Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Fishy Story

Onwards, but just nearby from the seaweed gardens, our boat still in that very slow’ mode, approached a fish pen. Boatman told me they call it a “bonoan”. And I thought ‘ah, I’ve seen things like these in Samar and interestingly they are also called so’! Bonoan is pronounced “bo-no-an”. Common yes, though I was not sure what we were to do there. I thought boatman just wanted me to view a fish pen up close, so I was fine with it. Why not anyway?! I was on a tour, right?! As we got nearer the net where a man was working inside, boatman hollered to him in their dialect and I got that as he was asking if the hole was really big. The man answered yes and informed him it was all repaired now.

Then boatman said something else that I did not quite follow. The man then reached for a small handy net and scooped it on the water. When he raised it, different kinds of fish were in there writhing and jumping! The biggest was probably more than 2 feet long. Hey there was even octopus! Boatman asked me “saan dyan sir?”. Awk! That surprised me so I said “bakit?” and he replied that I only have bread for lunch so as promised, we’ll ‘catch’ fish and this was it! Whohooooa! I said I actually don’t know and cannot decide. So he said “yun na lang lapu-lapu, masarap yan inihaw” and he accordingly shouted that to the man on the water! It took the manong a bit of time trying to empty the net of all other fishies until just 3 of the lapu-lapu remained, and he reached high for my boatman to receive it. Wow!

I could see the three wriggling jumping fishy-fishies would probably weigh a total of 2 kilos or more, so I asked if only the three of us were eating them. With a giggle, boat hand said “iyo lang yan sir, me baon kami”! Wheh? I protested and said I was not sure I could even finish just one fish. Boatman asked if I was sure I was fine with just one fish. I mightily bowed my head repeatedly fast so they’d do what I wanted them to. Boat hand then tried to empty just one fish on the boat’s floor then passed the net back to the man on the pen who seemed surprised why the other fish were being returned. Boatman jokingly hollered at him “reject”! And the man asked if we were sure we were fine with just one fish. Boatman said it was only for me.

When the boat started to move away, I suddenly remembered we have not paid for the fish, so I told the boatman. He dismissed me with “okay lang yan”! That got me asking… and I got answers and more!

Boatman says his family owns the fish pen and that manong tending to it is a distant relative assigned to ensure the upkeep of the pen. He does get extra hands during harvests to assist the manong. I asked if they always pass by the fish pen when touring visitors. He revealed this was the first time it happened since this was also the first time he encountered a guest wanting to tour the islands without food hehe. He intimated though that when his family goes out on picnics, that is exactly what they do. They pre-advise the manong that they’d be passing by and the fish that they want are caught and readied. He says, sometimes together with his nephews and nieces, they themselves would go in that pen and do the fish catching themselves! Wow!

Now the fish! It just laid on the boat’s floor trying and grasping for breath to stay alive. At times it would attempt some kind of a final struggle to writhe and wriggle lest his jumps throw him into the seas. But this was a big boat for even such a big fish, so he was really destined for my stomach hehehe. Tour continued and when we thought it was time, boatman docked on an island with shimmering white sand for a beach and big craggy rocks lining the interiors. Behind one of those rocks, away from the breeze, they expertly lit up a fire enough to grill the fish – alive! At first it would jump mightily out of the fire, even causing the dried leaves and twigs to scatter and put out the fire hehe. But my boatman expertly persisted! That as boat hand brought the drinks, my bread and their ‘baon’ from the boat to shore.

I must admit this was the first time I saw and ate fish that was already cooked on many parts but was still generally alive! I swear on lapu-lapu’s grave it was still alive… but already delicious nonetheless hehe! Ever ready, boat hand took out a little plastic pouch where there was ‘calamansi’, tomato and even salt! While they had their lunch packs, I insisted they help me out finishing the fish for I cannot do it alone hehe. They did, if only to say, they did. Maybe these guys’ taste buds have already had enough of the fish taste in their lives hehehe! So I practically finished the lapu-lapu alone in between dashes to the placid blue-green waters and lazing around the even lovelier beach. Whatta life!

See?! I must have been in luck for if I found a group to tour with, I wouldn’t have encountered this memorable fishy experience! I realized, and I still maintain to this day, this “event” must have been the highlight of my entire Caramoan tour.

Let’s see more of the islands next, shall we?!

For a chronology of this trip's stories, click these numbers:
01   02   03   04   05   06   07   08   09   10   11   12   13   14   15
16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30


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