I only had 10 minutes to run through one or two stories of a cramped and almost claustrophoic Laoag city market. It wasn’t even clear if this was the main market, but it was a relatively large one near the center of town, also on Rizal Street, I think. I managed to hurry through one of the most amazing dried fish and shrimp sections I have ever seen, smaller than the Tabuan dried fish market in Cebu, but the variety of goods on offer in Vigan was nevertheless quite impressive. I would have loved to stop and chat and ask vendors precisely what several of the bilaos or sacks contained, but the self-imposed timer was ticking. Besides, I couldn’t buy any of the dried fish or other goods as we were still heading up to the Northernmost tip of Luzon, rather than sprinting back home to Manila.
Around the corner from the dried fish, the Laoag market had a wickedly “fat-laden” bagnet (double deep fried pork belly) and longganisa (pork sausages with vinegar and garlic) section… At least 300 kilos or more of bagnet was on display from several vendors who were hawking their special seasoning (timpla) or style, as the best Ilocos had to offer. At PHP300 a kilo, I thought the bagnet was quite reasonably priced, considering that pork costs nearly half as much in the grocery and the process of making bagnet really reduces its selling weight. The aroma of fried pork was truly and utterly heady. Stick your head into a glass case filled with bagnet and I swear you could feel calories being inhaled into your system.
Longannisa in the Laoag market appeared bigger and plumper than examples that I saw in Vigan, but that may just be a personal observation. I am not certain if Laoag longganisa are meant to physically appear any different from their Vigan cousins. Some vendors were selling wickedly red looking sausages, clearly colored with artifical food coloring, as opposed to a more orange tinge of achuete or other natural colorings. At any rate, I came, I saw, I inhaled and I left…