April 2015 ~ This week, we are in the Philippines, scuba diving in Dumaguete, an area famous for its unusual fish and critters. Wednesday is market day in Zamboanguita, the town about 20 minutes drive south of our resort in Dauin, so several of us took the morning off to visit the Malatapay Market. We were accompanied through the crowd by our local dive guides who used the same skills they employ underwater, answering our questions and keeping track of us without making us feel like we were being herded around.
The market stalls line both sides of the road all the way down to the Malatapay Pier. Most of the stalls are selling produce from the local farmers, but just like the green market back home, there were a couple who appeared to be unloading very pretty produce from cartons bearing names of large producers or distributors. There are the occasional clothing and housewares stalls and you can even purchase ready-to-cook vegetable mixes, chopped on the spot and bagged.
About half way down the road, off to one side, is a large fenced livestock sales area that is accessible to onlookers for a small entry fee. Closer to seaside are many open air food huts serving seafood, roasted pig and many other local dishes.
We bought sweet bananas, freshly fried in a wok over a wood-fired clay stove, chatted with ladies selling their home-baked pastries then watched a magician perform card tricks and thrill the crowd with a python in a bag, all in the name of drawing a huge crowd for his real purpose: selling a medicinal remedy – the action translated for us by our guide. Our friend Linda, who lived in the Philippines for seven years back in the 70s, explained many of the food items to us and shared some of her experiences as a community organizer.
Our tour ended in one of the open air eateries, where we sampled many of the local dishes from lechon (roast pork) to several varieties of kinilaw, a form of ceviche consisting of seafood marinated in vinegar. The fish version of kinilaw is marinated in coconut milk and vinegar and is just called kinilaw. The version with the long, green, pasta-like strings of sea hare eggs is called kinilaw lukot and kinilaw balat is marinated sea cucumber. This dish was very pretty, but quite salty – not my favorite. I always try to follow the advice of my French chef friend Didier, to “taste with my palate, not my head”, but I couldn’t manage a second serving. Pinaypay, fried bananas that are sliced, fanned out and battered were tasty and the coconut jelly, kuchinta, was my favorite.
Back at the resort, we were treated to ube ice cream, a yummy, brightly colored concoction made with the purple yam.
Many thanks to Atlantis Resort Dumaguete, known for its cuisine and good diving, for extending their gracious hospitality to our guided tour of the market.