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January 11, 2019


I have always been a fish lover because I grew up in a fish-eating family. We were a big family and my mother’s idea of budgeting for food was to buy lots of fish. We did not grow up eating beef everyday and beef steak was a treat. Liver steak was an alternative treat. We even ate extreme cuisine like macaroni soup with brains and fried locust.

Now, since my parents have passed, it has been a search for good fish like what we used to eat while growing up.

Paksiw or fish stewed in vinegar was a breakfast staple. We learned how to eat talimusak, dilis, banak, bisugo and hasahasa.

Paksiw na isda

Sinigang was bangus, kanduli, or dalag.

Pesa were big fish whose names I can no longer recall.

Adobo was usually hito.

We had many variations of sarciado, kinilaw, buro and inihaw.

It also helped that we could go to the wet markets of Malabon and Navotas. I was riding in my Dad’s army jeep and we two would be attired in rubber boots to go through the fish section. That was how I learned to dress fish, eat the good parts, and debone it if needed.

Today, I went to the supermarket and felt sad. The cheapest fish is tilapia which is grown in farms. I also saw Pangasius or Cream Dory. Then there’s Bangus, also farmed and available in just about every recipe and cut—steak, marinated, filet, daing, tinapa—but still just bangus.

Where are all my fish of yesteryears? Gone? I saw unfamiliar names and the only ones I recognized were uber expensive at P800 per kilo and some at P400-600/kilo.

No wonder today’s kids just know bangus and tilapia. The other fish are priced beyond a regular family’s budget. How sad.

I think we should go on a fish fast—if only to be able to repopulate our seas with many other fish like those I knew when I was growing up. Maybe letting our fish recover from overfishing should be the government’s directive.

Photo by Keith Dador

Meanwhile, I remember our trip to Sulu in 2012. We tasted different species of fish that are local, big and fleshy. This is still our Philippine waters and we have an abundance and variety of fish. Then I went to Tawi-Tawi and saw styro boxes being packed with one fish per container. No wonder it’s P800 per kilo! It flies to Manila from Tawi-Tawi because Luzon’s waters have been overfished.

I’m on a fishing expedition to see what fish varieties we can quickly repopulate before they completely disappear. There are not a few sustainable initiatives by friends who promote sustainable seafood. But what is the program to again fill our waters with a variety of marine life?

I love fish and so I know I want the real deal. These are deep sea fish or brackish water fish, not farmed ones.

I hope consumers demand for better fish options to drive our authorities to declare a “no fish season” everywhere so we can again enjoy what I enjoyed in my growing up years.
Stop eating ordinary fish. Fish for better choices. As a consumer, you are also the fisherman or woman. If you ask for it, they will fish for it.

Deep sea fish probably do not eat plastic. But then again, they probably ate another fish who ate another. Who knows what the fish really eat now?

Think about it. A simple food like fish needs a complex solution to be available to us again.

Ask for local, line caught, and deep sea instead of dory, tilapia, or bangus.

Let us go on a fishing trip and see what we can find.




Photos by Chit Juan / Paksiw na isda photo by Wikimedia Commons / fisherfolk photo by Keith Dador


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