05 January 2018

Ambulant Clam Vendor

A dude claimed to be selling abalones and scallops from San Narciso, Quezon. He hyped us up so hard that I forgot for a moment how actual abalones looked, and that scallop shells are, well, scalloped.

We ended up buying some "just for the experience" (I don't even eat the stuff, but I made abalone porridge with the non-abalones), and the guy shuffled away to his Korean restaurant suki. I suppose they are well aware what these clams are. I will update this post if I get to identify them.

Despite the misinformation, I am nonetheless pleased at this free agent making his way through our urban capillaries and hawking rural goods.

"Abalone" and "scallops". Check that wooden carrying stick though.

Cool how the net bag bunches up when he pulls the string to hang it back up!

03 January 2018

Backyard Farm Tobacco

Filipinos are lucky to have access to tobacco leaves in remarkably raw form. As in: whole leaves, recently harvested, then cured or dried. I am neither a smoker nor a chewer of the leaf, but I happen to be a compulsive buyer, because I am in awe at their limp, leathery goodness. As I have tried smoking a fat stick of chewing tobacco, and because I have recently heard (so it is still hearsay actually) that they are two separate types of tobacco planted here (and that you cannot smoke the chewing sort), I am motivated to pry more, and will do so in the following weeks.

Anyway, Siquijor Island has only one man growing tobacco. He sells it to smokers and to healers, who use it for rituals. He maintains the field next to his house and one nearby, and air-dries them by his front porch. He also tried to sell me large seashells.

A porch drying area, with a small workspace for this one-man operation.
The house, as seen from the street.
Everything is religious on this island.
Waste tobacco.
The farmer unties a sack of his cured / dried leaf stash.
Fresh leaves, just harvested and ready for hanging.

25 June 2017

In Gentrifying Poblacion

Yep, I'm still here.

When I first moved to Poblacion three years ago, everything felt exciting. It was gritty, which I like. I know, I know. I was probably part of the initial wave of gentrifiers to settle in.

People have gone from raising their eyebrows at me (and saying a small prayer for my safety and wellbeing) to asking me to give them "Poblacion food tours". And I still enjoy living here, but am riding this emotionally confusing wave of being able to walk to a good cafe, seeing many friends all the time, dodging cars of youthful Instagrammers on their way to whatever loud party of the night, and witnessing old (admittedly mostly crappy) structures give way to nondescript buildings. With the zoning laws of Poblacion just revised to accommodate buildings above five floors, everyone is cashing in. It makes money sense to build and then wait until this last patch of neighborhood gets devoured by Rockwellesque development or the dormant glossiness of the Century Mall area.

Nonetheless, I'm still immensely grateful for / endlessly entertained by living in a non-gated, relatively safe, walkable area in Manila (a rarity) which still gets together to build its neighborhood float for the Holy Week fiesta. The religious icons used are passed down among "old" families and lent to the neighborhood folk for decoration and parading. Some are more than a hundred years old!

Also, our barangay marching band is unparalleled, probably because we do have loads of fiestas. One was supposed to happen today on the Pasig river, but was cancelled due to an abundance of water hyacinths.

Neighbors deciding what flowers to put on the float. 
More flowers.

Our street float, with La Casita Mercedes in the background.

18 November 2015


At the Poblacion market, a rocking chair frame with an office chair body. Lhazybhoi?

12 November 2015

Fishy Ferments, Makati Streetside

Since moving out of the periurbs and into the real-urbs, I've seen a greater level of spontaneous industry. The density of people here allows for more itinerant vendors and sidewalk enterprises.

Along my walk to Makati Avenue is a sometimes-stall selling dubiously colored Pangasinense bagoong and vinegar by takal (which roughly translates into scoop), measured out into very thin plastic bags.

A business built around migrant appreciation of regional food.
The pink colorant seeks to mimic the hue of tiny shrimp. No one gets it right.
An accessible dash of umami or sourness.

08 November 2015

Fishy Ferments

A not-unimportant part of fisherfolk income and local cuisine, and also our contribution to the world of savory protein ferments: fermented fish products, namely bagoong (a general word that also pertains to fermented shrimp paste) and patis (fish sauce). Not-unimportant because, as my former-fisher hilot (traditional massage therapist) claims, these salted and stored tiny fish usually ferment just in time to provide income during fishing's inevitable low seasons. Furthermore, they satisfy that key basic human need for savoriness. They are also very nutritious, providing a lot of calcium and whatnot, but that's information for a future post.

Sea salt, two types of bagoong, and patis. The first bagoong is bonnet-head terong, the second is a mysterious (to me) white sort, about which all vendors have a different story.

05 November 2015

Fishmongers' Containers

Here are various improvised containers that small entrepreneurs use to bring fish to the market.

Aluminum drums with perforated lids held down by synthetic rope strung through carrying handles. Smaller synthetic rope also pulls the larger rope taut.
Plastic tubs with tuna inside plastic.

A crate covered by styrofoam, which has seen better days and is sewn together by plastic straw. Carrying handles have been added to crate and covered by plastic tubing for more comfortable hands.

A drum much like the first photo, but this time with a wooden cover, which also provides ventilation.

08 May 2015

Fishy Interests and Hacking Tools

I generally avoid meat and fish sections of the market. Though I am not a meat eater, I wouldn't say I have a real flesh aversion (I stop and stare and have this inner dialogue about nature being amoral) but I do avoid the slippery, smelly, humid section. Anyone who has picked scales off their wallet after dropping it on the wet floor will understand.

A fishing boat off Currimao, Ilocos Norte.
But recently I have gotten interested in fisheries. Perhaps if you're from the Philippines, you already know that fisherfolk are considered some of most vulnerable, improverished people in our country. For a nation with a really long and varied coastline, that says a lot about living context-appropriately. A chef friend of mine has recently gotten involved with the Oceana campaign for sustainable fishing, and our recent trip together got me thinking a lot about underutilized marine species, and observing the fisheries sector in general.

Mallet, large knife with handle, chopping board, with fish segments.
When I would ask vendors in houseware stalls selling mallet-like heavy wooden sticks with ends wrapped in rubber what they were for, I was always told they were for smacking animal or fish heads to kill them. Recently, though, I noticed that cleaver handles were in short supply, but the dull thud from the rubberized sort of clubs allowed vendors to hack away at larger tuna-family fish. I have no doubt that these are also used for chopping pork or beef.

Handle-less cleaver on chopping board.

07 May 2015

Coconut Husk Circle of Protection

Newly cemented area in Dumaguete Fruit Market, protected by a circle of coconut husks and a bunch of camotes.

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