foraging in the wreckage

 

Haiyan came, conquered and left the country torn and devastated. More than the usual…

 

Image of two children who survived the strongest typhoon in the Visayas region of the Philippines

The world’s biggest, fastest and strongest typhoon came this way/ http://www.telegraph.co.uk

 

Tagged as the biggest and strongest cyclone to have landed on the planet, this cathastrophe visited via the regular storm path: Philippines. Locally called Yolanda, the super typhoon wrecked havoc on the Visayas region, particularly in the island of Leyte, 573 kilometers, south of Manila. The nightmarish storm hit the ground on the dawn of November 8, well on to the next day and did rampage for the next 48 hours. Official tally of casualties as of today is 1,841, eighty percent of which are from the Leyte-Samar area.  6, 498 villages have been affected, across nine (9) regions of the country. Disaster officers, however, estimate 10,000 people injured and missing; possibly dead. Total number of persons displaced by the calamity – 600,000.

 

We are at the tail end of the rainy season here. Normally, we experience typhoons right after the All Soul’s Day. Thus, a storm on the 3rd or 4th of November is considered ordinary or even expected, in these parts. But this one came a bit late, on the edge of the 7th – with trees swaying to the tune of the howling winds – slamming right into the towns and cities of Central Philippines. Experts hailed Haiyan as stronger and faster than Hurricane Katrina and Super typhoon Sandy combined. Indeed, Yolanda’s wind strength, coverage and speed is beyond what we, Filipinos commonly encounter. Or, go through. Or, escape from… No country or people is prepared enough for a natural disaster of this magnitude and proportion.

The storm pounded Tacloban City, Leyte province’s capital. Buildings were destroyed, houses flooded then eroded, and, the whole city was inundated by the storm surges from the nearby bay. In its wake – trees, people, animals, vehicles and huge amount of debris. Whole communities were flattened, brought to the ground, laid to waste… In the adjacent towns and in the remote villages, dwellings made from light materials (though reinforced) did not stand a chance. This extra-strength typhoon simply swept everything and every one in its path. Power lines were cut off, phone lines were down and food and water supplies vanished, just like that. Parents looking for their children could not find their way, children looking for their parents got lost and in the dark and pummeling rain, families were separated. Some, forever.

 

Image of residents evacuating from the typhoon hit areas

Evacuees cover their noses as they trek the roads to safety as bloated, dead bodies are yet to be buried/ http://www.cnn.com

If we try to wrap our heads around the idea of surviving a violent storm in a big group of islands, like the Philippines, we would have a hard time. This archipelagic country is host to 19 typhoons a year, at least three (3) of them are called super. It depends on where the storm would pass, hit (landfall) and exit, the length of its stay and the strength of the dances nature would do. It is a little like a lottery, with misfortune as the prize (no pun intended). Whenever a typhoon is expected in an area, foundations of houses there are strengthened, roofs are repaired and residents near bodies of water are evacuated. As the moving wind rants, raves and stomps – we run, flee and scamper to dry, higher and safer grounds. Filipinos are used to it, familiar and somehow, adjusted. Or, so we claim… One or two volcanic eruptions annually, a landslide here, three earthquakes there and periodic flooding. But we suffer each time; whether our immediate zone is directly affected or not. Regardless if the disaster, hit our front door, right into our living room or, it happened some 600 kilometers away.

 

We feel small, helpless, insignificant – just like the rest of the world watching the media coverage from CNN via the cable. We would like to help the victims in our own way, concretely — some shelter, jackets, hot water or even just coffee or soup. At one time or another, we have been there: on the side needing aid, assistance, comfort. Or, at the very least, seeking a glimmer of hope. From the screens of our television sets, the happenings are too distant, yet too familiar and too surreal. Mothers crying softly, fathers staring dumbfounded and confused children wailing, there’s just too many of them. In their faces – fear, pain and sorrow – all too deep, too recent for words. The hourly news flash updates on impassable roads, looting of supermarkets, warehouses and malls and, relief trucks stalled on the way to the victims. Most devastated communities are in the coastal areas or far-flung villages; rescue and relief operations are logistically long and difficult.

 

Three days after the storm’s landfall, it was found out that the nearby islands of Samar were also badly damaged. Historically, Samar is one of the country’s poorest provinces. It turned out, casualties in the Eastern and Western Samar was close to 400 and more than 2,000 villages in the area, have been badly affected by the storm. On the other hand, Bohol province, where a strong quake occurred less that a month earlier, was also hit by a series of gigantic storm surges during Haiyan’s rampage. Likewise for Cebu, where death toll from the super typhoon reached 63.

 

War has its signature image, that pair of haunting eyes asking the whereabouts of its loved ones. We keep on seeing it in the last five (5) days – on the TV screens, on social media’s most recently uploaded pics and videos and, on our PC monitors. There is no war, no. Yet, the manifestations are too telling – dead bodies, survivors foraging through the wreckage, in the midst of cadavers, and hungry, desperate people fighting over food, water and blankets.

 

 Image of a child staring ahead helplessly after Haiyan's rampage

The post typhoon scenario imitates that of a civil war. Children need immediate help/ http://www.theguardian.com

 

We change the channel, shift to another platform (to get more of the same) before dialing the number for the possibility of donating. It’s not enough, we know inside that that little help we are extending will hardly be enough. But we hope and pray to high heavens that it will succor the tragedy’s victims somehow. Somehow… We, too, are desperate. We, too need assurance that things will get better. After all, it’s not  everyday that people loot supermarkets and dead peoples’ homes. It’s not everyday that people throw decency to the wind and elbow the next fellow for a can of sardines. No. But deep inside, we ask ourselves, “Had we been in that same situation, would we have done the same?” Surprisingly, we are not surprised by the answer: Yes.

 

 

*Interested and concerned parties may donate through the hotlines and websites of the UN Food Programme, the Red Cross and CNN. Private efforts and private groups soliciting support and donations for the typhoon victims are encouraged and welcome. If you are sending over items, easy-open canned goods are preferred, also bottled water, rice, blankets and jackets.

Most victims are in the evacuation areas or in the streets thus, they have nothing to cook with just yet. For now, edible and usable items that could be packed and handled easily are preferred and would also make it easy for the volunteers. Most relief efforts are using big trucks, most roads are still hard to negotiate or dangerous and the airports in the typhoon-hit areas as well as the electricity and phone connections are all down.

We all want to help, but let us also be patient. Donation of helicopters, aircrafts and seacrafts from really wealthy bloggers and their families are most welcome. Just kidding. 😉 Actually, am half serious. It seems the rescue and relief operations will speed up if the government had more of them as most victims are in islands, islets and isolated areas. Finding and burying the dead is also on top of the agenda. It’s almost  like a war, over here. The atmosphere is such that most of us are down because of this disaster.

Let us all hold hands, this is a catastrophe that visited not just us, Filipinos, but all of mankind. You are with us, we know … Thank you. 🙂

Kind words and warm thoughts will be accepted, too. The blogger here is fine, thanks to dear bloggers who came over to ask and extended concerns. Hugs to all. 🙂 🙂 

 

In the ring of fire

 

Top of Tuesday’s news was the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the island of Bohol, 562 kilometers, south of Manila. The tremors reached onto nearby Cebu, destroying churches, hospitals and other structures. Bohol is a top tourist destination famous for its pristine waters, Chocolate Hills and the world-renowned Loboc Children’s Choir. The church where the children regularly sing, collapsed. The Basilica del Sto. Nino in Cebu, the oldest Catholic church in the Philippines, was also badly damaged.

Wednesday morning’s report said the number of casualties was less than 100. By the evening, news announced more than 140 dead bodies found and still counting. It has been raining very badly for days in most parts of the country, making the disaster bigger, darker and more confusing. Rescue and relief operations are ongoing. Movement of the tectonic plates, geological experts explain the disaster’s cause. The Bohol-Cebu quake was pronounced worse than the 2010 Haiti quake and is said to be 32 times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb.

The August 2012 Samar quake was 7.6 in Richter scale, but that disaster left only a few casualties. The 1990 Northern Luzon earthquake was 7.9 in magnitude, with 1,621 on its death toll  (I was a teenager in the metropolis that time, tremors reached Metro Manila and for two months, we lived in fear – observing cracks in the wall and on the streets as we went along our routines).Topping the  list of worst quakes was the 1976 earthquake in Mindanao, one that had a tsunami in its wake – death toll was 4,791. Unfortunately, we do get a lot of natural disasters around these parts, thanks to our rather exciting location: in the center of the world’s Ring of Fire, hoho. 🙂

 

Image of Bohol's wide waterways

Part of Bohol’s allure is for tourists to take a boat ride along its wide rivers, surrounded by verdant hills and mountains/ travelexplorebeyond.com

 

Image of Bohol's famous Chocolate Hills

Bohol is known for its Chocolate Hills, a series of mounds that grace the island’s spectacular landscape/ de.paperblog.com

 

Image of the Loboc Children's Choir from the Bohol island, Philippines

The famous Loboc Children’s Choir showcasing the island of Bohol in the background/ faxiamen.com

 

Image of tarsiers on the island of Bohol

The biggest population of Philippine tarsier, one of the smallest primates, can be found in Bohol/ en.wikipedia.org

 

I was in El Nido, Palawan the first time, last September. El Nido is another top tourist destination in the Philippines, known for its clear water and gigantic limestone rock formations, similar to the Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. It was a pit stop in the Amazing Race reality show and the last scene in the latest installment of the Bourne Legacy series (a paradise-like island where the escaping movie couple, Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz, found themselves). My sister and I were there for five days, but we did not see much. The coastguards would not allow tours of the islands and the beaches: Philippines was then in the middle of a supertyphoon, Odette. We spent most of our time by the door of our hotel that was conveniently beachfront, with the giant sea waves lashing the shore and the windblown talisay leaves flying in our faces. For days, we felt marooned in the island said to be one of the country’s best.

On our last day, the supertyphoon has already landed, the coastguards allowed several groups to venture out nearby. We did get to see some of the gigantic limestone rocks, 13 to 15 million years in the making. From our boat, the cliffs look like ancient cathedrals – dark, foreboding, uninhabited. Dark blue waters with huge, undulating waves, against the gargantuan rocky mountains – untamed nature, up close, live. They take one’s breath away and leave one speechless. And, we weren’t in the choicest parts of El Nido yet…

We had a swim in a beach several kilometers away from the town and were served a sumptuous lunch. Then, on to another beach in another giant rock shelter, close by. As our boat was inching towards the shore, a storm hit. It was my second time to experience a sudden and violent cyclone in the open seas. The rain was pounding, the wind was merciless and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We were actually in an islet, somewhere in the Bacuit archipelago, just a few kilometers away from Malampaya. All tourists in the five boats that made that trip ran for cover, by the shore. There really was nowhere for us to go. We were like rodents scattered in different parts of the shore, ravaged by the storm, about to be carried away by the giant waves, almost…

 

Image of one of El Nido's beaches in Palawan

The dark cliffs of El Nido have withstood raging storms for millions of years/ togiexplorer.com

 

Living in the Philippines is quite exciting. Soon as you’re thinking you’ve had it bad, you open the TV or your computer and immediately, news of disasters greet you. Hardly a month passes by without a catastrophe visiting our group of islands – storms, floods, earthquakes, landslides or sometimes, a combination of. And these do not include the man-made disasters, my friends… The politicians in our country are always busy, needless to say. It’s a tough job telling and assuring the people, the constituents, to hang on – tomorrow, life will be kinder.

It’s also rough for the public school teachers and their pupils – every calamity spells ruined classrooms, changes in class schedules and begging politicians and rich donors for money — for the reconstruction of the damaged facilities. Of course, farming is usually badly hit and every year, agricultural output slides down. There is still a huge market for the insurance of small farms, leaseholds and fish pens: It begs to be in the top priority. Still, corruption at various levels manage to thrive and how…

The country’s previous administration is currently being investigated – for appropriating privately funds in billions – earmarked for farmer victims of previous typhoons. Hope the current batch of politicians, local and national, will not make hay out of the Bohol-Cebu tragedy. And hopefully, the peoples’ attention and concern for the disaster’s victims will extend beyond the days when said episode is top of the Yahoo News or Twitter’s trending topic.

I don’t know… From my experience, it is not really the gravity of the misfortune that causes a victim severe setbacks, but seeing and feeling the apathy of others who know about the big, consequential disaster, but treat it much like yesterday’s news. 🙂

 

Image of the historic church in Bohol destroyed by the October quake

Bohol’s Loboc church collapsed/bbc.co.uk

 

Image of Bohol folks fleeing after the earthquake

Century-old structures were not spared in the Bohol quake, people are still nervous about aftershocks/ in.news.yahoo.com

 

Image of a road badly hit by the quake in Bohol

Several roads in Bohol have been damaged and impassable/ abc.net.au

 

Image of a building wall that collapsed on a van in Cebu, Philippines

The neighboring Cebu City was also badly hit/ bbc.co.uk

 

Image of nurses attending to the injured in one of the worst quakes that hit the Philippines

Attending to the sick and the injured first/ headlineasia.com

 

More than 1,200 aftershocks have been recorded since the original 30-second earthquake occurred. Authorities count 10 historic churches as badly damaged, as well as several hospitals and around 400, 000 families affected. Property damage estimate was placed at Php80 million, while the government has, so far, allocated Php98 million emergency and relief operations fund. Rescue operations are still ongoing, for the hundreds injured and missing in the tragic Bohol-Cebu quake.

 

Did I say that we, Filipinos, are a resilient lot? Disasters and all, we do manage to come around. More or less… 😉 🙂

 

Fortune knocks but once, but misfortune has much more patience.

Laurence J. Peter

 

Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.

William James

 

One likes people much better when they’re battered down by a prodigious siege of misfortune than when they triumph.

Virginia Woolf

 

It is the task of a good man to help those in misfortune.

Sophocles

 

Source: http://brainyquotes.com

 

Ode to the sea

 

 

* Ralph Fiennes reads Pablo Neruda’s poem, Ode to the Sea

 

Here surrounding the island,
There΄s sea.
But what sea?
It΄s always overflowing.
Says yes,
Then no,
Then no again,
And no,
Says yes
In blue
In sea spray
Raging,
Says no
And no again.
It can΄t be still.
It stammers
My name is sea.

It slaps the rocks
And when they aren΄t convinced,
Strokes them
And soaks them
And smothers them with kisses.

With seven green tongues
Of seven green dogs
Or seven green tigers
Or seven green seas,
Beating its chest,
Stammering its name,

Oh Sea,
This is your name.
Oh comrade ocean,
Don΄t waste time
Or water
Getting so upset
Help us instead.
We are meager fishermen,
Men from the shore
Who are hungry and cold
And you΄re our foe.
Don΄t beat so hard,
Don΄t shout so loud,
Open your green coffers,
Place gifts of silver in our hands.
Give us this day our daily fish.

 

– Ode to the Sea by Pablo Neruda

 

Two movie industries

 

When the famous Hollywood director, Quentin Tarantino came over to the Philippines in 2007, it was a dream come true, he said so in interviews. He was here for more than a week in August, six years ago, attending the Cinemalaya Film Festival and the Tarantino Film Festival, both held at the Gateway Cinema in Quezon City. Cinemalaya means free cinema and its festival is held annually to celebrate and honor the makers and actors behind low-budget, independent film ventures in the country.

 

Image of director Tarantino at the Golden Globe Awards

Multi-awarded director Quentin Tarantino directed the films, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill/ http://www.eonline.com

The Tarantino Festival, on the other hand, was organized in honor of the celebrated director, featuring movies Tarantino wrote and/or directed, screening of international, multi-awarded films and a week-long workshop in screenplay, cinematography and technical aspects of film-making. Gateway is a high-end mall with a movie house in Quezon City. The cinema was newly-opened that time, making it the best venue for a relatively high profile, colorful event.

 

Gateway was therefore flooded with local directors, movie actors, writers and film enthusiasts from all over the country for a week. During the event, Tarantino said that he has high admiration for Filipino directors, notably those who made films in the 50s and 60s. The period is known as the golden era of the Philippine movie industry, by the way. It is said that ours made headway first, long before India’s Bollywood, ahaha… 🙂

 

Image of director Quentin Tarantino with his admired directors

Direk Tarantino with some of his admired Filipino directors during the film festival – Derek Romero, Derek Santiago and Derek Aguiluz/ http://www.pep.ph

 

Director Tarantino told stories, him working in a video shop before entering Hollywood and spending considerable amount of time watching the films of respected Filipino directors Eddie Romero, Gerry de Leon, Pablo Suarez and  Cirio Santiago… Directors Eddie Romero and Cirio Santiago were present in the festival. The former was a handsome actor and director in the old days but during the festival, one cannot help but notice, the director has considerably aged. The latter was a staunch businessman, known for his B-movies for international release, ahaha. Director Quentin proudly admitted that Death Proof  was a rip-off of Santiago’s early film, The Muthers.

 

What I remember about the Tarantino films are, the blood and gore, the unapologetic sex scenes and, the way the movie creator brings on screen the minds of the crime perpetrators. The comfort room or the “commode,” as it is usually called in the Tarantino movies, is usually highlighted in his films. Often, there are bodies lying around – violated, mutilated and bloodied in the most horrible manner imaginable. And Director Quentin’s films, are usually about how things got that messy.

 

 

Or, how cold, calculating and “objective” the murderer was. Tarantino films often imply that we have the murderer in us… Thus, when I saw the famed director at Gateway, I was amazed at how relaxed and open he appeared and sounded. And, he is bigger (physically) than I thought… 🙂 He narrated stories about the Filipino films he has seen, the length he went through to get copies, haha, and he was lovable with his knowledge of Filipino actors and actresses – old and new, the famous and the obscure. He did and do watch our movies, interestingly…

 

Director Tarantino said that he thinks, there are two movie industries in the Philippines: the mainstream and the indie. The mainstream generally makes lighter-themed, big budgeted, starred in by known actors, tackles safe issues and makes more money. The indie, on the other hand, tackles high- risk themes, are low-budgeted, starred in by actors with less or no projects  but, dares into less-traveled spheres of the film genre, even as the creators hardly make any money, ahaha.

According to the Hollywood director, it is Filipino indie films that offer quality and get awards in the international and regional film festivals. For him, the Filipino indie films have the potential in the international market, but why don’t the Filipino movie-going public patronize them? It was raised in the open forum:  The commercial aspect of film making in the Philippines usually get the upper hand, as the movie-going public is more inclined to pay for and watch films that offer escape and entertainment. The issue was tackled, but in the end, Derek Tarantino was still puzzled and asking, ahaha.

 

Image of known director, Gil Portes

Derek Gil Portes has written and directed many films, both mainstream and indie/ mwww.angkulet.com

There were so many known personalities in the week-long activity. There, I saw Dereks Tikoy Aguiluz, Wenn Deramas, Manny Valera, Gil Portes, Adolf Alix, Jr and the former vocalist of the famous band, Eraserhead’s Ely Buendia (with his wife), ahaha. In one of the movie screenings, the third of the Julie Delpy series, I sat next to Derek Gil Portes, hoho… The director looked and sounded bored, ahaha. After the movie, we had a light talk, asked me if I enjoyed the film. I said, yes, somehow… I mean, the third isn’t as good as the first two (Before Sunset, Before Sunrise), but pleasant enough. He gave me a look that seemed to say, I had much to learn as a film viewer, haha.

 

But Derek Gil Portes was nice and courteous, nicer than what one would ordinarily expect from a director who has made movies that earned awards and accolades, here and abroad. Well, am blabbering… All am saying, the recent weekend was a long one for us (Friday was holiday, to celebrate the end of Ramadan) and for the first time in four months, I got the chance to visit some blogs and watch a couple of indie films at Cinema One via the local cable. ‘Twas  uneventful, rainy and the storm sure provided us more than the usual darkness and unremitting amount of rain, hehehe … 😉

 

 

* Small Voices is a film directed by Gil Portes, about a teacher assigned in a remote barrio. 

 

Let’s have a fishy conversation…

 

Hello, people… 🙂 As I said before, Philippines is an aquatic country. Ours is a big grouping of islands and islets. We’re literally surrounded by water, just like Winnie the Pooh after the rain, hehe. The sad part, of course, is the fact that yours truly hails from an almost landlocked village. I would really have wanted to be born and raised in a place where one rises to the sound of the sea waves in the morning. That must have been cool. I mean, that is cool! Imagine, most seas are right beside mountains… So, if one’s by the sea, the mountain is likely, surely near or across. Two wonders of nature to nurture a child’s curious body and mind, eh… 😉

 

Image of a beach resort in Palawan, Philippines

The mountain and the sea always look after each other/ sarahrotzinthephilippines.blogspot.com

 

When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to see fishermen on the shore, doing what the apostles in the Bible were doing – arranging the fish nets so the fishing vessels could sail to the open seas. I was fascinated, nay, mesmerized, at what they were doing – making sure the nets are okay, all the equipment and tools are in and pushing the boat from the dock area to the sea… That was group work – lots of coordination, happy shouting and silent understanding among sunburned people. They seemed to love the muscle work required, the camaraderie among men and the smell and feel of the sea. There really were years of my life when I wished I could live among sea-faring people.

 

Image of a fishing boat docked

The “banca,” a type of fishing boat common in the Philippine coastal villages/ http://www.panoramio.com

 

Anyway, if I were to be born again and in the Philippines at that, I would wish it to be in a village by the sea. At some points, I questioned why I was given birth in a watery country and yet, there isn’t even a river in our place, ahaha. There’s a creek nearby, though and my siblings, cousins and I had to make do – playing with silt, catching small crabs and removing moss from rock boulders. And, lying down the creek bed, allowing water to clean our bodies and relax our nasty spirits. I would later study high school in the city and the visits to the creek would be cut short, shorter than anticipated. In the new setting, there would be tap water, that’s the big news. 😉

 

Before I was enrolled in the first grade, I had the chance to visit my uncle’s fishpond in the nearby province. Along with my cousins, I was brought to the area during harvest season. There were thousands of fish still moving, squirming, struggling inside the nets. They were how the poet Neruda described them: silvery. I think that was also how Hemingway described those creatures – the bounty of the sea… Except, those fishes did not come from the big, wide, open sea. They came from the nearby lake. And, the fingerlings or fry were the cultivated kind – Uncle had a fish nursery. Anyway,’ twas fun to see them alive, close and too personal… I did not sleep well for four nights after the episode, haha. I remembered the eyes of the fishes, seeming to ask for my help… I did not eat fish my whole elementary years, that’s how bad… 🙂

 

Image of men harvesting fish in a pond in the Philippines

Harvesting the bounty of fresh waters, live fish inside a net in a fish cage/ islandtrecker.com

 

Anyway, that was a long time ago. In high school, I would eventually learn to eat fish again… In the Philippines, the fish ordinarily eaten by our folks are the small kinds, people – anywhere from 50 grams to two kilos in weight. The world’s smallest fish (half an inch in length) can be found here, by the way, in Taal lake… The big and fancy fishes are for the moneyed people, the cultured folks and those with culinary schooling, ahaha. Actually, we don’t have many big fishes. The huge, giant ones are mostly tunas – the big-eye tuna (Thunnus obesus), and the yellow fin tuna (Thunnus alalungga) from the Batangas bay and even bigger ones, from General Santos city.

 

Tunas from the Batangas area are generally smaller and are sold in nearby provinces and in Metro Manila. GenSan city, on the other hand, is said to be the country’s tuna basin. Gen San port (and market) captures the biggest, the gigantic tunas (Thunnus albacares), aside from the big-eye and the yellow fin. The prime catch from the Sarangani Bay and from the nearby, wider, open seas in the South, make their way to GenSan market and are traditionally sold to U.S. and Japan to meet the demands for sushi, sashimi and other raw fish dishes of classy restaurants…

 

Image of tuna catch on display at the rack, in Gen San City

Gen. Santos City tuna catch, one fine day/ news.mindanao.com

 

Image of tunas on the display rack at Gen San's fishport

An ordinary morning at Gen. San’s fishport/ http://www.skyscrapercity.com

 

Gen. Santos city, by the way, is in Mindanao, down South. Locally, the Saranggani tuna is also called the barilis. The GenSan tuna maybe renowned, here and abroad, but the local tuna industry, has yet to make inroads… There is still a long way to go, before GenSan becomes a prosperous city, it seems… Manny Pacquaio, the world-famous boxer, is Sarangani’s representative, by the way. Or, as the people put it, “Congressman Manny, idol!” 😉

 

Image of a man carrying a big yellow fin tuna

From the sea on its way to the fish port, Gen San giant fish catch/ http://www.bubblews.com

 

Image of a yellow fin tuna sliced tomake sushi

One could see nature’s creative design, in the lines inside the giant sea creature/ tagadavao.wordpress.com

 

Around here, most people eat the head and the tail part of the fish, excuse me, my dear foreign readers…  Usually, Filipinos eat the eyes of the fish, tooIt’s not just the Greeks, folks. 😉 And, fish eyes are yummy. Of course, it’s an acquired taste… ^_^ By the way, in the big supermarkets, the fishes sold there are also packaged nicely – sans the head, the tail and the innards, hehe. Most are sold as fillets… In the wet markets, the fishes are sold cleaned and sliced (by the kilos) or whole  and uncleaned (by piece, yet weighted).

 

About three years ago, sibling and I had the chance to watch a British reality show where the producers tried to introduce the participants to the food industry in U.K. They made the contestants trace the supply chain of the processed food products found in the shelves of big supermarkets. They were brought to several countries in Asia – to learn firsthand how to dress chickens in the factory, haha, to catch shrimps in the ditches and to see up close that fishes originally had tails and heads, so unlike the ones in the supermarkets… 🙂 Most of the participants had a change of heart afterwards. It was shown in the end – how they became better young adults, more appreciative of their parents… 🙂

 

 

Anyway, folks, let me introduce to you the famous fishes in my country –

 

Image of the mackerel patronized in Philipppine households

Mackerel is a staple in the ordinary Filipino diet/ http://www.untvweb.com

Galunggong or mackerel is the poor man’s almost daily fare, around here. There are five varieties of fresh mackerel common in the wet markets in the Philippines. The most sought after is the round, elongated one – the horse mackerel (Decapterus maruadsi) or the roundscad. The other famous variety is the wide, striped mackerel, also known as the Indian mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta) or alumahan. Galunggong generally comes as your small fish, 100 grams a piece, on the average. Or, 10 to 12 pieces of mackerel in a kilo – enough for two meals – for a family of six. 🙂

 

Image of mature kamyas on trees

Kamyas is a sour fruit for seasoning and fermentation of fish dishes/ http://www.pinoyecofarmer.com

It is often said that the quality of life of the Filipinos is measured by the price of the galunggong in the market, haha. Personally, I was not acquainted with galunggong, until I went to the metropolis for college (We have small tunas in the province and those were what we bought when we had money. Most days, running on a tight budget, we got the other smaller fishes, available only locally). By the way, galunggong is traditionally salted, boiled and cooked with garlic, onions, ginger and kamyas. The dish is known as “pinaksiw na galunggong.”Or, sometimes, just salt, plain vinegar and some tomatoes… This dish is known as “pinangat.”

 

Image of pinaksiw na galunggong on a plate

Mackerel, boiled with salt and vinegar, is delicious when eaten with plain rice/ http://www.paphaofurniture.com

 

Image of fried galunggong with tomatoes and salted eggs

Fried galunggong goes well with salted egg and fresh tomato/ halieskitchen.blogspot.com

Galunggong has indeed stuck with the Pinoys, through thick and thin. This rather small fish has seen the Filipino people through the post-American republic, the crisis of the 70’s, almost two decades of dictatorship and post-EDSA hardships… For ordinary lunch, the galunggong is usually fried and served with sauteed or steamed vegetables, together with ample amount of rice, hohoho… 😉 Around here, one would hear tales from middle-class and rich Filipinos – how galunggong has seen them though difficult days… ^^

 

 

Bangus or milkfish (Chanos chanos) is our national fish, one of our country’s symbols… Milkfish or bangus is a bony kind of fish (has two dorsal spines and 13-17 dorsal rays) , silver in color, has a small mouth and no teeth, ahaha. It is  a marine, freshwater animal, found along continental shelves and islands (No wonder we have plenty of it ;)). Indeed, many coastal villages in the country have bangus… It is said that milkfish aquaculture originated in the Philippines, 800 years ago and was spread over the Indo-Pacific rim. Filipinos breed and raise milkfish several ways – in saline ponds, in fish pens and in cages (at sea).

 

Image of a milkfish

Milkfish, also known as bangus, is the Philippine national fish/ http://www.tateh.com

 

The milkfish is a much bigger fish than the ordinary mackerel. Say, twice to 15 times bigger… Thus, it is also priced higher and is considered city people’s regular viand. By the way, bangus is another product that our country exports in bulk, by the tons… Most of the supply come from the Central Luzon area – in the provinces of Pangasinan, Bulacan and Pampanga… Bangus products are traditionally sold fresh, smoked or fermented. In the recent decades, they also come bottled, canned and frozen. By the way, one product stands out: Philippines’ “boneless bangus” or deboned milkfish, available in supermarkets here and also abroad.

 

Image of bangus fish inside a pale, typical market scene in the Phils.

Bangus is available in most markets, on any given day/ lakbaypilipinas.com

Cooked milkfish is available in almost all eating places around here – in fancy restaurants, fastfoods, office canteens and in the roadside eateries… Just like the galunggong, it is usually prepared “pinaksiw.” Pinaksiw is fresh catch bangus, salted and fermented with vinegar, with some ginger, ampalaya (bitter gourd) and eggplants tossed in. It is well-liked among the Pinoys. Its sour-spicy taste brings out the fish’s natural flavor.

 

The other famous preparation is “sinigang.” Sinigang is a lot like the pinaksiw, minus the ginger, and there is more soup in the dish and more vegetables, haha. It has more more tomatoes, kamyas and tamarind and thus, tastes sour-spicy in a good way. 😉 It is the all-around, all-time dish preparation of the Filipinos – there is protein in the fish, and vitamins and minerals, in the generous proportion of vegetables and green leaves, not present in other dish preparations.

 

Image of packaged boneless bangus from the Philipppines

Philippine boneless bangus is a delicacy, exported in several countries/ http://www.morefoodadventures.com

By the way, the milkfish is another food I would learn to eat only upon coming to the big city… A tip, dear people:  The best part of the bangus is its belly, haha. Sinigang na belly usually costs more in restaurants, too… As an aside, the cheeks of the bangus is another soft, yummy part. To these days, the younger sister and I quarrel who gets to eat the cheeks… Actually, she always asks me if I’d be good enough to let her eat the cheeks of the bangus in my plate, haha. ^^

 

Lastly and not- to- be- missed bangus preparations: the daing and the relyeno. Daing means the fish will be cut in half and spread, for the whole fish to be fried crisply. It is famous for breakfast in the Philippines. Most Filipinos returning to the country from abroad have that in their wish list, ahaha…  Relyeno, on the other hand, is stuffed bangus – the bangus meat would be taken out, ground and mixed with vegetables and spices – to be put back inside the fish again, before frying or steaming. With rice, relyenong bangus is heavenly… 😉

 

Image of daing na bangus over a pasta dish

Daing na bangus goes well with rice or pasta, and vegetables/ centurytuna.ph

Image of stuffed bangus also known as relyeno

Relyenong bangus is a treat/ http://www.philamfood.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image of tilapia fish being prepared for lunch

Tilapia is grown and cultivated several ways in different parts of the Philippines/ thenaa.net

Another common fish around here is the tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Tilapia is another fresh-water creature and abounds in the country – in coastal areas, on fish ponds and even in homes with big backyards. In the last four decades, tilapia-raising has become a huge industry in the Philippines, much like the breeding and spawning of bangus… Philippine tilapia has also become an export product – cleaned and packaged or, in fillet form. Tilapia is another bony fish, unfortunately, and requires  meticulous preparation, before serving… Well, if there is boneless bangus, there is also boneless tilapia, ahaha. 😉

 

As a dish, tilapia is available in the backstreet eateries, as well as, in the expensive restaurants in the Philippines. It may come in its usual fried form or “ginataan.” Ginataan means cooked with salt, coconut milk, ginger, garlic and some leafy vegetables and eggplants. The dish is quite popular – tasty, soft and a bit spicy. It is often eaten with plain rice – lots of, haha… 😉

 

Image of tilapia cooked with coconut milk and vegetables

Ginataang tilapia, with rice – a fave lunch among the Pinoys/ luckymom2009.wordpress.com

 

In the recent months, I’ve come across tilapia served in certain restaurants – so carefully prepared and so nicely served, they are barely recognizable as our ordinary tilapia. They are excellent, thanks to the chefs who never stop innovating – to bring the common tilapia, before the watchful eyes and the discerning palates of the world… 🙂

 

Image of tilapia fillet, with lemon and butter

The tilapia, in the hands of seasoned chefs/ http://www.ifood.tv

Just saying, I have watched TV shows that show the tilapia as a pet fish or a garden-type fish, like the koi. Or, simply kept as ornamentals – in certain states in the U.S., in Japan and in some cities in Europe… This phenomenon has left me wondering about the peculiarities of cultures. You know, an edible fish that is not eaten by folks, but kept as decor or, something to afford variety in nature? Ah, am still wondering, hahaha. 😉

 

Image of fried tilapia

Tilapia, cooked and served the traditional Filipino way/ http://www.atasteofmylife.com

 

Our last fish is the tulingan (Auxis rochei). Tulingan or bullet tuna is also a staple fish in the Philippines. Am including it in the article for a very biased reason:  It is my favorite fish. 😉 Tulingan is different from the huge tunas as it is rather small – 300 grams a piece on the average. Otherwise, just like the giant tuna, its fins are black and it has no scales.

 

Image of fresh tulingan or bullet tuna in the wet market

Bullet tuna or tulingan is among the smallest in its family and abounds in the tropics/ http://www.ictioterm.es

 

Bullet tuna is available in the market most of the time and is affordable … I have cooked and eaten this fish countless number of times, am too partial, ahaha. My fave part is the black lining in its mid part – the fish cod. My favorite preparation is “sinaing.” Sinaing means boiling the cleaned and salted fish – over low and slow fire for several hours – with water, garlic and a few pieces of chili. It is very tasty, soft and the dish could be stored for a few days – without refrigeration.

 

Image of cooked small tuna, a local fave among the Tagalogs

Over at our place, sinaing na tulingan is cooked for five to 20 hours/ recipe.foohta.com

In my family, most members are also fond of the tulingan. But unlike me who profess that I could eat tulingan as viand with two plates of rice almost everyday, haha, they want the fish deep-fried or ginataan or broiled, on certain days and occasions. Anyway, each to his taste, or, weirdness… 🙂

 

Anyway, tulingan has a close relative, known as the “tambakol.” The tambakol (Thunnus alalungga) is three to ten times bigger than the tulingan, yet about ten times smaller than the giant tunas for export. Tambakol is even tastier than the tulingan and its meat is tender – a good pork substitute for Spanish-influenced dishes. When bought fresh, tambakol is excellent for raw fish dishes and served on special occasions in my province… Somehow, tambakol is considered the better-off cousin of the bullet tuna… 😉

 

Image of fresh tambakol

Tambakol, fresh catch from the Southern Tagalog region/ http://www.flickriver.com

 

Image of ginataang tambakol, sliced thinly

Tambakol is a local delicacy/ fnbshareknowledge. blogspot. com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image of fried tambakol

Tambakol could be fried then, sauteed with vegetables/ tinkeravenue.wordpress.com

 

Image of an skipjack tuna

The skipjack tuna or gulyasan is less tasty than the tambakol or even the tulingan/ fooduniversity.com

But tambakol is more expensive and often not available, unless one goes to the wet market very early, haha. At odd hours, one would come across “gulyasan,” or skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), the striped tuna favored in Japan and the Maldives. But for the Pinoys, or at least for the market-going folks like me, the striped tuna is considered the poor relative of tambakol and tulingan. However, fish vendors in the market usually pass it off as bullet tuna, to the unfamiliar. ^^

 

Generally, I would say that the ordinary Filipinos’ fish preference leans towards group fishes – mackerels and tunas – that abound in our oceans and tropical seas. There are only few healthy rivers around here, healthy enough to be able to host ample supply of fish and aquatic animals. But occasionally, we also do have some trouts and fly fishes in our wet markets. In the fancy restaurants, of course, there are different kinds – salmons, soles, seabass and tuna – prepared tastefully and served elegantly. Ahaha, that is, for folks  with more discriminating palates and deeper pockets, hohoho. For the ordinary Pinoys, fish is commonly fried or steamed and eaten with a slew of plain, white, steaming rice… 🙂

 

We are a fish-eating people, am afraid. Methinks the British folks would envy us for that… 😉

 

Image of a coastal area in Sothern Luzon Philippines

A bay area in Southern Luzon, a hill and a sea/ http://www.panoramio.com

 

Some facts:

 

The Philippines is an archipelago, composed of 7,107 islands.

The country has a territorial marine area of 2, 200, 000 square kilometers. 

The Philippine tuna (export) industry brings in roughly PhP14 billion or US$337,719 annually (2010 data). It accounts for 12% of the country’s total fish production.

The Philippines is currently the 7th among the world’s top tuna producers. Philippines was 6th in 2008 and 4th in 2004.

General Santos City is called the tuna capital of the Philippines, where the bulk of tuna catch are taken before they are sold to international fishing companies for processing and shipment abroad and to buyers for distribution to different domestic markets.

The bulk of tuna fishing activities are concentrated at Moro Gulf, Davao Gulf, Celebes Sea, Sulu Sea, east coast of Samar and Western Luzon. Some fishing activities are also done at South China Sea during summer.  

Tuna industry reports state that the Philippine waters is relatively overfished for sashimi-grade tuna or tuna for export. They claim that the fishermen have to venture farther and longer in the open seas to be able to catch huge tunas.

Reports have it, however, that the yellow fin tuna for the local market increased by 25% as of June, 2013.

The sashimi grade tuna for export is priced $9 to $10 a kilo on the average while huge tunas for the local market is priced between $6 to $8 a kilo. 

There are six (6) kinds of tuna commonly found in our territorial waters – in the oceans, shelves and municipal shorelines. 

The 1992-1994 Tuna Research Project, however, recorded 21 different tunas in Philippine waters, including the migratory kinds.

Commercial fishing of tuna employ the ringnetting method, purse seining and the traditional payao method. 

Municipal fishing or small-scale tuna fishing in the Philippines still use handlines and gillnets.

There are three kinds of fishing in the country: commercial, municipal and aquaculture. Each kind contributes roughly one-third to the fish industry.

The biggest catch or production of commercial fishing is usually mackerel, geared to meet the demand of sardines factories.

 

Thank you very much for reading, all the best to you, guys… 🙂

 

Settling the quandary

 

Hello, people… 🙂

 

In the Philippines, two of the most commonly patronized fish viands are the tuyo (dried herring) and the galunggong (round scad mackerel). They are priced low in the market, compared to other fishes and have therefore formed part of Filipino meals through the years… It does not come as a surprise then, many Filipinos still think that the galunggong is the country’s national fish. On the other hand, some say it is the tuyo, with a sleight on how most Filipinos fare economically, “Tuyo lang ang nakayanan (Dried hearing is all that we can afford)” or, “Tuyo pa rin (It is still dried herring, after all these years).” By the way, both taste good, when paired with a cup of steaming hot rice, ahaha.

 

Image of dried herring for sale in the Philippines

Tuyo or dried herring is a common viand in the Philippines/ valhals-cavalier.dk

 

However, our national fish is the silvery bangus (milkfish), a fact that has been taught us in school, from the earliest years… But this piece of useful information escapes us often, for some reason. Bangus is a handsome aquatic animal and I would say, represents the country and its people with pride. Maybe, when the time comes that more households can afford to buy bangus, we will remember… 😉

 

My next post will be about the round scad mackerel and other fishes commonly bought and eaten in the Philippines, folks…  Am afraid it is quite a long article, five (5) pages excluding the pics, ahaha. Next time you drop by, remember to have yourself  a cup of coffee or tea, and some biscuits… It will be an interesting read, promise. 😉

 

Image of tea and biscuits

Some hot drink and a couple of biscuits when you come around next…/ abc.net.au

 

Hope you are well, warm regards… ^_^

 

Sweet souls

 

Remember when we first plunged into this blogging business, we hardly knew what to expect. Would there be readers, people who would be interested, who would care about what we do, think or whether we exist or not? Well, more or less, things were like that, in the beginning… And as we plodded on, we found out out that our sentiments are carried off to the shores, across the universe. And, some people, virtual, yes, but breathing, existing and writing actually care and share – our dreams.  And, we are assured, somehow, that real people bother and we ourselves, do care… There are sweet souls in the universe – touching, moving and uplifting our beings – in more ways than we could have possibly imagined. I guess it’s time to thank some of them… 🙂

 

Image of colorul cupcakes

Super Sweet Blogging Award

 

Am no good at tagging, as you know. But this time, yours truly was found by an excellent writer and editor, a Quaker and an advocate of living -up-the-world-in-your-village. It’s Mr. Jnana Hodson, folks…  I have been reading in his site since his blog entry was featured on Freshly Pressed.

Didn’t have an inkling he would notice my presence. Or, at least give it a thought, haha. I mean, his writings run deep, in a way that leaves you asking, “Why can I not write that way? He says things so simply…” And yet, you know, the feat comes from nerve-wrecking encounters, complicated situations, and haplesss circumstances, haha. 😉

His writings seem to fend off the chaos, inside and out. The humble and quiet way they send the message across is admirable. He says it’s the Quaker in him. My suspicion, it’s also from other sources. Say, his Woodstock concert-going days… 🙂 Thank you for the nomination, sir Jnana. I am so moved, obliged and honored.

 

FIVE SUPER SWEET QUESTIONS

 

1. Cookies or Cake? Both?  Cookies, but am willing to make an exception if the cake is banana, wink-wink… 
2. Chocolate or Vanilla? Vanilla, two hands up.
3. Favorite Sweet Treat? Strawberry with whipped cream, please (ahaha, it’s not too sweet). Uh, uh, it’s chocolate, sometimes…

4. When Do You Crave Sweet Things the Most? Mornings, in my morning coffee.

5. Sweet Nickname? Last syllable of my name. People close to me tweak it a bit then, repeat it…  By the way, it’s commonly done in the Philippines. You’ll often hear nicknames that come from one syllable repeated, hehe. Example? Lengleng, Dada, Bambam, and Toytoy. Even our country’s president go by the same token, hehehe.  Guess mine… 🙂

 

My Nominees for the Super Sweet Blogging Award:

Drum roll. Dyaran, dyaran, dyaran! 😉

 

Her words touch softly and flow effortlessly, conjuring images of mountains in distant places, friends bantering over coffee and city scenes undisturbed. A native of Boston, sorrygnat has earned the right to claim the world as her stage. Her musings on life in the modern world and aging are lovely.

He is a software engineer who loves poetry and music. rkhouse‘s poems in high school found their way into his blog and they’re that – sweet. There are some recent works, on the challenges of being a parent and granddad.

There’s humor aplenty in nadia‘s writings, about foods, travel and places near and far. One can sense passion, lightheartedness and fun in the way she weaves her tales. Life’s to be enjoyed. And, photographed, according to her.    

His thoughts and words seem to come from an ancient source. thetaleofmyheart talks about love, how the world seems to be in short supply of something it utterly needs. People need people, his writings seem to say. And, he does not mean it in the abstract.  

akanedou‘s blog entries are picture series and yet, they communicate – sharply but softly. One can feel the sensibilities of the person behind the photographs. The artist brings out a scene from several angles, using different perspectives, showing various dimensions. So clever. 

She is a proud mother of six. With a degree in Public History Research, beebeesworld serves slices of olden times through her short stories, poems and vignettes. Her works evoke silence and respect, for some reason.

She writes about women’s issues in a way that does not ask people to burn bridges and sever relations, but exchange goodwill and understanding, instead. cerirose, an African based in Paris, questions modern-day norms, even as her alternatives come in the form of intelligent yet gentle suggestions.

There’s idealism in the writings of june’sworldwho writes for the campus paper. One can sense a young man’s attempts to get to know the world, as he unravels the mysteries of the self and trudges his way through the everydayness of life and living. 

Across the distance, one could feel alarnarosegray‘s words – touching, moving and asking one to reconsider – perceptions, points of views and habits. And, to spread love and sprinkle some humanity in the process. A bit of fun won’t do harm, she adds as an afterthought. 

residentpatriot is an engineer and artist based in Japan. He designs car parts for his day job. On evenings, he takes the time to reconnect to his countrymen via blog, reminding fellows that citizenship is not a bad thing and civic-mindedness will pull Filipinos through tough times.

She has read thousands of books – poetry, fiction and anthologies. And sometimes, I am tempted to take that, against forkinmyeye… Except, when I read her works, I am convinced:  Voracious readers make excellent writers. And beneath the blogger’s no-nonsense exterior is a soft side, it seems.

She is a Filipina, working overseas for a couple of years now. Her grasp of native Tagalog shows in her compositions. crazyfrog often mutters though, that words escape her…  She prefers taking pictures of buildings, parks, landmarks and, make them speak to her blog readers. 

It’s not apronheadlily‘s thing, being tagged… But every time I would make a list, her name is on it, ahaha. The teacher writes with a flourish, as if the words were artworks; has a way of infusing creativity into pictures.

 

Thank you very much, people. You have no idea how your words and kind thoughts brighten this side of the world. Your presence truly gladdens. I heart you. 🙂