(Cebu: last of 4 parts)
Because we spent most of our time in Santa Fe, there were some places in Cebu city I didn't have the chance to visit such as the popular bagsakan (wholesale) center, the Carbon market . What I did make time for though is Tabo-an market, which is only about 10 minutes away from my brothers house. So while he settled in for a siesta, pooped after driving back from Bantayan, I borrowed his car and his housekeeper led us to the market.
I had heard about this market before so I was prepared for the mountains of dried fish or daing that was displayed before my eyes. What I wasn't prepared for was how much we would reek of fish even hours after leaving the market with our purchases vacuum-sealed in plastic and wrapped in newspaper and packed into a box. Every fiber of my being carried the stench of the sea, my hair, my clothes, even my
But that was ok. It was a temporary inconvenience that was well worth it. My dad loves the stuff and together with other goodies, it's a favorite pasalubong (travel gift) from Dumaguete too. So I was determined to take some home for the family and some friends. I also wanted to get more of that fish tocino which I had bought at the port of Santa Fe before boarding the Fast Craft.
For the benefit of my friends abroad, dried fish which was once the poor man's meal is now a Filipino breakfast favorite. It is fried to a crisp and served with a side of steamed or garlic-fried rice and vinegar for dipping. Like bagoong or ginamus (fermented shrimp paste), it is a nightmare for the uninitiated, especially when it is cooked in their homes because the smell has incredible staying power. My cousin's English husband banned it from their home (or at least banned them from cooking it while he was in town) after he was roused from bed one morning from the offensive (to him) aroma wafting up from the kitchen and permeating every corner of the house. Heehee. It's an acquired taste and smell for sure, but if you can get past the initial repulsion, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
You'll find almost every imaginable sun-dried, salt-cured fish here, piled high in abaca baskets that line the entire length of Tres de Abril St. There were piles of dried dilis (anchovy), sapsap, pusit (squid), danggit, hibe (shrimp), all available to retail and wholesale buyers. Depending on type of fish, they sell for about P200 or $4.50 (dilis) to P480 or $10.00(pusit) per kg. The stalls also carry Cebuano and Visayan delicacies like otap, dried mangos, barquillos, sampaloc, biscocho etc. making it a one-stop shop for pasalubong shopping. The sales ladies will expertly pack everything for you in boxes ready for shipping.
A great tip I learned from my brother: pack all dried fish in large brown envelopes and seal with tape. The smell is contained within, so you could actually put it in your suitcase if you don't want to bother checking-in an extra box at the airport.
I stumbled upon these fish being sun-dried at Virgin Island near Bantayan
Our breakfast back in Manila the day after I arrived home
left to right: dilis, danggit and pusit, and my favorite fish tocino
Cebu longganisa ; another breakfast courtesy of Tabo-an market
EYC Marketing, Dried fish dealer
Stall #71-72; Tabo-an Market
Tres de Abril St., Cebu City
Tel. (032) 261-4307; 2627414