Some of the freshest seafood I have ever seen was to be had at the Bantayan Town Market on a Sunday morning. Locals had warned the moon was bright the last few days, hence a likely shortage of catch, and the markets weren’t brimming with fish, but what was there was really fresh. I don’t fancy bobbing up and down in a banca fishing for fresher, so this is about as good as it gets for me. Fresher means I am snorkeling and seeing them alive!
A lady greeted us as the entrance to the market with a pail of fresh and already cleaned sea cucumbers, or locally called “bat”. I thought they would make a great photo, and while I wanted to try making them into a kinilaw, no one else in the group was enthusiastic so we passed on the “bat”.
The first tiled counter with fish had this selection. CLEARLY, just from the wondered hues of color, the clarity of the eyes, the condition of the bodies, these were seriously SEXY fish. And no one in the market even bothered to use ice since the fish would be snapped up within the hour and would probably be on the table for a late breakfast or lunch a few hours away. I wanted to buy almost every fish in the photo. :)
When we hit the second fish vendor, we made a snap decision to buy lots of fish, a cooler and some ice, and have lunch cooked while we spent a few hours on Sugar Beach. Three or four kilos of this fish went into the cooler…
We didn’t get any of this pile of seaweed, but it looked beautiful as well.
Bottled innards and fish which are fermented into a kind of patis or sawsawan.
Just a bit of squid, I wish they had more and when I circled back a few minutes later, they were all gone.
Young or baby rays (not sure what kind).
Bits and bobs of really colorful bumpy shelled crab.
A mottled flatfish or dapa, similar to sole.
I believe these are called leatherjackets or sulay bagyo in Bicol, but not sure what they are called elsewhere. And the unusual looking fish…
…are made even odder by the removal of their tough skins, and are sold “naked”…
Scallops still in their shells. There are several kinds of scallops, and these ones have the thicker rougher shells rather than the smoother thinner shells also common in the islands.
Unfortunately, several baby sharks (thresher ones, I think) were also caught in the nets/hooks and sold alongside the more commonly sought after fish.
A large talakitok or locally known as mamsaa (one of several jacks in these waters) looked great so we bought this fish as well for our lunch.
I passed on this other large talakitok, but take a good look at it and remember the shape as it will emerge soon as part of something I am “cooking up” in Cebu.
A blue-spotted baby ray…
…and a bunch of small blue crabs.
Yet another stunningly fresh talakitok.
And finally, after you have purchased your fish, of course you need one of these natural “flavor/veggie parcels” made up of malunggay, tanglad, talbos ng kamote and kangkong (moringga, lemongrass, sweet potato tendrils and water spinach). Locals insisted this was a sparse morning at the market — I can only imagine what a good day at the market must be like. I will return to this market and others in Bantayan to get the “full” experience in the months ahead.