Tamilok (woodworm) actually tastes good!

Categories Food
Eat the tamilok whole, left; chisel like teeth of the wood worm used to cut through the wood, right

There’s more to the western part of Panay than Boracay. In fact, there are many interesting places in the provinces of Aklan, Antique and western Iloilo that just amazes without driving all the way to Caticlan. Ruins, churches, food and rowdy festivals are there waiting. It’s white and slimy, its elongated form, worm like, makes others squirm but dip it in spicy vinegar and its one hell of a tasty (raw) fare! Better than oysters.

I’ve been wanting to have a taste of this juicy morsel but haven’t done so. Even my trip to Palawan two years ago in search of this type of mollusk (of the shell family and not a real worm), where it’s a delicacy, was a failure. Until I visited Kalibo’s Bakhawan Eco Park. One should remember that wherever there are mangroves, there are always these wood worms and is not only limited to Palawan.

Cross section of old mangrove wood showing tamilok burrows, left; cracking the wood with an ax, right

I wasn’t really expecting this but when I was already at the eco park, it was posted that there’s a tamilok eating challenge. This, to my great interest, requested to do the challenge. When I reached the picnic area of the park near the sea, Ruperto de la Luna, the one who does the demo was already preparing his stuff.

Out came an old mangrove wood, around 3 feet, blackened and, I guess, discarded. Ruperto showed me the tip and there were holes, mostly, around 1 centimeter in diameter. With an ax, he pounded on the wood to crack it open.

Live tamilok (wood worm) from a freshly cut old wood

After a minute or two, he showed me the halves of the wood and there were several woodworms across the length and width of the said wood. Some were white while others were darkened with the chewed wood inside. Some were still small while others were several inches long.

Upon closer inspection, the head of the tamilok has two chisel like teeth that’s quite hard, the only hard part in its entire body. It’s quite amazing to see these wood worms (also called shipworms) consuming the dead wood, and there are many in such a small piece, a way for nature to reclaim back to the earth what once was living!

Cleaning the tamilok is important to remove the chewed pulp
Dip in sinamak, spicy vinegar

With his wrinkled fingers, he took one tamilok, washed it in a pitcher of water and trying to empty its insides. After a few seconds, he held its head by its teeth, dipped it in spicy vinegar and placed it into his mouth. I stood there wide eyed. He then motioned me to taste it.

I did not object or squirm. I stood my ground. After he cleaned another worm and gave it to me, I held it at its teeth and head, twirled it on the white saucer with the spicy vinegar, and with a deep breath, placed it in my mouth.

Salty, spicy, soft and just tasted delicious. It’s just like eating raw oysters but better. Good thing also that it didn’t move (probably already dead?) once it was inside my mouth. After a few more minutes, I consumed four more wood worms and I think it is better eaten paired with a bottle of ice cold beer!

Bakhawan Eco Park
Barangay New Buswang
Kalibo, Aklan

Support KASAMA, the one who made possible and also maintain the Bakhawan Eco Park. Your entrance fee, donations as well as P200 (about $4.5) payment for the tamilok demo or eating challenge helps the people as their monthly pay of just P3,000 (around $70) is derived from these.

Ang Langyaw’s Panay Island trip courtesy ofย Airphilexpress, the fastest growing budget airline in the Philippines that made this trip possible!

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) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

19 thoughts on “Tamilok (woodworm) actually tastes good!

  1. Wow I’m impressed. I wonder if I’ll ever dare. I’m adventurous but probably not as adventurous as to try something moving.

  2. wala pa ata nyang tamilok demo nung pumunta ako sa bakhawan eco-park 2 years ago. sayang. gusto ko rin matikman yan

  3. Wow, thanks for all the great information about tamilok! So interesting. I’ve only tried it breaded and crispy-fried. If it is OK with you, I’d like to link your article to my blog post on tamilok at Kinabuch, Puerto Princesa.

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