The Nasugbu market is usually a hit or miss proposition. Get there too early and the fish havenâ€™t arrived. Get there too late and there is nothing left. Go after a night of big waves and there are no fish on offer. After a strong moon, warm current, heavy rains, gosh knows what other maritime conditions affect the catchâ€¦ But that is exactly what makes going to a quintessential medium-sized seaside townâ€™s market something I look forward to every time I am at the beach. Add on the price premium for being unable to sound like a local and you have a real market adventure in the worksâ€¦
My father was a big fisherman (or so he thought) â€“ and when I was about 7 my family used to have a two-bedroom nipa hut on Matabungkay Beach. Dad would head out at 3 a.m. in a large rented banca with a phalanx of boatmen and assistants with pails of live/fresh shrimp for bait and several large styrofoam coolers with iceâ€¦ They fished somewhere between the Batangas coast and the Lubang island, where that Japanese war straggler was found in the late 1960â€™s. More often than not, they returned with coolers jam-packed with humongous fish and some were immediately turned into kinilaw for lunch later that day. The rest were frozen and we would eat fish for the next couple of weeks! Those days are gone, the large fish are almost depleted, and the cost/benefit trade-off of renting a banca and sloshing around on rough seas for a measly fish or two is just not my style.
For the price of half a day of banca rental, I can avoid seasickness and waltz down to the market and buy somewhere between 15-20 kilos of whatever I would like to eat! Last weekend during the heavy rains I ventured to the Nasugbu market and was pleasantly surprised by the bounty. I purchased 2 kilos of superbly fresh talakitok (trevally or jack) (about a kilo each, perfect size for grilling whole or baking in foil) at a pricey PHP220/kilo. Got 6 kilos of matang baka (oxeye scad) which are great for deep frying at PHP100 a kilo, 6 kilos of live tilapia at PHP 75 a kilo from some nearby brackish water fish ponds, 2 kilos of baby tulingan (skipjack tuna, no photo) at PHP80/kilo, medium sized prawns that were superbly fresh and firm at PHP360/kilo (no photo), and finally, two kilos of enormous male alimango (mud crab) at PHP280/kilo.
The crabs weighed in at about a kilo each, and these massive male crabs were probably pulled out of the mangrove just hours before as they were seriously feisty. All that seafood was purchased for less than PHP2,500 (USD47) or about the cost of renting a large banca for 4 hours, bait not included, catch not guaranteed and add extra for Dramamine anti-nausea pills!!! With some vegetables, condiments and rice, I bet I could easily feed 35-40 people with all of this seafood, average cost, say PHP80-90 or the price of a Big Mac…