The Market: It’s not just fish but that’s mostly what I’m going to talk about

When I first arrived in my municipality, the market terrified me. It’s big, loud, confusing, and all around assaulting to all of your senses. The perimeter is lined with small groceries, carinderias, bakeries, and other assorted shops. The inside is dimly lit, cram-packed with tables and booths that change locations at irregular intervals. However, after being here for 9 months, I’ve come around. It’s basically like Wal-Mart, but even crazier.

The first section is mostly household goods, selling everything from pots and hangers, to rat poison, clothing, machetes, and Korean DVDs. Moving back, the stalls transition to produce, to snacks, to grains, and finally to meat and fish. There are alcoves and carts for cell phone repair, coconut shredding, and haircuts. The narrow walkways overflow with smaller sellers setting up there goods on tarps or banana leaves.

And all of the above, is just a regular day, not an official market day. On market days (Tuesday and Friday), no floor space is left unclaimed by sellers and the market expands itself outside of its normal bounds and fills the basketball court with more goods and ukay-ukay.

Ukay-ukay (literally meaning dig-dig as clothes and accessories are often displayed in piles) is the Filipino version of a flea market, where most of the clothes come from other countries.

But, most my market time is spent at the back, in the:fish section.jpg

Twice a week, I accompany my coworker as she conducts the price monitoring interviews with the roughly 50-80 fish sellers. We do this in order to keep track of both what species are available and how the price fluctuates over time. (She does most of the work. I mostly point, ask questions, and sample snacks.) Fish sold come not only from our municipality, but all over the island. Many sellers commute to larger ports in order to get access to more rare or prized deep sea fish. Most of he fluctuations have to do with the weather (stormy days means less fishers go out), but there appear to be all kinds of factors. No two market days are the same.

One fish is always there, Bangrus, or milkfish. These fish are grown in the ponds that dominate the landscape of Capiz.

There are typically a variety of shells– oysters, mussels, snails, scallops and clams:

Some cephalopods:

Tiny shrimp, fermented and sold as a paste to giant prawns and mantis shrimp:

Eels, sharks, and rays:

Crabs:

And all kids of other fish, small, big, weird and everything in between!

It might seem that with a fish market like this, productive and diverse, things are going pretty well for the fisherfolk and the fisheries of Capiz. But, I should add, that while many fisherfolk agree that although enforcement, management, and community involvement and organization are improving, overall fishing is getting harder. Fishers observe less fish today than there were 10 years ago. The fish they catch are smaller. And, several high valued species have seemingly disappeared from the local fishing grounds. 

Why is happening? Most fishers would first tell you the reason we are seeing declining fish stocks is because of overfishing and destructive fishing. Fortunately, these are two areas we can actively work to combat. Through education and strict enforcement, the Philippines has already seen great reductions in destructive fishing methods such as dynamite fishing. But, it’s still an ongoing battle.

However, we can not ignore that climate change has had a particularly strong effect on the countries like the Philippines. It is hard to find a fisherfolk, no matter their political leanings or level of education, that does not believe climate change is a major problem for their livelihood. In Capiz, storms have intensified and seasonal patterns have been affected. Coral bleaching is rampant and sea grass areas have shrunken down to patches, leading to less suitable fish habitat. These issues will only intensify in the future and makes it all the more important that fisherfolk are supported and have access to the tools they need.

Anyway, I hope you liked the pictures of the market.

Pamahaw Anay!

I haven’t posted in a long time, but that’s only because I’ve been very busy ‘preparing’ for this post. And when I say preparing, I mean enjoying tasty Filipino pamahaw (snacks).

This isn’t the first time I’ve posted about how Food is Love in the Philippines. Also, it’s unlikely to be the last time. Because it’s a big deal.

 

In the US, as snack is usually something simple- a bag of chips, a piece of fruit, etc. In the Philippines a snack, though it can be simple, encompasses a much more broad range. The typical rule of thumb is, if it’s not served with a side of rice, it’s a snack.

 

Most days in my office things slow down around 10am as vendors arrive in the municipal hall with a selection of native sweet treats. Some are baked, like puto, a sweet rice flour muffin, often with a small slice of cheese baked into the center. Many, like Ibos, make use of glutenous (sticky) rice and some combination of coconut and brown sugar. Others, have a similar flavor, but use cassava (extra sticky) instead of rice.

Last weekend, at a Filipino heritage event, I even got to try making some native snacks myself! Below you can see part of the process of making Nilopak nga Saging. Cooked banana, young coconut, and brown sugar are added to the giant wooden mortar and pestle and mashed into a paste, then formed into balls. Nilopak nga Cassava and Baibai are made in a similar way, swapping out the banana for cassava or rice flour.

20170528_163106

Of course, fruit is a popular snack item as well, changing with the seasons. Right now, it’s mango time, with both the extra sweet Carabao mango, and the tougher more citrus-y Indian variety. Both are eaten ripe, or unripe with either salt of fermented shrimp paste (it’s grown on me). But, in 9 months I’ve gotten to try all kinds of fruits, many I’ve never heard of like rambutan, marang, lanzones, chico, and pamelo.

The second snack rush of the day starts around 3pm. A dependable go-to is some pancit noodles with bread. At first, I questioned the noodle sandwich, but I’ve been converted. Pizza and/or sweet spaghetti works too.

On an especially hot day, or one without a functioning AC, cold treats are the way to go. For 15 pesos (30 cents), you can get a shake in your choice of mango, coconut, or avocado. Some days, someone may spring for a 3-in-1 carton of ice cream. But, there’s no Neapolitan here. It’s chocolate, ube, and either cheese, mango, or pandan. Finally there is the Filipino king of frozen desserts, Halo-Halo (mean mix-mix), shaved ice with condensed milk, ice cream, sweet beans, fruit, leche flan, coconut jelly, and often more.

20170426_162305
A relatively simple halo-halo

Of course there are plenty more snacks worth discussing (the famous balut, malunggay pan de sal, fish crackers, deep-friend quail eggs, boiled/roasted peanuts, corn-on-the-cob, etc) but I’d like to end this post with my #1: BananaQ. It’s maybe the best food ever made. Best made with saba (a firm, but still sweet variety of banana), it’s coated in brown sugar, fried, and served warm on the stick. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to photograph well.

20170517_150510
I have eaten a shocking number of these in a single single sitting ❤

 

 

 

Introduction to Filipino Culture

This week, the fantastic LCFs (Language and Cultural Facilitators) and other Peace Corps Staff here in the Philippines put together an activity to give us a brief introduction to Filipino culture. This post is going to be pretty casual, but I wanted to share some of the things I saw and learned.

Rituals

  • Healing rituals are still practiced in some rural areas throughout the Philippines, particularly those without easy access to modern medical care. Magtatawas are healers found in some of these communities. When a person gets sick, they can visit a Magtatawa and perform rituals to get rid of the evil spirit that is ailing them. As a Peace Corps volunteer, we are allowed to observe such rituals, but not participate.
  • Cañao is a ritual practiced in the Northern regions of Luzon involving dancing and sacrifice of livestock to bring about good fortune.

Superstitions

  • Cutting baby’s eyelashes will make them grow longer
  • People with curly hair are crazy
  • Mole location says something about a person (on the back- lazy, foot- adventure, shoulder- carries a heavy burden)
  • Polka dots are good luck on New Year’s Eve
  • Black ants in your house are good luck
  • Kissing a sleeping baby will turn it into a naughty adult
  • Don’t sweep at night, or you will drive away your good luck
  • If a pregnant woman cuts her hair, her baby will be born bald
  • It’s bad luck to go to sleep with wet hair

Street Games

IMG_1709

  • Filipino football- kind of a dodgeball/kickball hybrid
  • Tumbang preso- one person’s it, everyone else throws their sandals at a can to try to knock it over

Holidays

IMG_1755

  • The Philippines is a majority Catholic nation, and this is reflected in their holidays.
  • Filipinos take Christmas very seriously, starting celebrations all the way back in September.

Videoke

  • Videoke is everywhere in the Philippines. It’s basically the same as Karaoke, but you have pleasant scenery playing in the background. Many people own their own Videoke console and sing both American and Filipino songs.
  • We tried out our videoke skills on the pinoy taglish (tagalog-english) song: picha pie, writen about the joys of discovering pizza put to the music of “I Will Survive”

Food

  • Durian- the infamous fruit known for it’s horrendous smell. It wasn’t that bad, like a creamy, slightly pumpkin-y, spiky melon.
  • Helmet- chicken head on a stick
  • Adidas- chicken feet on a stick (get it? feet… shoes… Adidas)
  • Betamax- congealed pigs blood
  • Isaw- chicken intestine
  • Balut- an unhatched chicken (or duck) embryo (Yes, I ate one. It was a bit like a normal hard boiled egg, with a little something extra.)
  • Lechon- roasted pig, eaten at major celebrations, the national dish of the Philippines
  • Sticky rice- my favorite, prepared in several ways

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Festivals and Fiestas

  • Festivals and fiestas are a big part of the culture in the Philippines.
  • Shown above are some of the more famous celebrations, but smaller fiestas are thrown in towns throughout the country all year.

Dancing

  • As a special treat, we got a performance by Filipino university students.
  • The dances were diverse, some reminiscent of Balinese and others of more spanish and American styles.
  • They wrapped up with Tinikling- the former national dance. Tinikling is meant to represent the graceful tikling bird, as the dancers jump and step through bamboo poles that are operated by other dancers.