Big Fish, Tiny Rays…


We hit the Coron market at about 7 a.m., just as several bancas were docking and unloading the previous night’s catch. Out of styrofoam coolers emerged hundreds of kilos worth of deep sea fish, mostly of the tuna (tulingan, barilis, bluefin, yellowfin, etc.) and mackerel (tanguigue) families with a occasional jack (talakitok) and other less known (to me) species. Two bancas had pagi or rays amongst their catch, one had a humongous ray, already cut up. The other had smaller baby rays. I don’t know how my brain works with respect to this particular situation but I didn’t feel too bad for the large fish (is it because they were bigger and older?) but I did feel bad about the baby rays. And if I am not mistaken, rays in general are having a hard time so eating any rays would be a problem… but let’s not go there. I eat dead animals of all sorts, so I can’t say I am ultimately that sympathetic to them, despite my loving our pet dog so… And if I really had to stretch the moral/ethical train of thought for a moment longer, I wonder if a lion or shark or hyena would spare the babies in a pack of vulnerable humans who fell off a yacht or out of their Land Rover while on safari, deliberately deciding to eat the smelly adults first, before setting their sites on the little tykes… hmmm. :)


These bancas had spent the previous night out at sea, some 3-4 hours ride from Coron town. The two previous days before we arrived, the waves around Coron were apparently quite rough, so there had been little or no fish in the local market. But the seas calmed down when the day we arrived and we were lucky to see this bounty of fish being unloaded at the market docks the next day. I took several photos, talked to some of the fishermen and then, as genetically programmed, went on a buying spree spurred by the fact that the fish was so appetiing looking and were 60% less than the cost of the same fish in Manila! Each banca had a slightly different catch from the previous night’s efort, but all were unloading a good 50-100 kilos of fish, with 3-4 men per banca.


The boats, manned by 3 or 4 men, spent at least 12 hours on the sea to catch roughly PHP4-6,000 worth of fish. After removing petrol, bait and other costs of say PHP3,000, they could earn as much as PHP3,000 for the boat and its crew.


After watching the boats unload and talking to some of the men, I started to set my sites on particular types of fish… Camera was put away and selection and buying were in full swing.


I first pulled the largest talakitok from one pail, but a closer inspection showed cloudy eyes, a clear sign it had been on ice for too long. Perhaps it was the earliest catch the previous night. So despite it’s heft and low price, I passed. Instead, we settled on several gorgeous tanguigue, about two feet in length and relative teenagers, a barilis and several kilos of smaller fish for frying. Total take? About 12 kilos, for a total price of about P800… amazing. A quick dash to the market’s vegetable section and we were off to Culion for the day, a cooler filled with fish…

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23 Responses

  1. wow! really fresh fish for only P800.. hope i can buy that much also. we’re off to calatagan this weekend- yey!

    as for the ray.. i didn’t know that its edible.. all i know is that they sell the tail (dried).. we have one at home

  2. Hhmmmmmmmm MM, I could almost smell the fish. I wonder how they transform the rays into something looking more palatable and maybe guilt-free.

  3. I have eaten rays, cooked by my Mom or my brother. Really good. Ilonggos usually cook it similar to a paksiw dish but with some sort of leaves. I’m really not the cook in the family, but more of the taster, and I must say, the rays taste mighty good! We usually buy the big rays though, and we buy it from Iloilo or Capiz and my Dad just brings it to Manila…sometimes already cooked by our people in Iloilo.

  4. Rays are grilled here but only the flaps seemed to be used. A mixture of pounded lemon grass/ ginger/ tumeric/ chili/ garlic/onions/belacan/oil is rubbed on both sides of the fish then grilled on open banana leaves. It smells and tastes good!

  5. My friend’s lola cooks “ginataang pagi”. She boils the ray until it is tender then she flakes it to take out the “tinik” as they can be really nasty. She then sautees garlic, onion and ginger strips in a bit of oil, adds the cooked ray and “pangalawang gata” and cooks until it is reduced. She then seasons with salt and pepper, adds a few slices of “siling mahaba” and some gabi leaves. Sometimes, she says, she substitutes with pechay. In the last few minutes of cooking, she adds in the “unang gata” and boils away for a bit longer.

    Served hot with plain rice, this is absolutely delicious.

    I interviewed her (my friend’s lola) first chance I got after eating my friend’s baon in exchange for my chicken adobo. *lol*

  6. ooohhh…I’m drooling right now! Fresh caught tangigue? Do i smell kinilaw? Hell yeah! A few drops of lemon and a dash of salt and pepper…then grilled to perfection.. what a meal! I bet you can still taste the sea aroma..

  7. I’ve tried a Singaporean dish made with stingray and was quite surprised to find the meat had a stringy texture. like eating a handful of rubber bands. well…tender rubber bands. but unfortunately not an experience i sought after that. appalling how expensive food is in the city

  8. You should seek out the French restaurant there in Coron. I hope it is still there. This the foreigner’s watering hole. Nice food at good prices only found in Coron. Have you found the Hot springs there? They also have a great chicken barbecue place across the ice plant. The name escapes me but the place is small enough. Don’t forget to indulge in the lobsters. That is the place to get them.

  9. have had sting ray at a paris resto. were served the part next to the fin(?), simply sautéed in butter. a bit pricey and certainly not worth it.
    hardly any flavor or meat in it. am sure pinoys can cook it better.

  10. P800 for some good, fresh 12 kilos of fish nothing beats that! I wonder now what kind of dish MM is going to make!

    I remember one time when i was a kid, my parents took me along to Malabon with them, to buy the freshest fish available, i didn’t understand it back then why so early, but now i definitely understand why….

  11. MM, from reading your posts, I assumed that you were heavier. You look normal sized to me.
    I enjoy reading your blog and I tried to make the biko. Sad to say, my two experiments did not have good results. The first one was blonde because I could not find any muscovado sugar and the rice was wet. The second try was not as blonde because I used some kind of dark sugar from Indonesia but my rice was still wet. I tried to convert the measurements from kilos to cups but to no avail…hayyyy….I still love to see what you make though. Please do not stop writing on your blog. Thank you.

  12. marketman,

    i had a very similar experience to yours last weekend. the family went to a small beach resort in labason, zamboanga del norte. the first morning we were there, we saw tiny bancas coming in right at the beach. they had large fishes, mostly bariles which they were selling (farm price) at Php 40 per kilo! Then we saw one man jump off the boat into the shallow waters, dragging something gray and white. It turned out to be a sting ray (manta ray? i don’t know the difference). When they beached it, they started cutting it up into pieces, turning the waters red. the kids weren’t grossed out, which surprised me. there was something very primitive about the whole scene. hunters coming home with their catch and dividing the catch, some to sell and some to bring home. when the fishermen parted ways, they each were lugging a big bariles apiece.

    by the way, the stingray was “kontrata-ed” to a buyer in poblacion already for Php 35/kilo.

  13. yes,my late Father he was fisherman,he always brought
    at home such a kind of fish…..

  14. MM, the ‘baby’ ray on the very top of the pile is probably the bluespotted ribbontail ray ( It’s actually not a baby, because this species always stays small! So I hope your conscience rests more easy : ) HOWEVER… this species is classified as ‘near-threatened’ because of overfishing and destruction of its natural habitat… so it’s probably best to stay away from eating it anyway…

    I wonder if the huge ray is a manta??

  15. meh, thanks for that, I know more now, though I will probably stay away from eating rays, period. I don’t know if the huge rage was a manta or a sting ray…

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