Almost a year ago, I Sanhalom Laguna Anglers Association wasn’t even sure they will be able to stage their annual Mafuti Derby.
Not only was the 2020 edition of the tournament cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fishing club was also mourning the passing of its president Mike “Palaksi” Sablan.
Fast-forward to last Saturday and not only was ISLA able to hold the 2021 ISLA Mafuti Derby, they were also able to honor their founder’s legacy by posting a record number of participants with 64 boats joining the one-day event.
No less than Sablan’s fishing partner and now ISLA president, J.D. Tenorio, toasted the late president’s legacy in a brief speech during the awards ceremony Saturday at the Smiling Cove Marina.
“We’re honored to have you guys today and we’re honored to have his family here today. It was an extremely difficult derby to kind of hold. We’ve been through a lot these past few years. We lost a good friend, a brother, and a family member. We just would like to thank you all for your support and for coming out today to honor Mike’s legacy,” he said.
He went on to say that ISLA started in 2000 when Sablan, his brother, and a bunch of really close friends founded a club that would hold a competition for small boat owners that weren’t able to participate in international derbies.
“They were not able to go out to the rough seas as much as larger boats so they felt why not do something for the fishermen that are usually fishing in-shore,” he said.
Those competitions would eventually evolve into the first-ever Mafute Derby in 2018. “It started in 2018 and now 2021 this is where we’re at. The first derby was about 15 boats, the second derby was 22 boats, and the third derby we’re up to about 64 boats,” said Tenorio.
He said ISLA’s success wouldn’t have been possible without Sablan’s vision and guiding hand.
“I sure hope Mike is looking down smiling at us and just thinking about what a great job everybody has done and feeling good about the legacy he has left behind,” he added.
In behalf of ISLA’s members, Tenorio also extended his gratitude to their wives, most specially Sablan’s widow.
“Any fisherman knows that you’re ability to go out and fish won’t be possible without your significant other, your family members, and there’s one lady that stood by Mike’s side when we started this, our sister Bon, and their kids—Liam, Bon-Bon, and Donna—thank you all for coming out.”
ISLA vice president Ross Arriola seconded Tenorio and said the club is planning to hold a couples derby in the future so their wives can join in on the action.
He also paid tribute to Sablan and said the record number of boats this year is an acknowledgment of how loved the late ISLA president was in the fishing community.
“That’s all because of one man who had a vision and that’s our late president Mike Palaksi. Last year was a very difficult year as ISLA went through rough waters. Not only did we suffer through a pandemic but we also suffered through the loss of our captain. He wasn’t with us but he was with us in spirit. We were very fortunate that a few people stepped up. I want to thank our current president, J.D. Tenorio, for taking the helm and taking over the captain’s quarters and leading us through this derby,” said Arriola.
Sablan’s daughter, Bon-Bon, best summed up the entire mood of last Saturday’s fishing derby as it served as an impromptu tribute to his father.
“His goal was always to make this mufute derby better each time. With 64 registered this year I’m proud to say that we have achieved that goal for him. We are saddened by his absence today but thank God that in knowing that he’s got the best seat in the house, the best view of today’s memorable event, and in celebration of this successful event this year let’s continue to enjoy our Saturdays in his honor. So here’s to bigger and better, Dad!” she said.