that leasing out such water-based enclosures may have been a profitable venture for some individuals. In addition, this paper also offers documentary evidence of the rural and agricultural past of these aforementioned areas which at present times seems barely discernible.