Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sea Urchins, Anyone?

There is fear masking Sea Urchins. The first thing that gets to your head is "DON'T GET NEAR THEM". But during my travels I encounter them as a "delicacy" and for Pinoys, any unusual food they treat as an aphrodisiac. It just thought Sea Urchins are not edible.

First time I encounter them is in Coron, while swimming in Banol Beach, an old man was harvesting them but I did not think that they will be eating it. I just thought he just wanted the waters to be free of them. He told us not to swim at the part where there are reeds because they thrive there.

The second time is in Matutinao Cebu, a guy geared with a spear and a wooden basket showed his harvest. My sister was brave enough to try it. He said the local government taught them how to select and eat them. You eat it raw, cracking open the shell and then swallow the meat.
Sea Urchins with spikes taken off

cracking open a shell

The third time is back in Coron. While island hopping, I saw the boat man diving. I asked what was he looking for. He was searching for Urchins. It's their standard viand when fish is unavailable. They even have a spicy vinegar with red peppers readily available. Correct me if I'm wrong, I know the vinegar is handy at times you get stung by one. That time they even taught us how to collect and safely remove the spikes. After putting them all inside a net, you shake it all off and the spiny things will fall off. This time I bravely tried it. It tasted like a lightly flavored crab fat but has a sandy texture.

The fourth time I encountered it is in Virgin Island Bohol. They sell it for 10pesos for the brave ones who wanted to try it. They even say it's good for rheumatism and the magic word, it's an aphrodisiac. Maybe that explains why we have a population growth problem in the Philippines. Kidding aside. It's an additional income for the locals. Most say Sea Urchins are nuisance to swimmers.   They make the waters unsafe. How to solve the problem, eat them. Problem solved. :)

I thought that was the last time I'll have them. But while traveling to Tambaron, south of Mindoro. I encountered them again as snacks. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

General Santos Fish Port Complex

3rd Day of SOCCSKSARGEN trip

(Acronym for the provinces: South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City)

When we hear Gensan, we think of TUNA!. Gensan is known to be the Tuna Capital of the Philippines, they even have a festival for it.

At 7am, our guide took us to General Santos Fish Port Complex. Not anyone can just walk-in and visit the place. You have to inform them in advance & register. Good thing our guide did just that. 

 When visiting the fish port, there's a dress code, sleeveless shirts & shorts are not allowed. We were led into a room where we have to wear white rubber boots. After which we walked through chemically treated water to avoid any contamination.

When we were in the port itself, there were rows & rows of big Yellow Fin Tuna handled by several companies who are into Tuna Trading/Business. They are weighed and lined up. There were hundreds of Tuna, and to think the delivery is daily.

 The Tuna is almost as big as people & even weighed more. The meat is checked and graded. Ribbons were tied up to indicate the grade. A narrow stainless tube is inserted and portion of a piece of the Tuna will show its color & grain.

 We even encountered this fish called Diana. Just imagine swimming in the ocean and this fish came swimming beside you.

Diana Fish

 Some Tuna were preserved in ice & will be delivered to key cities in the country and some were covered with insulation & will be shipped to Japan. 

 Some even have to be sponge bathe before packaging. 
 The view of the boats who caried all those Tuna. They would set sea for several days to catch & run after the Tuna. They even mentioned that because of the rise of ocean water temperature, they had to go deeper into the south of the country to find Tuna.

 Buyers, haggling and checking out Tuna.

 Men carrying Tuna heavier than them. Talk about hard work. From the boat they cross a flat narrow platform to reach the port.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kalilangan Festival in General Santos

  In Gensan we were lucky to chance upon the Kalilangan Festival. The venue is just across our hotel. There were several stalls showcasing their local agricultural products. They have a shows, ethnic music and traditional games. It's colorful and different tribes were present. 

  I grew up in a family who are into agriculture and we've always been nature lovers. My parents really appreciated the SOCCSKSARGEN experience. We visited a stall exhibiting all types of Bananas grown in Mindanao. They vary in color & size, it's my first time to see such varieties.They even have the Thousand Fingers Banana. 

  On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the fruit stand to sample on Durian. You can not leave Mindanao without tasting one. It's the queen of fruits. In a makeshift table we ate enjoyed the meaty Durian. It's known to be an Aphrodisiac and may cause high blood pressure.

Thousand Fingers Banana