It was time to leave Bohol but not before a pit stop to bring back some tangible and edible memories of the place. Like Cebu, Bohol is also a source of danggit, pusit and other varieties of dried fish, all of them "dilis-cious" (pardon the pun).
A quick detour before the ride to the airport takes me past Bohol's biggest and only mall -- known to the locals as "ICM". But mall shopping isn't my thing specially when an even better attraction awaits.
The Tagbilaran Public Market in Dao is right smack in front of ICM. When I go outside Manila, my favourite place to shop is at the palengke or the local market. The palengke gives you a feel for the place that no generic, antiseptic mall can.
It's heartwarming to see this altar right at the entrance to the market. I don't remember seeing an altar in other markets I have been to.
I'm impressed by how clean and orderly the palengke is. The aisles are wide and spacious and the floors are not wet and slippery -- this is definitely one of the cleanest markets I have seen.
There is obviously regular mopping and cleaning going on during the day to keep it this clean. I also noted the lack of strong smells -- no pungent smell of raw and fresh fish or meat, which is usual in other wet markets.
Aha - dried fish! Just what I had been looking for. Grace Dried Fish was right at the corner and seemed a good place to get everything that I wanted.
I have to admit, I got a little crazy! How could I resist the variety and quality of Grace's dried fish? The smaller and slightly more expensive pusit is the better buy as it's crunchier, a bit sweetish and less salty. Boneless dilis is also a must-get. When properly fried, it's almost like eating chicharon!
You may find the prices high but these are much cheaper compared to Manila prices. The quality and variety are also much better when bought at the source. I also bought some bawodnon, tiny and shredded -- perhaps I'll cook it with fried rice.
Sisi or small oysters pickled in brine are a favourite of mine but on this day, only dayok or salted fish entrails were available.
I have never tried dried salted pagi or manta ray. They look like tapa or dried meat and I was told they need to be pounded before cooking or else it's too tough and sinewy -- again, much like tapang usa (dried venison) or tapang kabayo (dried horse meat).
Boholanos are naturally friendly but quite soft-spoken and shy. This is Ken, who works at the store and helped me by weighing my orders, then heat sealing them in plastic bags and finally, expertly packing them all into two boxes... yes, two boxes. I bought enough dried fish to last me for a year!
And this is Grace, who owns the store. Along with her staff, they very gamely posed for this photo before I left. If you're ever in Bohol and are looking for pasalubong, do yourself a favour and discover the delights of the local palengke!
Don't buy at the mall or at the airport -- drop by and visit Grace at the Tagbilaran Public Market in Dao.