A stoneâ€™s throw from the sea, on another corner of the Bicol, stood a makeshift stall with locals selling some freshly caught fish. I headed over to look at some medium sized tulingan but was instantly struck by some strange looking creamy white fish. Their odd shape and bizarre â€œskinâ€ definitely warranted a photograph. Called Sulay Bagyo in those parts, this fish is supposed to be excellent when cooked with coconut milk, pimiento, etc. I have not come across this fish before. Back home and armed with reference books, it turns out that Sulay Bagyo are actually Leatherjackets of the Family Monacanthidae. And the â€œodd skinâ€ turned out to be no skin at all! In fact, I was staring at fish that had been literally stripped buck naked! Seems so improper to buy fish that have been skinnedâ€¦though I admit I donâ€™t share the same feelings when buying a skinned rabbit.
Itâ€™s highly likely that the ones I photographed were unicorn or scribbled leatherjackets (Aluterus monoceros or Aluterus scriptus) according to Marine Fishes of South-East Asia by Gerry Allen. The skin of these fish is tough and coarse so the salesmen/women typically de-skin the fish before selling them. The term leatherjackets is so descriptive and I have visions of the fish swimming down an imaginary underwater ramp showing off the latest patterns on their jacketsâ€¦. Heeheehee. Letâ€™s not go much further down the leather fashion genre, shall we? Sulay bagyo, the first buck naked fish I have ever photographed for Marketmanila!