Mayor Magalong joins COVID surviving angler at Burnham

“More hobbyists eyed after the Saleng fishing competition.”
It was the first-time mayor Benjamin Magalong got hold of a fishing rod, and maybe like anybody who gets the so-called “beginner’s luck”, he outdid his supposed mentor, Rafael Serrano, who for the longest time had been encouraging him to take the hobby, by getting five fishes against the latter’s three in two hours.
“I will be here for just an hour,” Magalong told Serrano when they met at 5 AM at the Burnham Lake view deck which the latter said could have the greatest number of fishes around it at said time.
But then when it was already six, Magalong said that he will stay for another hour as the “bug” caught him and the “shock” of getting one he had experienced.
“Did you feel it, the shock when you catch one?” Serrano asked the mayor, his batch mate at the Saint Louis University Boys High School in 1977. “It is something you feel when you catch and struggle against a fish,” said Serrano, who for more than 20 years has been an angler and on weekends would go upstate New York and fish.
Serrano has tried fishing in lakes, in rivers and has gone deep sea fishing on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
“The only one thing is that the fishes here are passive. They don’t struggle unlike the fishes I used to catch in the US,” said Serrano, who was hospitalized for 45 days during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic and where he decided to retire from his work in a New York-based company that is into the early detection of cancer.
“I have to retire earlier and do something to enjoy my life. I planned to retire at 62,” he said but was two years short of his plan.
It was tragic for Serrano who in March of 2020 contracted the virus when his wife, Nadya, was fighting for her life after getting an operation to fix an aneurism. “I thought that I could die,” he admitted as he was also barred from going to the funeral of his wife after getting discharged from the hospital.
“I was told to stay for five days but then I said that I’d rather be arrested than miss my wife’s interment,” he told Magalong.
The mayor then sent some of his staff to bring Serrano to his wife’s funeral. “And so we became
friends” said Serrano, who thanked his former classmate for his help during the darkest days of his life – losing a wife and him struggling to survive.
Serrano is the lone person seen the past months at the Burnham Lake view deck with a fishing rod and for more than an hour trying to catch as many fishes as he can. Those he releases after the catch, but if the fish gets a fatal wound, he delivers the same to the police outpost at the end portion of the bike area.
It is the reason that Serrano will be supervising the fish catching tournament on Sunday as the art of the Saleng Festival sports events. “I wish I just could join,” said Serrano with a shrug. But then it is his advocacy now – attract more people to do fishing at the lake. But then it will be controlled like in the US where strict compliance is a must. Sunday’s fish-catching event will be the finale of the four-event Saleng Sports that started last June 5 with the Saleng Fun Run, which kicked off the four-month festivity for trees that ends in September.
On June 11, it will be the go-cart races for 12 under, 18 under, and those older than 18. But then this is a bike and not the motorized vehicle that the people of Baguio last saw in 1996 when Carlos Anton was in his early days of professional racing.
The cart races will be at the Juan Luna Drive, a 10 feet wide, 110-meter-long street that is used for biking.
“There will be only two bikers at one time and so it will be a single-elimination tournament so we can do it the whole day,” said Media for Sports Development finance officer Miguelito Velarde, Jr. MSD is helping the City Environments and Parks Management Office stage the Saleng Fest which was launched last year to fulfill a provision of the city’s Environment Code.
On Sunday, it will be boat races that are open to boatmen and women and the general public. In the afternoon, it will be the fish catching competition, its staging Serrano will be supervising.
“I am urging the mayor to join. We already have a Korean joining in, and an aunt from Hawaii, US,” said Serrano. “It will be a great event and it will be a multi-racial event with some players from Korea and the US, I am looking forward to that,” said Serrano.
And he is the happier as the CEPMO will start allowing to give permits to fishing enthusiasts starting Monday, said CEPMO supervising administrative officer Sandra Almag during the Ugnayan at City Hall last Wednesday.
Professional photographer Noli Gabilo is also looking forward to that. His application for a permit was earlier denied and he was also at the CEPMO last Thursday hoping he could get a permit just like Serrano. “I hope to join him soon,” said Gabilo, whose photos were featured in the Baguio Centennial book in 200.

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