Linarang na Bakasi
There is no denying that Cebuanos are blessed with bounties from the ocean. The life that is crawling deep underneath the waves is what serves as the livelihood of its people. From the fishing boat that they sail, to the table where the grace is shared with the family. One of the abundant fisheries in Cebu, is the town of Cordova. The place where you could see varieties of fresh fish, mollusks, and primarily the most famous and number one reason why the tourists are keep coming back, is the bakasi.
Bakasi is a kind of saltwater eel that can be seen in muddy and grassy parts of the sea. Because of Buagsong Cordova’s mostly soggy tidal flats and their Mangrove Forest, it is greatly inhabited by bakasi and has been a source of income for the fishermen. The good harvest fruited a delicious bakasi recipe, the Linarang na Bakasi (Eel Stew). But before one can taste the warmth of its soup and the freshness of its meat, sweat, hard work, and dreams are the continuous investments of the magbabakasi.
Approximately 1-2 hours from Cebu City while 45 minutes travel from airport to reach Kampay Beach, Barangay Buagsong, Cordova, Northern Cebu. One may ride a van for hire from SM City and drop-off at Gaisano Cordova Mall to ride a motorcycle or tricycle going to bakasihan. If driving an own car, one may use apps such as Waze, Google Maps and pin the said location.
At the place, one may meet the one of the magbabakasi named Jose Jesse Tirol, 49 years old, and 3 years bakasi breeder and fisherman. According to Tirol, he wakes up at 5 in the morning every day to catch bakasi and other sea goods. After his preparation, he will directly go the mud puddle to check his 80 bantaks used as bait for bakasi. Bantak is an eel trap from woven bamboo that looks like a small vase. It is designed based on the characteristics of bakasi that likes to crawl in muddy flats and crevices. If the bakasi is already inside the bantak, it will be trapped and cornered since it doesn’t open from the inside.
The magbabakasi use mollusk as bait to lure the bakasi into the bantak. At 9 in the morning, Tirol will extricate to sell his bakasi harvest 100 per kilo in his own stand near the mud puddle. His wife and older sibling also cook linarang na bakasi.
The Linarang na Bakasi o Eel Stew has been practiced for more than two decades now by the locals of Cordova. Marisa Tura is a cook of linarang for over a year and she shared how to add flavor in the said recipe.
Sauté the ginger, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and jalapenos on a pre heated oil. Add the bakasi together with salt, vetsin, a little bit of vinegar and soy sauce according to your taste. Add water and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.
Cooking bakasi is easy and hassle-free, just make sure it is fresh and much better if it is still alive when you buy it in the market. Tura added that there a lot of recipes that can be made out of bakasi, there is Piniritong Bakasi or Fried Eel and Kinilaw nga Bakasi or Ceviche Eel.
Indeed, there are many offered gifts from the sea. It can sustain an island, a town, a city and a nation. Just like Tirol and Tura, bakasi has been a big help to their everyday lives. Not only in relieving a hungry stomach but also in giving future to their families.