7 foodstops in Cebu: Bantayan Island | part 3

Categories Food, Places
Pail full of danggit buwad (dried fish) at the market in Bantayan Island
Pail full of danggit buwad (dried fish) at the market in Bantayan Island

Speak of Cebu and images of the Sto. Niño , the province’s patron, come to mind. And so does the valiant Lapu-Lapu, sweet mangoes, the famous lechon, guitars and beaches. But it is more than that. Cebu is a special and beautiful place. It is also my home.

Cebu foodstop series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

5 Bantayan Island

A lady laying out her dried fish early in the morning at the Bantayan market
A lady laying out her dried squid early in the morning at the Bantayan market

Bantayan Island is a gem of a place that bakasyonistas swear by the white sandy shores of Sta. Fe or perpetuate the fallacy that eating pork during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday, is okay as it is sanctioned by the church. Nope, in fact, there is a document, the indulto that says it was only allowed for a set number of years, which has long since expired, and works of mercy should also be done.

This beautiful place is more than historic ruins of forts against Muslim slave raiders, a beautiful old church that is unparalleled in the country, heritage houses and century old Lenten images. It’s more than eggs and poultry (the island is considered the egg basket of the Visayas). Located off the northwestern coast of Cebu and reached after a 2 – 3 hour bus ride as well as an hour long boat ride, it’s at the crossroads of Negros, Cebu, Masbate and Leyte that for the true blue Cebuano, seems to have strange dialects and intonations. It has lots of words akin to Ilonggo and Waray.

For the traveler, Bantayan Island is bulad/buwad (dried fish) country. It is one of the important industries of the local island economy. Visit the fort ruins of Madridejos in the north, now a landscaped park, on any given sunny day and one can find across the street fish being lain under the sun.

Dried anchovies at the Bantayan market
Dried anchovies at the Bantayan market
Dried bayamban in a bundle at the Bantayan market
Dried snake fish in a bundle at the Bantayan market

The white and almost translucent carcass of squid or halved and gutted fish being dried atop spans of elevated wire mesh supported by split bamboo. Of course, in the first few times that these are drying, do cover your nose.

Squid being dried in Madridejos
Squid being dried in Madridejos

Do you know that in this island, there’s not only one or two kinds of dried fish but three! According to Frankie Despi, my host when I visited the place while doing a book project, the type depends on how dry the fish is. Bulad/buwad is totally dried fish. Labtingaw is semi dried while lamayo is barely dried. The second and third are less salty and need to be frozen for storage. Fry these lightly and dip in vinegar and you’re assured of a hearty and sumptuous breakfast. By the way, the two is akin to the dibang of Batanes. These are flying fishes that are dried only for a day.

For the traveler, Bantayan Island is bulad/buwad (dried fish) country. It is one of the important industries of the local island economy. Visit the fort ruins of Madridejos in the north, now a landscaped park, on any given sunny day and one can find across the street fish being lain under the sun.

A morning’s visit to the market near the wharf, to the dried fish section, one can see different kinds of product and more. Other than the usual dried fish, mounds of delicate danggit halved and with bodies less opaque line the stalls. Dried squid can also be found piled, some curled others flat with their tendrils jutting out. Some are already packed in plastic.

One curious item that I saw is the one called the bayamban eel like fish with pointed snouts and with tails like a flagellum are neatly bound. But I haven’t tasted this yet.

Bottled sea urchins at a stall at the market
Other seafood products a stall in the market including dayok

Other than dried fish, there are also other products sold like dayok, which are pickled danggit entrails/intestines packed in bottles. Locals swear by this delicacy when eaten with roughly ground corn, mais, instead of rice and grilled pork.

The next time you’re in Bantayan Island, don’t forget to bring dried fish as pasalubong.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London).

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. Open for work, collaborations and inquiries for site features.

16 thoughts on “7 foodstops in Cebu: Bantayan Island | part 3

  1. bai,

    been reading your blog re 7 foodstops in Cebu, gimingaw ko hinuon travel sa pinas. been missing the different delicacies when travelling in different provinces. from sapin-sapin sa bulacan, sisig sa pampanga, puto sa calasiao, tupig sa pangasinan, bagnet sa ilocos, pansit habhab sa quezon, delicacies sa laguna, bulalo sa batangas, sinarapan and laing sa bicol. kung sa visayas, lechon sa talisay, torta sa argao, rosquillos sa danao, seafoods sa bacolod, batchoy sa iloilo, dangit ug pusit sa bantayan. kung sa mindanao, kinilaw ug panga sa davao, delicacies sa camiguin ug cagayan de oro, crabs ug lukon sa surigao, seafoods sa zamboanga ug zamboanga sibugay…perteng daghana..gigutom hinuon ko. dinhi sa US puro burgers and steak ang imong mapilian kung mag-travel ka state to state. sa south, lahi-lahi nga klase sa barbecue…

  2. hi…dried fish suppliers pls pm or text me at 09228447712.im interested to buy dried boneless danggit and pinikas…

  3. Hi Estan,
    Gigutom kog kalit samtang kabasa aning imong 7 foodstops. Gihidlaw na gyud ko ug sinugbang dried pusit & sinangag(no oil) nga buwad bulinaw 🙁

    I plan to visit Bantayan Island soon…

  4. I’m selling dried fish from Bantayan Island, please text me with this # — > 09224793853.. I can offer free delivery anywhere in Cebu City area.

  5. Hi, mamalit ko pirmi ug volume danggit. e-mail ra sa ako arun maka sinabtai maayo.

    Frank

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