Speak of Cebu and images of the Sto. Nino , 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.
5 Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island dried fish is quite popular with bakasyonistas, other than with its white sandy shores in Sta. Fe. It’s also, known that eating pork during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday, is okay as it is sanctioned by the church. However, it’s a fallacy. 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 to 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.
Bantayan Island dried fish
For many travelers, Bantayan Island seafood products renowned and is a source of cheap and good bantayan dried fish. 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.
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.
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.
Where to buy dried fish in bantayan island
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.
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 the area, don’t forget to bring home Bantayan Island dried fish as pasalubong.