Talk about the motherload of dried, semi-dried and fermented fish!!! The Tabo-an (Taboan, Tabuan) Market near downtown Cebu is one of the most massive and pungent dried fish markets in the South. I suppose there are many such markets in all major provincial cities but this was just impressive in scale, volume of goods and staying power of its utterly pungent aroma (it literally sticks to your clothes in the same way that Japanese food seems to do as well). I have never seen anything like it!
Humongous basket after basket filled with dried danggit, tuyo, squid, dilis, etc. were piled high with goods. Prices were really quite good with dried danggit at about PHP340 a kilo and tarorot or whole dried squid at PHP380 a kilo. Also, there were dozens of cans/vats of guinamos, bagoong and all manner of â€œFear Factorâ€ type material. I grew up eating some boiled pili nuts with guinamos whenever fresh pili was sent from Bicol, and my parents used to dip other things into their beloved guinamos. But I never saw it sold in the quantities I saw here. And the rawness of their containers and obvious continuing fermentation out in the open was at the same time intriguing and revolting.
We bought several kilos of dried fish and each vendor was equipped with the thick plastic bags and the latest electric sealer. The better to contain the smell and not irritate airline officialsâ€¦ overall, it was one of the most impressive markets I have seen lately and I was happy I got to see it. However, up to hours after the visit, I noticed that the pungent smell of dried fish on my clothing!