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Thursday, June 24, 2010


I spent close to a year in an island in Northern Palawan in 1992 to 1993. I was burned out from TV and Film work so I dived at the opportunity to work in a small resort in Malapacao Island. It wasn't really a resort but a Marina for yachts. The island had only four cottages, all made from materials sourced around the province. One of the Filipino partners in the Filipino-French Company was an architect who was then pursuing her Masters on Vernacular Architecture. The terrestrial development must have been her thesis put to practice.

At the Marina, we boasted of having the best restaurant in the area. Guests from the neighboring resorts would sail our way to partake of specials-of-the-day and the impressive french wines the restaurant carried. Louie, our chef who was based in Manila, would fly to Palawan whenever we had guests. He prepared dishes from what the local fishermen would bring to the resort. Of course, he would fly in fresh croissants from a 5-star hotel in Manila for the guests' breakfast. He also had a pasta maker for homemade noodles and an ice cream maker for fresh calamansi sorbets. 

One of Louie's most remembered dishes (at least for me) was the Lobster Sashimi. The Architect called it pitik-pitik sashimi. Louie would shell the live lobster by severing its head first. Then he would take out the entire body and slice it to pieces much as how tuna sashimi looks. He would reassemble these slices onto a plate to form the original body and for flourish would 'attach' the lobster's head. The body now trembling, no, seizuring if there is such a word, because although severed from its head, the nerves I'd presume were still 'alive' -- hence the pitik-pitk moniker. It looked like how you would imagine your eye lids twitching when you had one of those tics as a kid before. But when you'd ask friends if your eye was moving, they'd say 'no'. Anyway...

The architect asked me, "Are you scared, Martin?! Try it! It's masarap!" I thought, Moi? Scared? Moi who had tried bat, snake, monitor lizard, frogs before? I get my bamboo chopsticks (handcrafted and woven with rattan at the top ends by the villagers living in the island) and bring a piece to my mouth. I chew quickly and swallow promptly, not even savoring the taste at first. The second piece was better. Also I was calmer now. It didn't taste nor smell of the sea. It was sweet. Not like candy-bar-sweet. Or sweet like a banana or other fruit. But believe me when I say, it was sweet.

That afternoon while snorkeling, I was humming in my head B-52's "We were at a party / My earlobe fell in the deep / Someone reached in and grabbed it / It was a rock / No, it was a rock lobster / nananananananaa.........."

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