We hit the Coron market at about 7 a.m., just as several bancas were docking and unloading the previous night’s catch. Out of styrofoam coolers emerged hundreds of kilos worth of deep sea fish, mostly of the tuna (tulingan, barilis, bluefin, yellowfin, etc.) and mackerel (tanguigue) families with a occasional jack (talakitok) and other less known (to me) species. Two bancas had pagi or rays amongst their catch, one had a humongous ray, already cut up. The other had smaller baby rays. I don’t know how my brain works with respect to this particular situation but I didn’t feel too bad for the large fish (is it because they were bigger and older?) but I did feel bad about the baby rays. And if I am not mistaken, rays in general are having a hard time so eating any rays would be a problem… but let’s not go there. I eat dead animals of all sorts, so I can’t say I am ultimately that sympathetic to them, despite my loving our pet dog so… And if I really had to stretch the moral/ethical train of thought for a moment longer, I wonder if a lion or shark or hyena would spare the babies in a pack of vulnerable humans who fell off a yacht or out of their Land Rover while on safari, deliberately deciding to eat the smelly adults first, before setting their sites on the little tykes… hmmm. :)
These bancas had spent the previous night out at sea, some 3-4 hours ride from Coron town. The two previous days before we arrived, the waves around Coron were apparently quite rough, so there had been little or no fish in the local market. But the seas calmed down when the day we arrived and we were lucky to see this bounty of fish being unloaded at the market docks the next day. I took several photos, talked to some of the fishermen and then, as genetically programmed, went on a buying spree spurred by the fact that the fish was so appetiing looking and were 60% less than the cost of the same fish in Manila! Each banca had a slightly different catch from the previous night’s efort, but all were unloading a good 50-100 kilos of fish, with 3-4 men per banca.
The boats, manned by 3 or 4 men, spent at least 12 hours on the sea to catch roughly PHP4-6,000 worth of fish. After removing petrol, bait and other costs of say PHP3,000, they could earn as much as PHP3,000 for the boat and its crew.
After watching the boats unload and talking to some of the men, I started to set my sites on particular types of fish… Camera was put away and selection and buying were in full swing.
I first pulled the largest talakitok from one pail, but a closer inspection showed cloudy eyes, a clear sign it had been on ice for too long. Perhaps it was the earliest catch the previous night. So despite it’s heft and low price, I passed. Instead, we settled on several gorgeous tanguigue, about two feet in length and relative teenagers, a barilis and several kilos of smaller fish for frying. Total take? About 12 kilos, for a total price of about P800… amazing. A quick dash to the market’s vegetable section and we were off to Culion for the day, a cooler filled with fish…