Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Banate's Best!

photo by Clinton Clyde Belleza

The fisherfolks of Banate are lucky living and fishing in the area; it may be a little slower in pace than some of its neighboring towns but the community is blessed with kilometers of coastline that, even in times of declining fish stocks, fisherman have bountiful rewards.

If there is two species that reaches iconic status in Banate it is the succulent blue crab and whiting. These are much sought after species caught in good numbers right along their coastline. And it is just lucky for the blue crab and whiting-mad public Banate’s fertile, and nutrient rich waters ensure that blue crabs and whiting continues to live, breed and thrive.

photo by Clinton Clyde Belleza

Banate has long been known for its bounty of blue crabs popularly known as kasag in Hiligaynon. A major Ilonggo seafood resource, blue crabs are most notably associated with this town.  The town is among the highest contributors to the blue crab industry of Iloilo. Crabbing is part of this town's heritage, and a local favorite that is why the local festival is even named after it.

In spite of their colorful name, blue crabs are mostly grayish to bluish green. Only the claws are blue, and the claws of mature females also have bright orange-red tips.

photo by Clinton Clyde Belleza

Banate Maxwell Seafoods in Barangay Carmelo is the most popular crab processing plant in the area. From the catchers, the crabs are brought to the plant where they are steamed and their meat is picked out and packed for shipment to Cebu for canning and export. Presently, the processing plant employs 50 pickers. It produces 30 boxes of crabs with 15 kilos of crabmeat a day. The crab meat is shipped to Cebu and sold to exporters for the international market.

Another popular seafood resource in the area is the whiting fish popularly known as Aso-os in Hiligaynon. It is a slender fish found mostly along the beaches. They are small and often weigh less than 10oz. Whiting fishing is a favorite and one of the most popular among fishermen because they are plentiful,  it is common to find schools of over 100 fish feeding in an area. They are also easy to catch since they are found even on sand and mud-bottom areas.

photo by Clinton Clyde Belleza

Aso-os is a cheap fish that is why it is regarded as food for the poor or for pets. But it is now more highly valued especially by the fisherfolks. A study on the acceptability of a powdered milk candy popularly known as polvoron from Aso-os was made.  The study found out that it was the best fish species due to its acceptable color, flavor, odor, and texture.

Polvoron is a Philippine dessert or snack popular for “pasalubong” or homecoming gifts. Bay’s nutrifood polvoron is a semi-sweet concoction made of fish protein concentrate, flour, buttermilk, sugar and iodized salt. There are several polvoron recipes available today. There are the cookies and cream polvoron, peanut polvoron, chocolate polvoron, and many more.

photo by Clinton Clyde Belleza

The protein rich fish polvoron produced by BAY’S Nutrifood is a product of the project financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2009. A processing plant was constructed along with the financial aid given through the Banate Bay Integrated Small Fisherfolk Multi-purpose Cooperative. Though production stopped in 2011, concerned individuals along with the aid extended by the Iloilo Provincial Government managed to support its operation.

Presently, it employs 3 fisherfolks for its operation producing 250 pieces of dark and white chocolate coated fish polvoron daily. It has a selling price of P6.00 per piece. A box for 4 dark chocolate and 4 white chocolate-coated polvoron is also available. The chocolate coated polvoron has a life span of 3 months.

Banate is a town 50 kilometers north from Iloilo City. To get to Banate, one can take a bus or van at Tagbak Terminal in Jaro, Iloilo City. For more information, please contact Miss Roselle Bactung at 09164002420 or at 3620068 or call the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism of the Iloilo Provincial Government at telefax (033) 3384910.

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