By Alexander Villafania
DAMORTIS, LA UNION – Danggit or dried fish is always synonymous to Cebu, particularly dried fish market of Tabo-an, where these are sold by the truckloads.
But what few know is that danggit has always been the traditional method of Filipino fisherfolk in preserving caught fish. This is particularly true for subsistence farmers who dry their fish for later consumption.
Apart from Cebu, there are still a few other places in the Philippines where danggit is made into an industry for mass markets. One of these places is the town of Damortis in La Union, particularly the small barangay of Sto. Tomas.
This area is actually accessible as the McArthur Highway, which is the main coastal road that stretches all the way up to Ilocos (and also the main road that most Baguio buses take before turning right to Aspiras Highway).
Due to the proximity of Sto. Tomas to the coastline of Lingayen Gulf, many fisherfolk sell their catch along the main road. There are a variety of fresh fish, shellfish and crustaceans available. But of course, the most unique are the danggit vendors who sell their products in large transparent bags, in similar fashion as the danggit sellers of Tabo-an in Cebu.
Danggit , which is often associated with the small malaga, is just one of the many kinds of dried fish sold in Sto. Tomas. There is also the dalag-baybay, espada, sapsap,pusit, turay, dilis, and shrimp.
A local fish called basasong, which is about a foot in length is also commonly sold. Sometimes, dried bangus (milkfish) can be found here.
Usually, vendors with baskets approach vehicles that are attempting to park near the shops in an effort to sell their products first. Prices range from P100 for 1/4 a kilo to P300 a kilo. The purchases are packed in newspapers or paper bags and wrapped plastic to reduce the odor.
Apart from the dried fish, the vendors also sell patis (fish sauce), alamang, and bagoong. Prices for these are between P20 per bottle to P60 depending on the “purity” of the product. Still, these are cheaper than those sold in shopping malls.
For those hoping to get a sampling of dried fish up north, Sto. Tomas, Damortis in La Union is one such place to visit.
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