26 October 2009

Manila Bay Fishing

Hep-hep! Fishing for bugaong on a windy, beautiful day.

As we were walking along the boardwalk and discussing the rats that scuttle along the reclamation's edge, we came across a couple of guys fishing. Without them, it is easy to forget that Manila became what it was because it is beside this powerful, trade-conducive waterway.

The dreary bay.

This is pretty alarming to many. Like the Pasig River, Manila Bay is generally regarded as a giant cesspool. Sad, but fair. There are hardly any water treatment facilities in the metro, nor are our wetlands intact to "sieve" out solid waste before it hits the ocean. There are also those horror stories of pozo negro companies dumping truckloads of feces into the water at midnight.

Male bonding at its finest.

But anyway, yes, things live in it. Enough living things to sustain a simple little taboo food web involving several characters. The fishermen collect our ihaw-ihaw favorites, tahong, off the shallow part of the bay. These mussels are plankton- and detritus-feeders, helping to clean murky water. Yum!

Tahong crime scene.

They are shelled and suspended on a hook, then cast into the smelly, once-legendary waters of Manila Bay. Conversation ensues while couples, bums, joggers, and lonely hearts walk behind. Sooner or later, a bugaong or bugahong nibbles and is redeemed from the water, and dropped inside a plastic bag.

Bugaong, still moving, drowning in air.

Called tiger fish in English, they are small and spiny, and commonly salted and dried under the sun for preservation. Along the bay, they are caught for personal consumption or seaside grilling.

An everyday feast.

Seaside, you repeat? Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the urban planning (major road beside an ocean, psh) and water neglect is that it made us forget who we are-- lowland, coastal dwellers, who have the right to enjoy the breeze and eat clean, free, food while watching the sunset.

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