Jose Antonio Vargas at the San Francisco Pistahan Parade and Festival

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area and have an interest in Filipino culture, do plan to attend the Pistahan Parade and Festival this weekend.

Pistahan is a fantastic festival of Filipino Culture and Cuisine, celebrating its 19th year at the Yerba Buena Gardens.

From the Pistahan website:

On Saturday, August 11 the Pistahan Parade, with nearly 100 contingents, kicks off the festival! It begins at 11 a.m. on Beale Street, goes down Market Street, and ends at Folsom and Third streets. The grand marshals are Cheesa Laureta, a contestant on “The Voice ” comedian Joey Guila; Ali Ewoldt, who appeared on Broadway in “Les Miserables”; singer Meleana Brown from TV’s “Duets”; and Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented Filipino-American journalist who wrote a Time magazine cover story about his experiences trying to gain legal status in America.

The Filipina Women’s Network and the Filipino American Arts Exposition are hosting a community networking and Filipino themed breakfast (with ingredients from Ramar Foods) and featuring a keynote speech by Jose Antonio Vargas.

Jose Antonio Vargas was part of the Washington Post team covering the Virginia Tech shootings, earning a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting. Vargas profiled Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker in 2010, and his articles on AIDS inspired the documentary, The Other City.

In 2011, Vargas became the “story” when he revealed that he was an undocumented immigrant, in an essay for The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Visit the Pistahan website for full details, including the parade route map, and the Pistahan and Bayanihan Stage schedules.

And…stop by Native Leaf’s booth and say hello — near the Pistahan Main Stage, on the Mission Street side of Yerba Buena Gardens.

About rattan and difference between rattan and bamboo plants

The theme for this week’s photo challenge at the WordPress Daily Post — WRONG — is a tough one!  I settled on my rattan photos.

Rattan (Calamus) is sometimes mistaken for bamboo.  There is a big difference — bamboos are in the grass family of plants, and rattans are among the hundreds of types of palm plants.

Rattan canes are solid, while bamboos are hollow.  Both plants are used for making furniture, and strips of bamboo and rattan are also woven into wicker baskets and other handicrafts.  Wicker is the generic term for a woven fiber (usually natural plants), woven into functional items.

My sister and I bought some rattan rocking chairs for our mother while in the Philippines, and I took these photos of rattan plants.  I  took a few shots focused on the rattan spikes.

What is wrong with this rattan?

Rattan – Calamus, Philippines

It may be obvious to you now, but at the time, I did not notice that it had been hacked into, until I downloaded the photos.  I thought…oh no..my detail shot is marred and the palm was cut (though I thought it was good that it continued to grow).

Upon cropping and looking at it closer…it looks like only the leaf frond / branch was cut.  So it was I — who was wrong!

Like many situations in life, sometimes we need to take a closer look to really SEE something, right?

Close up of spikes – Rattan palm. Rattans have spikes to help it climb over other plants — like vines — and to deter animals from eating the plant.

So….the rattan palm continues on its growth and travel upwards.

Some rattan can grow over 150 feet! Can you follow the source of this rattan….from the top left corner to the bottom right, leading to the half-constructed “Nipa” Hut?

Fresh strips of rattan

Rattan canes and strips, stored in the ceiling area of the workshop — I love the pattern of the ceiling, from the woven palm leaves.

Kitty napping on a well-used, woven rattan chair.

Rattan Seedlings – propagation of rattan is only possible from fresh seeds.

Most of the world’s rattan grow in Indonesia, followed by the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Bangladesh.  Rattans help the overall ecosystem of forests, and unsustainable harvesting can be a problem.

We noted — at least in the area where we bought the rocking chairs — locals working with government programs to replant rattan in the area, and to help create a future plant and material source for the local handicraft industry.

Giant Pacific leatherback turtle washed up dead off island in central Philippines

Recently, a giant Pacific leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) washed up dead off the central Visayas island of Leyte, in the Philippines.

The endangered leatherback sea turtle is one of earth’s oldest species, and the largest reptile living on our planet.

Photo by Austin Don Perez for Bayan Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula, via post by Iloed.C at www.skyscrapercity.com

It is sad to see, especially as leatherback turtle populations — along with many other types of sea turtles — have dramatically declined over the last 2 decades.  These turtles play an important role in thinning out jellyfish populations, and balancing our ocean’s ecosystem.

Hopefully, it died of old age or natural causes, and not because of accidentally ingesting plastic items and bags floating in our oceans — which it mistakes for jellyfish.

This turtle was estimated to weigh 600 kilos (1,323 lbs).

For more on these amazing creatures, please view my post: Monterey Bay and our connection to endangered leatherback sea turtles.

Last Friday, a 700 lb, leatherback turtle was also found near Monterey, California.  Link to photo of the turtle (and video footage) from local news provider, KTVU.com here. Excerpt:

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found at 3 p.m. that the turtle likely died from natural causes.  Officials transported the heavy sea animal to a marine research facility in Santa Cruz.

These turtles nests in Indonesia, then migrate all the way to Monterey Bay and other parts of the U.S. West Coast.  They take this 6,000 mile journey to feed on abundant jellyfish in our waters.

An article on the website BayNature.org indicated that Pacific leatherback turtles have been spotted in the coastal waters off central California — first in Monterey Bay, then by Santa Cruz, and then in Half Moon Bay.  The leatherbacks arrived earlier this year (compared to previous years), and so far, there have been 17 sightings, compared to a total of 23 sightings for all last year.  The article states that there is a lot of food for them here, and that in July, marine biologists reported the most abundant and dense jellyfish bloom seen in years.

If you reading this from the Philippines and have more information on the leatherback turtle that washed up off the Leyte coast, please comment.  Thank you.  – Lola Jane

For related pollution and conservation topics, please visit Lolako posts: 10 ways to rise above plastics, Trash vortex now the size of Texas, and 12 minutes, on plastic bag bans.

The “Ube” and Purple Filipino Food

The theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge on the Daily Post is the color Purple.

I thought about food again…specifically Filipino food, as I was already working on a purple food post.

Indian Eggplant at Moss Landing, California Market Stall

There are many food in shades of purple. There is the eggplant of course, and grapes, purple potatoes, purple cabbage, purple basil, onions — which we call red, but really is often the same shade as purple cabbages.

Boy behind “red” onions at his family’s vegetable market stall, Philippines

Purple shade foods — beets and onions — for sale at the Old Monterey Farmers Market

However, when it comes to purple foods, I think Filipino food wins in the “most” category.  This is all thanks to the ube — pronounced “ou-beh” — a type of purple yam from the Philippines.

Filipinos are accustomed to purple food from the flavor and coloring of ube — and it must be ingrained in us.  Ube flavored food varies from a light shade of lavender to a deep, dark purple.  It does not matter the shade as I think I can speak for most Filipinos and Filipino-Americans here, that when we see purple or an ube-shade of food, we immediately think…oh look, purple…yes, it’s ube…its good….get it….eat it!

The purple ube by itself is a health food, with anti-oxidant properties.   But perhaps how we prepare it in the Philippines — whipped with milk and sugars, or stuffed in breads, cooked with biko or other rice flour based desserts — takes away its health benefits.  Or maybe there is still enough ube in there to count for something…

Here are some of my ube food photos.  It is common to see these at San Francisco Bay Area Filipino grocery stores and eateries.

Pan de ube — bread stuffed with the purple yam jam!

Philippine sticky rice with coconut dessert “Biko” plain (brown) and purple ube flavored.

Philippine “kakanin” or snack food called Puto, in plain white, or purple, ube flavored.

“Sapin-sapin” a type of layered, sticky, rice flour based snack food and dessert, ube flavored

It is also common to find ube flavored drinks, ice creams and ube snacks at  Filipino eateries, and even fast-food restaurants. This is from Chow-King, advertising halo-halo (an icy treat that translates to “mix-mix”). Click on the photo for Lolako’s Halo-Halo post.

Woman selling snacks contained in banana leaves, at the market, Philippines. The tube shaped items are filled with sticky rice cooked in coconut milk, then steamed. The cupcake looking items are “puto”, a fermented rice flour sweet snack, also cooked inside a banana leaf. You can see purple, or ube flavored ones along with the yellow and pink putos.  Click on photo for more on the Philippine banana-wrapped snack foods.

Ube flavored snack contained in banana leaves

The food snack and Chinese style pastry  “Hopia” typically has yellow mung beans, but lately I have seen these with ube flavored filling, too!

Purple Yam is available in a powdered format, if you want to add a natural food coloring (and some ube flavors) to your food.

Jeff made pan de sal — a traditional breakfast bread in the Philippines — with ube, using this brand of powdered ube.

The recipe is from Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan’s cookbook, Memories of Philippine Kitchens. They are owners of the restaurant Purple Yam, in Brooklyn, New York.

Homemade ube pan de sal with store-bought ube spread.

Booth at Pistahan Festival in San Francisco – August 2012

Ube Waffles with caramelized macapuno (coconut) syrup by Pinx (www.PinxCatering.com)

Philippine ube “flower bread”

Picture is a small dish of super purple, ube “halaya”…sweet favorite of grated and mashed ube, cooked with milk (cooked by stirring, then stir, stir and then more stirring).  It is usually topped with bits of coconut curd.

What do you think?  Way too strange or…I’ll try that!

Related links:

Purple yam, Dioscorea alata (in cross-section above courtesy Deepugn – via blog In the Company of Plants and Rocks)

 

Blog post “Will the real yam please stand up”, from the blog, In the Company of Plants and Rocks.

Excerpt…Plants of the genus Dioscorea, the true yams, are perennial vines.  The yams themselves are root tubers…

 

 

Ube Flavor Ice Cream from Magnolia – Ramar Foods Intl.

 

 

Lolako’s Purple yam…or corn and cheese ice cream…anyone? On the unique, ice cream flavors from the Philippines.

 

 

Champorado – chocolate rice porridge

Champorado – chocolate rice porridge

And more of Lola Jane’s Filipino food posts:

  • Champorado origins – a chocolate rice porridge and favorite Filipino breakfast
  • Burgers…and Bangus?  Why the bangus fish is often thought of as a Philippine national symbol
  • About ginamos & tuyo…and can you bring in your luggage when traveling to the US
  • About Sinangag, and how much I missed rice while in boot camp in the US Air Force
  • Use of Banana Leaves in Filipino food

Philippine Eagle Video at ARKive

Shared by artist David Tomb, a video of the magnificent Philippine Eagle, on the ARKive website.  I will add the link to the post Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle (currently LolaKo.com’s most viewed post).

Click here to view the 1 minute video, especially if you are not yet familiar with this beautiful — and simply awesome — eagle.  There are 11 Philippine eagle videos on this site.

I’ve seen many photographs of the Philippine eagle, and I am continually amazed at the expressions I see on these images.

Photo by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com of Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jeffery), captive, Philippine Eagle Center, Davao, Mindanao, Philippines

Related Links:

Lola Jane’s post Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine Eagle

ARKive (www.ARKive.com) - whose mission is promoting the conservation of the world’s threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery.

“A vast treasury of wildlife images has been steadily accumulating over the past century, yet no one has known its full extent – or indeed its gaps – and no one has had a comprehensive way of gaining access to it. ARKive will put that right, and it will be an invaluable tool for all concerned with the well-being of the natural world.”

Sir David Attenborough -Wildscreen Patron

Philippines sends banana trade mission to Middle East and Europe

From a report by Louella D. Desiderio – PhilStar.com:

MANILA, Philippines – The government has sent a trade mission to the Middle East and Europe as it seeks to find new markets for the country’s bananas and even as it still intends to increase shipments to China, trade officials said.

“We have a banana mission to the Middle East and Europe. They left Saturday,” Trade undersecretary Cristino Panlilio said in a press conference yesterday.

He said the trade mission was sent to Abu Dhabi and Dubai since these are where the trading centers of the Middle East are located.

The trade mission, he said, would also go to Italy and in Brussels.  More here

Don’t put all your bananas in one basket

So…all those rotten bananas from the China export mess taught Philippine banana exporters a lesson.

Banana Plantation, Photo Source: www.freshplaza.com

A lesson that reminds me of the insurance industry terms, risk management and risk separation, or…. don’t put all your eggs — and bananas — in one basket.

After Japan, China was the 2nd largest market for Philippine banana exports.

In mid-May, China impounded Philippine bananas and instituted strict quarantine measures — which many suspect was really due to the ongoing disputes over the Scarborough Shoals, in the South China / West Philippine Sea.

Philippine banana exporters realized that they cannot rely on just a few export markets, and the industry is now looking at other markets, like Pakistan and countries in the Middle East.

And the good news, the Department of Agriculture announced that Dole Philippines is sending its first ever shipment of Cavendish bananas to the USA.  Cavendish are the common type of banana sold at grocery stores.

Bananas at the grocery store

Ecuador is picking up the Philippine banana import void to China.  Though halfway around the world from China, Ecuador’s government is providing a subsidy for their China-bound banana exports, to give their producers a price advantage.

Did you know…bananas are the 2nd top commodity by weight (after furniture) in all container shipments arriving at USA ports?  For more, view the post “What’s in the Box”.

Top 10 banana producing nations
(in million metric tons)
 India* 26.2
 Philippines 9.0
 China 8.2
 Ecuador 7.6
 Brazil 7.2
 Indonesia 6.3
 Mexico 2.2
 Costa Rica 2.1
 Colombia 2.0
 Thailand 1.5
World total 95.6
Via Wikipedia-Source 2009 data-Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
*Note: Although India leads in banana production, most of it is for domestic consumption and not for export.

Related banana links:

Fresh Plaza – Global Fresh Produce and Banana News

All about bananas, from Wikipedia

Lolako’s “What’s in the Box” - Top Commodity, by weight, arriving in U.S. container ports

Bananas – Philippines

Clever line from Philippines Today columnist Fred G. Gabot…“save the sagging saging, Sir“.

Saging is the Tagalog (Philippine national language) word for bananas.  It is pronounced something like sah-ging — the ging part rhymes with ring.

I heard about the Dole banana plantations in the Mindanao region, but prior to this post, I did not know that the Philippines is among the top nations growing and exporting bananas…how about you?

Population Philippines: Too many mouths to feed?

The program “Marketplace” featured a series of reports on food challenges we will face as the world population continues to grow. There are 7 billion people living on the planet today, and according to the United Nations, there will be another 2 billion by the middle of this century.

The Marketplace program, Food for 9 Billion, is a collaboration of Marketplace, Homeland Productions, PBS NEWSHOUR and the Center for Investigative Reporting.  It examines the challenge of feeding the world at a time of growing population, shrinking land and water resources, climate changes and rising food and energy prices.

The Philippines — where more than 2 million babies are born every year — is one of the countries featured in the program series.  The report by Sam Eaton starts:

There’s a saying in the Philippines, “pantawid gutom.” It means to “cross the hunger.” When a family can’t afford rice, they’ll water down a pack of instant noodles or feed their  babies brown sugar dissolved in water to ease the hunger pangs. The fact that this saying even exists should tell you something about what it means to be poor here. Clarissa Canayong is 42 years old. She has 10 surviving children — the youngest only a year old. And she lives in an urban Manila slum called Vitas, at the edge of a garbage dump.

Population growth among the poor in the Philippines, where birth control remains largely out of reach, is about four times higher than the rest of the country.
- Sam Eaton/Marketplace

Click here to listen to the radio broadcast, and to view the related videos and photos for the series (http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/food-9-billion/philippines-too-many-mouths).

More than a quarter of the Philippines’ population lives in poverty — many in conditions similar to these.
- Sam Eaton/Marketplace

Related LolaKo.com links (click to view article):

Living with the dead

Earlier this year, my friend sent this link of a poignant video from London-based Stefan Werc, about Filipinos who live among the dead at the Navotas cemetery.

It is interesting to see all the religious objects in the shacks.  Religion and faith may be what sustains one’s spirit, and to have hope, despite living in these conditions.  But sadly, religion — at least in the Philippines —  is also what stands in the way of reproductive rights legislation…needed to help solve overpopulation, and subsequent poverty issues.

How bleak and sad do living conditions have to get?  Would the fact that people live in cemeteries confirm we have huge problems in the Philippines with poverty and overpopulation?

Will churches house, feed, and take care of these people?  It is obvious that they cannot.  I implore leaders to have compassion and stop blocking family planning initiatives, and let those who need it most — the poor — have access to family planning programs.

Above and Below from Stefan Werc on Vimeo.

See also, related articles:

Lola Jane’s A Demographic Riddle: Do women bear fewer children because a country is prosperous, or does a country’s economy grow when women have fewer children?

Lola Jane’s International Human Development Indicators (HDI) United Nations Report and where the Philippines stands in human development between 1980 to 2011 (compared to countries like Brazil, Thailand and Egypt).

The Filipino Scribe – Blogger and freelance writer Mark Pere Madrona’s blog post on the Philippines’ Reproductive Health(RH) bill:  Passing RH bill is our priority, PH tells UN rights body

On the “burden of civilization’s excess” and 5gyres.org

Found via the website 5gyres.org, another disturbing photograph on plastic trash problems in the Philippines, taken last year after the floods related to Ondoy.

At first glance…the road?  No, it is a river of floating plastics and other debris. It is no wonder parts of our planet’s ocean are turning into plastic soup

Photo by Francis R. Malasig via 5gyres.org

Excerpt from the accompanying blog post by Stiv Wilson of 5 Gyres, and words from Marcus Eriksen, Executive Director of 5gyres.org:

The people at the end of the road, that we sometimes forget exist, bear the burden of civilization’s excess. 

The developing world wants the affluence and convenience of the west, but the infrastructure for waste management does not exist. 

Our collective conscience cannot tolerate the synthetic chemistry of our industrial and technological advances to become the burden of our poorest communities or reside in the bodies of our children, yet today everyone carries this chemical legacy. 

The producers of plastics have an obligation to plan for the post-consumer life of their product, all the way to the end.  If you want to clean the 5 gyres in the ocean of plastic waste, then give your time and funds to those that clean up these watersheds, where plastic hurts people.  And more importantly, to those legislative advocates that prevent the proliferation of plastic pollution throughout society. 

To reach the people at the end of the road, we have to begin our work there and work backwards to ourselves.

Marcus Eriksen’s words — especially “the burden of civilization’s excess” — resonated with me.  And yes, of course…those from developing nations want what everyone else wants.

Sometimes, new plastic “stuff” replaced functional items used in the home…like those now ubiquitous stacking, plastic chairs, that have replaced native, local bamboo or woven rattan chairs.

It seemed convenient, and cheap…until we learned about the problems with plastic trash.  Then we realized, oh-oh…maybe it is not so good, if we consider the loss of income to the locals who use to build a lot more bamboo and rattan chairs, and indeed, as we find out the “true cost” of all this cheap plastic stuff.

We know that unlike bamboo and rattan chairs that biodegrades back to earth, there are not always collection systems for broken plastic chairs, broken buckets and planganas (basins for washing clothes), broken plastic totes, etc.

Where will this used or broken plastic trash end up…oh right, see photo above.

It is a problem indeed, with the ever growing population of the Philippines — now the 12th most populous on our planet, in need of even more stuff.   In an archipelago nation like the Philippines, uncontrolled trash is always just a few short breaths away from the sea, at the next big rainfall or during typhoon season.

How do we manage all this plastic garbage?  Do we get plastics manufacturers or those who import plastics to have a plan to dispose of plastic trash?  Should the manufacturers be required to take it back?

Can we consider a moratorium on plastics until a solution is found or at least, until the infrastructure is in place to deal with, and to recycle these items?

Unlike most communities in the Western world, many areas in the Philippines still do not have established waste management or recycling programs, so when that plastic chair breaks, it is just more trash — the scary kind of trash that sticks around for a very long time.

One way or another, this uncontrolled plastic trash already affects us.  When it ends up in one of the trash vortex, or when we eat seafood that have eaten bits of our plastic trash, or through the extinction of species directly related to our actions…or our failure to take action.

See Also – Lolako’s Category Archives: Philippine related environment and conservation topics

And post from March, 2014,  Chameleons? Why Filipinos live & work in just about every country in the world

U.S. Secretary of Defense speech to 2012 Naval Academy graduates: Important work of modernizing historic alliances with Japan, Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand

I am posting sections of a recent speech by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, delivered to graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy on Tuesday, May 29, 2012

DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

It is related to my earlier post(s) on activities and potential flashpoints in the South China Sea area (e.g., the China – Philippine dispute over the Scarborough Shoals).  Excerpt:

…America is a maritime nation, and we are returning to our maritime roots.  One of the key projects of your generation will have to face is sustaining and enhancing American strength across the great maritime region of the Pacific.

America’s future prosperity and security are tied to our ability to advance peace and security along the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean and South Asia. 

That reality is inescapable for our country and for our military, which has already begun broadening and deepening our engagement throughout the Asia-Pacific.  One of your great challenges as an officer in the Navy will be to ensure the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region for the 21st century. 

We need you to project America’s power and to reflect America’s character:  to serve on ships and submarines, to fly planes, and to train and operate throughout the region. 

We need you to do the important work of strengthening and modernizing our historic alliances with Japan, with Korea, with Australia, with the Philippines, with Thailand. 

We need to you to build robust partnerships throughout the region; with countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia; with Vietnam, Singapore, India and others.    

We also need you to strengthen defense ties with China.  China’s military is growing and modernizing.  We must be vigilant.  We must be strong.  We must be prepared to confront any challenge. 

But the key to peace in that region is to develop a new era of defense cooperation between our countries – one in which our militaries share security burdens to advance peace in the Asia-Pacific and around the world. Tomorrow I depart on a trip to Southeast Asia.  And later this year, I will visit to China for the first time as Secretary of Defense.

I’ll tell all of these nations that the United States will remain a Pacific power, and I’ll tell them why: because of you.  Because during your careers many of you will be headed to the Pacific. There and across the globe, the Navy and Marine Corps must lead a resurgence of America’s enduring maritime presence and power. 

As graduates of the Naval Academy, you’ve earned much and you’ve been given much. And now, as Navy and Marine Corps officers, your nation will ask you to give much of yourselves to service to this country.  It is about giving back to this country.  That’s what service is all about.   ...Click here to read the entire speech…

This post is military-related, and I am a veteran of the U.S. Air Force…and what I am thinking of is continued PEACE for the Asia-Pacific region, and the world.  Yes…a balanced, peaceful world, and safety for these young graduates, and future military leaders.

And that the power and might of the American military, partnering with other countries in the region, will prevent an escalation of violence, especially as China continues with its aggression towards the Philippines, and their territorial claims in the resource-rich South China / West Philippine Sea area.

Not the Bananas! More on the ongoing Philippine – China disputes

The latest on the Philippine – China dispute involve Philippine bananas and new, stricter inspections from Chinese ports — resulting in a lot of rotten Philippine bananas.

Chinese authorities claim they found pests in banana shipments coming in from the Philippines.

So…who put those bugs in the banana imports….really?!?

After Japan, China is the Philippines’ second largest market for bananas.

Read more about the impounded bananas — and other Philippine fruits now facing extra quarantine measures and new scrutiny from China, from an article at JapanToday.com (here).

And somewhat related, here is a banana and container port article I posted earlier this year: What’s in the Box

Scarborough Shoal disputes: Chinese travel agents suspend tours to the Philippines

China’s news outlets report that Chinese travel agencies are suspending or rescheduling summer trips and tours to the Philippines, due to recent tensions in the South China / West Philippine Seas.

Beijing travel agent Dun Jidong is quoted as saying “Safety is the prime concern in the travel business. We’ve learned there might be anti-China activities in the Philippines, which means a lot of uncertainty. To ensure the safety of our clients, we have suspended all tours to the Philippines. And we will monitor the situation as it develops.”

On Thursday, China’s National Tourism Administration website told Chinese tourists to avoid “unnecessary” travel to the Philippines and warned those who are already there to be mindful of their security.

Anti-China protesters carry placards and shout slogans in front of the Chinese embassy in Makati City on Friday. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN

Excerpt from a Manila Times report:

Maria Victoria Jasmin, DOT undersecretary, said that as of Thursday, 10 tour operators from Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou have cancelled flights to the Philippines…

The DOT said that China ranks fourth in the country’s top tourist market and had an 8.4-percent share in the total visitor arrivals for the January to March, 2012 period or over 96,455 tourists.

Last year, at least 243,137 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines, making up 6.21 percent of the total tourist arrivals.

The Philippine Travel Agency Association earlier said that the country’s top three markets are Korea, the United States and Japan.

During a press briefing, Philippine Malacanang Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said “We are going to certainly assure our Chinese friends of their safety”.

He added “Sa totoo lang, ang dami naman nating mga Chinese dito (the fact is, there are so many Chinese here). You would not know if they are from the mainland or from the Philippines. We have very good relations in terms of cultural exchange and our relations with China have been very good on a cultural level, on a familial level. So there is no reason for our Chinese friends and the Chinese Embassy to worry about the safety of their nationals”.

Scarborough Shoal Standoff: Strong words from Chinese Vice Foreign Minister

It does not look like the China – Philippines standoff over Scarborough Shoals, and territorial claims over the South China Sea / West Philippine Sea area, is anywhere close to being resolved.

Below is an excerpt from a report today, by Brian Spegele of the Wall Street Journal, with strong statements from the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying:

China said it was pessimistic about resolving a standoff with the Philippines in the resource-rich South China Sea and was prepared for tensions there to escalate further.

The remarks, delivered during a meeting Monday between Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying and Manila’s charge d’affaires in Beijing, Alex Chua, marked a significant uptick in the heat of the rhetoric as relations between China and one of Washington’s closest allies in the region continue to deteriorate.

Mr. Chua was summoned by China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency, as part of a long-running dispute around what is known as the Scarborough Shoal in English and Huangyan island in Chinese, in the southeastern part of the South China Sea. Xinhua said it was the third meeting in less than a month between the two sides.

“It is obvious the Philippine side has not realized that it is making serious mistakes and is stepping up efforts to escalate tensions instead,” Ms. Fu said in a statement on the website of China’s Foreign Ministry. “It is hoped that the Philippine side will not misjudge the situation and not escalate tensions without considering the consequences.”

A spokesman for the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs, Raul Hernandez, said in a statement that the Philippines was taking a “new diplomatic initiative” that it hopes will defuse the situation, but declined to provide details.  More…

And so the Scarborough Shoals standoff and tension continues, and China reportedly now has four government ships in the area — in addition to eight fishing vessels.  The Philippines has one coast guard vessel, and one Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel.

Do you need to catch up on why there are disputes over these South China Sea territories?   Visit the BBC News Q&A: South China Sea disputes, to learn more (e.g.,  possible natural gas reserves and the large amount of natural resources in this area).

Also, here is a link to my original article on the latest flare-up over the Scarborough Shoal area.

Meanwhile, here in the states, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta met with Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie at the Pentagon yesterday, May 7, 2012.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta welcomes Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie to the Pentagon, May 7, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

It was the first U.S. visit by a Chinese defense minister in nine years.

Liang has been visiting U.S. military bases and meeting with U.S. military leaders to discuss U.S.-Chinese cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

Excerpt from the American Forces Press Service news article by Cheryl Pellerin:

Liang’s visit occurs at a time when the armed forces of both nations seek to expand cooperation, improve understanding, build trust and reduce differences.

“The United States and China are both Pacific powers, and our relationship is one of the most critical in the world,” Panetta said at a news conference with Liang after their meeting.

“In my meeting with General Liang, I expressed my commitment to achieving and maintaining a healthy, stable, reliable and continuous [military-to-military] relationship with China,” the secretary said, adding that at Liang’s invitation he will visit China within the next few months.

“We share many interests across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond,” Panetta added, “from humanitarian assistance to concerns about weapons of mass destruction to terrorism to drug interdictions to trade to counterpiracy.”

…“As you all know,” Panetta said, “the U.S. Department of Defense recently released a new defense strategy, recognizing that no region is more important than the Asia-Pacific for our country’s future peace and prosperity.”

Liang spoke through an interpreter, describing the purpose of his visit as being “to implement the important agreement reached by President Hu Jintao and President [Barack] Obama on developing the China-U.S. state-to-state and military-to-military relationship.”   More…

Latest on the China – Philippines standoff: Meeting of Philippines Foreign Secretary del Rosario and Defense Secretary Gazmin in Washington D.C.

The Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin were in Washington D.C. yesterday, April 30th, 2012  to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

It was a historic first “2+2″ or bilateral meeting of U.S. and Philippine defense and foreign affairs leaders.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, far right, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Filipino Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, far left, and Filipino Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario pose for an official photo before a meeting at the State Department in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2012. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

After the meeting, they made statements for the media, and then took a few questions from the press.

Included in this post are parts of the introduction from Secretary of State Clinton, press questions, and answers from Philippine Foreign Secretary del Rosario as well as Philippine Defense Secretary Gazmin on the Scarborough Shoal standoff, and the Philippines’ position.

Please see the earlier post on this topic for the definition of UNCLOS.

Introduction from Secretary of State Clinton:

…Today we held the first ever 2+2 meeting between the United States and the Philippines, a testament to our shared commitment to write a new chapter in the partnership between our two countries.

With the growing security and economic importance of the Asia Pacific, the United States is actively working to strengthen our alliances, build new partnerships, and engage more systematically in the region’s multilateral institutions.

At the heart of this strategy is our effort to deepen and broaden our alliance with our friend and treaty ally, the Philippines. This alliance is rooted not just in a deep history of shared democratic values but in a wide range of mutual concerns. And today we had a chance to cover a number of them.

First we discussed our bilateral military cooperation. Our alliance has helped keep both of our countries secure for more than 60 years, and it has been a bulwark of peace and stability in Asia. Today the United States reaffirms our commitment and obligations under the mutual defense treaty.

We also discussed steps we are taking to ensure that our countries are fully capable of addressing both the challenges and the opportunities posed in the region in the 21st century. We need to continue working together to counter violent extremism, to work on addressing natural disasters, maritime security, and transnational crime.

 Press Question / Answer:

PRESS QUESTION: Mr. del Rosario, the standoff at the Scarborough Shoal is into its fourth week now. Did you get an unequivocal assurance from the U.S. it will come to the aid of the Philippines if shots are fired? And what was the type or form?

Also, short of shots being fired, how do you see the endgame of Scarborough being played out if China cannot be persuaded diplomatically to withdraw its vessels from the area?

SECRETARY DEL ROSARIO: Those are several questions rolled into one, my friend, but let me begin from your last question.

We do have a three-track approach to endeavoring to solve the problem that we currently have with China in the Scarborough Shoal. It encompasses three tracks.

The first track is the political track. We are pursuing the ASEAN as a framework for a solution to this problem through a code of conduct that we are trying to put together and ultimately approve. Hopefully that will quiet the situation.

Secondly, we are pursuing a legal track, and the legal track involves our pursuing a dispute settlement mechanism under UNCLOS. There are five of them. We think that we can avail of one or two of those mechanisms, even without the presence of China.

Thirdly, we are pursuing a diplomatic approach, such as the one that we are undertaking, which is to have consultations with China in an attempt to defuse the situation.

In terms of U.S. commitment, I think the U.S. has been very clear that they do not get involved in territorial disputes, but that they are firm in terms of taking a position for a – towards a peaceful settlement of the disputes in the South China Sea towards a multilateral approach and towards the use of a rules-based regime in accordance with international law, specifically UNCLOS. They have expressed that they will honor their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

PRESS QUESTION: My question is for Secretary Gazmin. Secretary, in light of the current Chinese-Philippines standoff in Scarborough Shoal, what kind of assistance have you asked to bolster Manila’s ability to patrol its waters and to deter what you call intrusions?

SECRETARY GAZMIN: Thank you for the question. The assistance we have sought is to help us bring the case to international legal bodies, so that the approach is the legal rules-based approach in resolving the issue in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.

It is worth reading the full remarks after the meeting, from the U.S. Department of State website (visit here).

Secretary Clinton was scheduled to leave for Bejing the evening after the meeting, so it will be interesting to see what develops in the next few days.

It certainly is a sensitive topic for the U.S. – China, as well as Philippines – China relationships, not to mention other countries that have an interest in the South China Sea, and China’s territorial waters claims.

UNCLOS and the China – Philippines standoff over Scarborough Shoal

China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam each claim competing sovereignty over areas in the South China Sea.

You may have heard about the current standoff between China and the Philippines, near the Scarborough Shoal area.  Here is an excerpt from a BBC News article yesterday – China needs a ”consistent policy” on the South China Sea:

China’s claim includes almost the entire South China Sea, well into what the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea recognises as the 200-mile-from-shore Exclusive Economic Zones of other claimants.

That has led to occasional flare-ups and to competition to occupy islands, reefs and sandbars.

The latest incident sparked when a Philippines warship found eight Chinese fishing vessels at the Scarborough shoal – which both sides claim – when it was patrolling the area on 8 April.

When navy personnel boarded the Chinese fishing vessels, they found a large amount of illegally-caught fish and coral, Manila said.

Two Chinese surveillance ships then arrived in the area, preventing the navy from making arrests.

Attempts to resolve the stand-off have not yet been successful. The Philippine warship has been replaced by a coast guard vessel and the Chinese fishermen have gone, but two Chinese vessels remain there.

China has also expressed anger at the annual US-Philippines military exercises, due to run until 27 April.

This year they are taking place off Palawan, near the disputed Spratly islands which both Manila and Beijing claim. The joint exercises involve some 7,000 troops, including more than 4,000 from the US.

With China asserting its claims more aggressively the US has been strengthening old friendships in the region, says the BBC’s John Sudworth reporting from the South China Sea on the exercises.  Read more…

I’ve heard something about this  “200 nautical miles” rule before, but did not know the history.  Apparently, it is based on the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international agreement also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Looking at the map above, it seems rather clear — especially regarding the Scarborough Shoals — that this area belongs in the Philippine “exclusive economic zone” under UNCLOS definitions.  China is claiming a very large area as “territorial waters”.

The current UNCLOS III treaty came into force in 1994,  replacing earlier treaties UNCLOS I and UNCLOS II (though the concept of national rights of a nation’s coastlines dates back to the 17th century).

UNCLOS III covers exclusive economic zones (see below graphic), navigation, archipelagic status and transit regimes, continental shelf jurisdiction, deep seabed mining, protection of the marine environment, scientific research, and settlement of disputes.

United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

Related Links:

United Nations – Oceans and Law of the Sea: Historical Perspective on UNCLOS

East Sea (South China Sea) Studies – All for one, one for all: promoting economic activities in the South China Sea, by Nazery Khalid.

Palawan-based blogger Alex Pronove’s latest post: Sun-Tzu – The Art of War, and President Aquino (and the standoff at Scarborough Shoal)

Two items NOT to bring in your luggage, when traveling from the Philippines to the U.S.

Yesterday, Carol, from the Philippines posted a comment / question about bringing a walis tambo — a traditional Philippine broom — with her, when she visits her relatives in New Jersey next month (see my response about walis in comment section of blog post, here)

In the process of getting her question answered, the customs official I spoke with also mentioned two items often packed in the luggage of those traveling from the Philippines, that are currently banned from entry to the U.S.

And these item are:

  1. Tsitsaron (or chicharron) — My response was…What?  Really? You are just kidding right?  Nope, he was not kidding, so leave your favorite bags of tsitsaron for your friends and relatives in the Philippines, and not as a part of your pasalubong items.
  2. Any chicken bouillon type seasoning (a popular brand is “Magic Sarap”) — again, my thought was….hmmm,  that is strange one, but it may have something to do with minimizing bird flu risks.

So…you will have to buy your tsitsaron from U.S. manufacturers, and leave your Magic Sarap packages behind.

I have seen this brand for sale at our local Filipino stores, so the formula may be different for export (?).

And just a reminder that if you want more information on specific items you want to bring back from the Philippines, you should contact directly, your port of entry airport (such as, Los Angeles, etc.)

For the San Francisco International Airport – Port of Entry officials on this topic can be reached at telephone # (650) 624-7200, extension 415.

To find your own local authority, you can Google “Port of Entry” along with the name of your airport of entry.

It is always a good idea to contact your Port of Entry authorities first, to check if you have questions on items you are bringing in from the Philippines, in case of rule changes!

Dried fish (tuyo) for sale at a Philippine market. Photo Lolako.com

And by the way, as of now, it is still OK to bring as much dried fish and fermented seafood products from the Philippines — like tuyo, bagoong and ginamos — that you can fit in your luggage. NOTE: This applies to SEAFOOD only, not beef or poultry. And of course, not ever any FRESH seafood!

The most important thing is that you DECLARE your items, in case the agriculture department wants to see the items and scan through their X-ray machines.

For more on bringing tuyo, bagoong and ginamos when travelling to the U.S., see the comments section on my  “Luggage with a special kind of stinky” post.

And if you like this post and want to see other Philippine related post from LolaKo.com, click here…

Among Lolako.com’s most popular Philippine related post are about

~ Lola Jane

Update on October 2, 2014 — in case your Magic Sarap packages were confiscated by US Customs…and if you absolutely must have the Magic Sarap brand seasoning mix, no worries as it is available at many Asian Market / Filipino stores in the US.

Magic Sarap for sale at store web

Magic Sarap seasoning mix for sale at Virginia, USA based Filipino store

I spotted these packages while at a Filipino store & restaurant in Fairfax, Virginia a few weeks ago…

Tilapia – the world’s top aquaculture fish

Writing about the Philippine bangus / milkfish these last few days got me thinking about the most popular farmed (aquaculture) fish in the world, the tilapia (Oreochromis, Sarotherodon).

Introduction, from Tilapia Production Report, Globefish.org:

Tilapia is both a genus of fishes in the Cichlidae family and the common name for nearly a hundred species of freshwater and some brackish water cichlid fishes belonging to the three genera Tilapia, Sarotherodon, and Oreochromis. 

Nile Tilapia Drawing (1898): WH Flower, Guide to the galleries of reptiles and fishes of the British Museum

Tilapia is often called “St. Peter’s fish” because according to the Book of Mathew (17:27) the fish which St. Peter caught was a tilapia. Also, the miracle of Jesus Christ in which it says a crowd of five thousand people were fully fed with five loafs of bread and two fishes (Mathew 14:15-21) may have also been a tilapia since this is the species most found in Lake Tiberius (Sea of Galilee) in historical Palestine. It is also called as Nile mouth brooder, or Nile perch.

Most important and abundant in production, capture and aquaculture, is the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus); followed by the Blue tilapia (Oreochromis aureus); Mango tilapia (Sarotherodon galilaeus) and Sabaki tilapia (Oreochromis spilurus). These are native to Africa and the Middle East.  Blue and Mango tilapias are captured although in limited quantities while Sabaki tilapia is only cultured.

In the twenty-first century tilapia is dubbed as “wonder fish”.

Photo Source: www.globefish.org

Although tilapia is native to Africa and the Middle East, 98% of all farmed tilapia is grown outside its native habitat, by about 85 countries.

Tilapia was the 4th favorite seafood in the U.S. in 2010, moving up from its previous position as 5th favorite.  And because it is an affordable fish, worldwide demand continues to grow (www.Globefish.org).

According to a Seafood Watch report by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, tilapia are the most widely grown of any farmed fish. They are highly adaptable, easily cultured and

  • provides more protein than it takes to raise it (unlike farmed salmon or tuna)
  • are omnivorous and adapts eating habits to available food (they feed on phytoplankton or benthic algae but readily accept compound feed)
  • can tolerate low oxygen levels and a range of salinities
  • occupy a wide range of habitats (ponds, rivers, lakes, canals, irrigation channels)
  • have high reproductive capacities and readily establish self-reproducing populations

Photo Source: www.globefish.org

For many years, it has been available at Filipino supermarkets here in the U.S. and is a popular fish choice for markets that have a “free” fish frying service.

More and more, I see it offered as a fish option at restaurants, and it is usually always available as a fish choice in Filipino eateries.

From a sustainability standpoint, here is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program’s stance on tilapia:

Your “Best Choice” is tilapia grown in the U.S. in environmentally friendly systems. “Avoid” farmed tilapia from China and Taiwan, where pollution and weak management are widespread problems.

Seafood
Rating Market Names Where Caught/How Caught
Tilapia Best Choice Izumidai U.S. – Farmed
Tilapia Avoid Izumidai China, Taiwan – Farmed
Tilapia Good Alternative Izumidai Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras – Farmed

More tilapia consumer notes  from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch:

Most tilapia consumed in the U.S. comes from China/Taiwan (frozen) or Central and South America (fresh). Less than 10 percent of tilapia consumed in the U.S. is farmed domestically.

A mild, white fish, tilapia is available year-round. It’s available whole, fresh, frozen, or even live in some Asian restaurants. It can also be found as fresh or frozen fillets. Tilapia is known as izumidai when prepared for sushi.

Summary

Tilapia is an important source of protein, especially in developing countries. Tilapia is a good candidate for farming, as it provides more protein than it takes to raise it. This is in contrast to some other fish raised in farms, such as salmon or tuna.

Tilapia is a hardy, freshwater fish that tolerates a wide range of water conditions. This means it’s easy to farm, but it also means it easily invades many habitats and threatens native fish populations.

In the U.S., most tilapia is farmed in closed inland systems that guard against escapes and pollution. However, in many other countries, tilapia is often farmed in open systems where escapes and pollution are bigger threats. However, tilapia farming methods vary widely within any given country.

U.S. farmed tilapia is the “Best Choice,” with tilapia from Central and South America as a “Good Alternative” to other imported product.

Photo Source: www.globefish.org

The bottom line for U.S. consumers of tilapia:  Look at country of origin packaging labels, and ask your fish dealer, or your restaurant, the country source of the tilapia that they sell and/or serve.

This way, you can at least know if you are consuming “Best Choice” — that is, U.S. farm raised tilapia — or “Good Alternative”, sustainably grown tilapias (again, from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Honduras).

Although tilapia is one of the better farmed fish to eat — because of its mild flavor, affordability, and from a sustainable fish standpoint — it is still a fairly new fish in the world of modern aquaculture.

Under the right conditions, they can become an invasive species when deliberately or accidentally introduced in tropical climates.

In Florida, the blue tilapia (oreochromis aureus) is the most widespread of foreign fish species and a problem when tilapia populations compete with native fish.

Blue Tilapia – Photo credit: Michael Rupert Hayes

Tilapia is now the second most popular farmed fish in the Philippines (after the bangus).

A report from www.Globefish.org indicated that Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) was introduced to the Philippines in the mid-1960’s.  Excerpt from Globefish report on the Nile tilapia:

The culture of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times as depicted on bas-relief from an Egyptian tomb dating over 4000 years ago, which showed the fish held in ornamental ponds.

While significant worldwide distribution of tilapias, primarily Oreochromis mossambicus, occurred during the 1940s and 1950s, distribution of the more desirable Nile tilapia occurred during the 1960s up to the 1980s.

Nile tilapia from Japan was introduced to Thailand in 1965, and from Thailand they were sent to the Philippines. Nile tilapia from Cote d’Ivoire was introduced to Brazil in 1971,and from Brazil they were sent to the United States in 1974. In 1978, Nile tilapia was introduced to China, which leads the world in tilapia production and consistently
produced more than half of the global production in every year from 1992 to 2008.

I recommend reading the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and Globefish.org reports below, if you need more information to decide if tilapia is a fish you want to include in your diet.

Related Links:

Lolako.com’s country of origin for tilapia fish sold locally and Found! U.S. Farmed Tilapia

Tilapia-US-Farmed-Lions-MarketLolako.com’s Found! U.S.A. Farmed Tilapia

Seafood Watch – Seafood Report on Farmed Tilapia, by the Monterey Bay Aquarium

How to Raise Tilapia in the Backyard (http://www.pinoybisnes.com)

www.Globefish.org – Tilapia Production Report and Tilapia Archives

Rare Golden Bangus

Bangus (or milkfish – see previous post about Jollibees and “Burgers…and Bangus”) is silver-colored, like many fish.  Somehow though, this one came out a golden color.

RARE GOLDEN BANGUS–-Dr. Westly Rosario, chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) research center based in Dagupan City, holds a live rare golden bangus (milkfish) donated to the center by a fish farmer from Binmaley for research and propagation. The 16-month old fish is measured at 50 centimeters long and weighs 1.2 kilogram. (Photo by Cesar Ramirez) Source: http://sundaypunch.prepys.com/archives/2012/04/16/rare-golden-bangus/

Read more from Yolanda Sotelo, from the blog Northern Watch.  Excerpt:

The “golden bangus” aged one year and four months, could be a freak of nature, much like albinism, BFAR center chief Westly Rosario said. The rare bangus has golden scales, head, fins and tails, which are usually silver in “normal” bangus.
(Albinism, according to Wikipedia, is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin. Albinism results from inheritance of recessive gene alleles and is known to affect all vertebrates, including humans.)

…Rosario said he has seen a golden bangus seven years ago in Taiwan, but this is the first time that such kind was reported in the Philippines  More…

Interested in why the Philippine bangus is considered an unofficial national symbol?  See the previous post “Burgers and Bangus”, and then check out the post Haring Ibon: the magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle to learn about official, national symbols of the Philippines).

Jollibee burgers…and bangus? And why bangus is considered an (unofficial) Philippine national symbol

Where else, but the Philippine fast food restaurant Jollibee, can one order hamburgers AND fried bangus (pronounced something close to “bung-oose”), served with rice?

Jollibee Food Corporation (JFC) started in Manila, soon after McDonalds made plans to enter the Philippine market.

They are one of Asia’s most successful and fastest growing companies, and the Philippines’ largest chain restaurant.  They continue to expand beyond the Philippines, with most U.S. locations in California.

Not yet familiar with bangus (also known as milkfish)?  It is a commonly eaten fish in the Philippines, and an unofficial national symbol.  And because of its popularity in aquaculture or fish farms, it is available just about everywhere in the Philippines, and easy to find here in the U.S.

Here is a description and biology from Wikipedia:

Milkfish (Chanos chanos) have a generally symmetrical and streamlined appearance, with a sizable forked caudal fin. They can grow to 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) but are most often about 1 metre (39 in) in length. They have no teeth and generally feed on algae and invertebrates.

They occur in the Indian Ocean and across the Pacific Ocean, tending to school around coasts and islands with reefs. The young fry live at sea for two to three weeks and then migrate to mangrove swamps, estuaries, and sometimes lakes and return to sea to mature sexually and reproduce.

Bangus (Milkfish) – Chanos chanos by Sir Francis Day

And on the history of the bangus / milkfish:

Milkfish aquaculture first occurred around 800 years ago in the Philippines and spread in Indonesia, Taiwan and into the Pacific.

Traditional milkfish aquaculture relied upon restocking ponds by collecting wild fry. This led to a wide range of variability in quality and quantity between seasons and regions. In the late seventies, farmers first successfully spawned breeding fish. However, they were hard to obtain and produced unreliable egg viability.  In 1980 the first spontaneously spawning happened in sea cages. These eggs were found to be sufficient to generate a constant supply for farms.

Bangus is available fresh or frozen at most Asian markets, and at chain supermarkets that serve the Filipino-American (Fil-Am) community (e.g., Seafood City, Island Supermarket).

Bangus milkfish for sale at Seafood City Markets – photo by Lolako.com

It is cooked in soups (sinigang), stewed in vinegar, ginger and spices (paksiw), fried, grilled or barbequed, stuffed (relleno style), and also “dinaing”, marinated in vinegar and spices, and fried, as in the style served at Jollibee.

Targeting the American market with their chicken and burgers, and offering a menu with familiar, native style foods like fried bangus is a solid marketing strategy, since U.S. Jollibee locations are in areas with established Fil-Am communities.

Bangus is a bony fish, so perhaps marinating or “dinaning” style of preparation is among the best method, as the acid in the vinegar makes the bangus bones soft, then crispy when fried.

Bangus is also available at Jollibee for breakfast, served with traditional Filipino garlic fried rice (sinangag) — and an egg of course.  For the breakfast menu, they do call it milkfish, and highlight the belly  or middle part — a favorite for many, including me!

Bangus is a tasty fish, and it must now be abundant enough — and hopefully grown in a sustainable way — to meet the supply demands of a large restaurant chain like Jollibees.

I checked the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list, and did not see anything on chanos chanos, milkfish or bangus.  They did have a Fish Farming Methods Fact Card that indicate recirculating type systems (enclosed fish tanks) as the best method, though costly to run due to reliance on electricity or other power sources.  If you happen upon this blog and know about the bangus industry, I would appreciate getting a comment on modern bangus aquaculture methods.

I often wondered why bangus often shows up or is thought of as a Philippine national symbol.  So…now I know it is because Filipinos from 800 years ago were the first to capture bangus in the wild, and grow bangus in fish farms!

Lastly for this post…I found out there is a bangus festival in Dagupan City during April until early May.  Dagupan City is in the province of Pangasinan.  A festival centered around the tasty bangus… sounds like fun!

Related Links: