I could say that one of the things that makes me a true-blue Filipino is my love for the milkfish, or bangus in local parlance. Go to any market (in the Luzon region, at least) and you will almost always find this gray-scaled fish in the stalls. What I like about bangus is that there are more ways to cook this than my other fresh-water favorite, tilapia. The health-conscious prefer the fat-free paksiw na bangus or the sinigang na bangus sa miso but I am also partial to the many imaginative ways our good ol’ bangus can be cooked – from relleno to the canned version in olive oil to lumpia to the bangus belly in tofu I oh-so-yummily tasted in one Chinese restaurant. And if all else fails you can just have the daing na bangus pan-fried then paired with your favorite siding like salted eggs with tomatoes, ensaladang mangga or even pesto sauce.
When my Rotary Club decided that we would go to Dagupan City for an outreach, I relented because of the lure of the bangus. The place, after all, has proclaimed itself the Bangus Capital of the Philippines. Dagupan is a little more than four hours drive from Manila and is in fact just an hour in distance to Baguio City. When we arrived in Dagupan around noontime, what immediately greeted us were several bangus stuffed with onions and tomatoes grilling in the open fire, a huge pot of sinigang (bangus again!) and a bilao of roasted eggplants, itlog na maalat and green mango salad with shrimp paste. There was also grilled liempo and I couldn’t quite forget the taste of the kinilaw na bangus which consisted of raw fillets of bangus marinated in vinegar with salted egg whites, onions and chili. Hmm, it was simply to-die-for! There are also lots of vendors selling boneless bangus in these parts and it was quite cheap – at eight pieces for less than a hundred pesos!
For great bangus recipes, I found this online.
’twas a great picnic indeed and we held it at Tondaligan Beach in Bonuan district which is like one of the biggest beaches in Pangasinan. Locals however warned us of a number of drowning incidents in this area because of the treacherous undercurrents. They say there are better beaches in San Fabian, Bolinao and even Sual. Maybe we can check that out next time. We also visited the Bangus Center and The Aquarium which is their museum of exotic and endemic fishes. On display were goldfishes, piranhas, koi and the so-called “most expensive” President’s Fish, also called “lurong.” From what I noticed in the billboards and everywhere, the local government is quite serious in projecting Dagupan as a bangus showcase . I think the experts would call this a good example of niche marketing,haha.
It was great to discover another place in the Philippines I didn’t know about. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to go to The Hundred Islands which is on my travel wishlist. Hopefully soon.