Maundy Thursday in Puerto Princesa

9 April 2009

Puerto Princesa Wet Market

We arrived Puerto early evening of the 8th and immediately after checking in, were whisked away by our friend Angelique Songco, boss woman of Tubbataha Marine Park, to dinner at Ka Lui’s. Our host for the evening was Rolando “Boy” Bonoan, the Palawan Provincial Government’s Information Officer. What a welcome he gave us. Upon sitting, our food magically appeared starting with clam soup and seaweed salad. Then the rest arrived soon after – tuna steak, crispy tuna tail, sizzling seafood platter (or seafood sisig), another fish dish in coconut milk, eggplant and finally fresh tropical fruit salad in young coconut. The thought occurred to all of us that we have to protect the Coral Triangle so we can continue eating like this!

I tried my best to concentrate between mouthfuls. Palawan was going to be a busy month and a half for us and Boy was there to help with information and logistics. Also with us were RJ dela Calzada of WWF Philippines, El Nido project manager. After fruitful discussions and arrangements of what we wanted to accomplish, I suddenly felt silly having had sleepless nights in Australia worrying about our Palawan leg. Filipinos can fix seemingly complicated arrangements with style and ease and always with so much laughter and smiles. I love being back home!

Incredibly tiny cods.

Incredibly tiny cods.

We told ourselves we were going to take it easy the next two days before our live-aboard trip to Tubbataha Reefs. Taking it easy meant joining Angelique for breakfast and a trip to the wet market or “palengke” in the local language. Angelique warned us there was not going to be a lot of fish as it was full moon (so less catch) but still we saw heaps – a healthy array of squid, some really tiny reef fish, minute coral trout, a big moray eel, tuna (skip jacks and some small yellow fin), a big shark local vendors misname as dogshark. “Mam, dis is dogshark, what they use for squalene oil, mam.” Well we didn’t think so as it was a big shark. We know dogfish to be quite small.

Then on a different part of the market were seaweeds in small plates and shellfish of different varieties. The market was teeming with people. Seafood and vegetables were Filipinos’ preferred fare during the Holy Week, when Catholics abstained from meat.

About the Author:

Stella was born in Manila, Philippines in 1965. She studied anthropology but ended up in advertising, producing radio and TV commercials for 7 years. After quitting advertising, she ventured into the freelance world in Manila producing video documentaries for a publishing house, government agencies, non govenmental organisations, and the academe. She moved on to producing books and had a stint at working with foreign production companies visiting Manila. Stella, now based in Cairns, produces photo stories with her husband Jürgen Freund.