While Typhoon Lando raged in Luzon, I was visiting my family in Villaba Leyte. Just when I was about to head back to Cebu, I got stranded an extra day. All ships and supercat trips were cancelled until the sea and wind calmed down.
So what does one do when nature unleashes a strong and wide-reaching typhoon like Lando? Armed with my trusty Fuji X30, I went to work and visited the rich and bountiful Tabo Market of Palompon Leyte.
It always amazes me that while Lando raged and dimmed the Manila skyline for several days and flooded several areas in Luzon, the sun remained strong and steady in Villaba, making way for a rare, sparkling laundry Monday.
(This was the view and weather from my room window at the farm.)
Palompon Leyte is close to my heart being the hometown of my father who is a “tuminongnong” (born and bred) Palomponganon. With its total land area of 126.1 sq. kilometers and composed of 50 barangays, Palompon is located in the northwestern coast of Leyte bound by my other hometown of Villaba and Matag-ob on the north; Ormoc City and Merida in the east; Isabel on the south and the Camotes sea on the west.
Though primarily an agricultural town, it is also a coastal town involved in fishing as its major livelihood. It is also strategically located across Tabuk Marine Protected Sanctuary, planted with different kinds of lush mangrove now home to a rich marine, bat and bird sanctuary.
(Tabuk Marine Protected Sanctuary)
It is perhaps due to this protection and support of the Tabuk Marine Sanctuary that Palompon is blessed in return with the many gifts from the sea. And it shows in the Palompon Tabo Market with its abundant fish, seafood and varied shellfish products. I have never seen a town market offering so many seafood products all at one time. I will go ahead and call it a seafood mecca for anyone who loves their fish and shellfish products very fresh.
Seafood and Shellfish Section
You will see from the participating vendors that their catch is fresh, non-commercial and only in small quantity, preventing over-harvesting or over-picking of the shellfish products.
This woman is very busy organizing and piling her “Imbao” shells in groups, one of the shellfish variety that can be collected by hand on the sand flats of Tabuk Sanctuary during low tide. She also has one more bottled “Sisi” left, a delicacy of fresh baby oysters. I remember, we used to eat this seasoned with fresh kalamansi to complement the other food during a Sunday lunch at San Juan beach.
(Woman Vendor with Imbao shells and bottled Sisi)
The Imbao shells can be prepared many ways. It can be added to soups, or as a sashimi seasoned with fresh calamansi, or my family’s favorite, roasted for a few minutes on coal embers just enough for it to open and offer its sweet and succulent flesh as shown below.
I walked further and found this pile of Lukot seaweed. It is my favorite seaweed and I personally call it “green seafood spaghettini” because it is just that, it resembles a small seafood spaghetti. You buy it fresh, wash it with fresh water to remove the sand and store in the fridge while preparing the other ingredients.
In my parents farm, Lukot seaweed is a vital ingredient to their signature seafood kinilaw with “hatok” or coconut milk along with fresh Tangigue sashimi, diced tomatoes, onions, ginger, vinegar as well as salt and sugar to balance the flavors.
(Signature Farm Kinilaw)
Now this pile is an interesting mix. It is a rich collage to show you of what PalomponTabo Market has to offer. Aside from the Lukot seaweed and Imbao shells, you will see another pile of tiny grape-like seaweed called Lato. To eat it, you only have to squeeze fresh kalamansi and then sink your teeth into those tiny emerald globules and you will be rewarded with a slightly sticky, delicate salty flavor. Beside the Lato is a pile of Baat or sea-cucumber. When it is alive, the Baat skin is black, it is fat but mainly contains seawater. When you catch it in your hand, it deflates and empties itself and becomes thin and pliable. Before it is eaten, the black skin is removed and what remains is the white flesh that you see in the pile. It is eaten as a sashimi and also added in a “hinatukan na kinilaw.”
(Mix of Lukot, baat ,imbao etc.)
Beside the Guso seaweed is a whole container of Aninikad shells. Its Aninikad name is derived from the word “sikad” or to kick in order to jump to navigate itself. It is so fresh it is still hopping in its container. These shells can also be found in the sand flats of Tabuk island and hand-picked during low tide. This Aninikad shells can be included in soups, or roasted in coals only for a few minutes so the flesh does not get overcooked and turn rubbery.
(To be continued next week, more of what you can find at Palompon’s Tabo Market.)