Sometimes, during the early morning, a small fishing boat will come careening into Alona Beach like a LCVP landing craft approaching Omaha Beach on "D-Day." At first you'd think it's part of some naval exercise, but you'd soon realize it's merely a fishing boat loaded with some fresh catch from the sea.
And on this particular day, it happened to be carrying what appeared to be gigantic red snappers and jack fish. The former weighed about 2-to-4 kilos, while the latter had to be 5 kilos at least.
The boat’s crew were selling them at 200 pesos per kilo, but I was told by someone I know, a fisherman, that either fish shouldn’t cost more than 150 pesos a kilo, because 200 pesos per kilo is their selling price at the market. It pays to know someone in the business, I thought.
Now, if you’re a local resident, you can buy any of these without trepidation. All you have to do is pay for it, take it home and cook it. However, if you’re only a guest at a resort, better talk to the kitchen staff to clear with them first; that is, if they’re willing to cook for a certain fee, the fresh fish you had purchased at the beach.
For the locals, however, a jack fish or red snapper is not going to spur child-like enthusiasm as opposed to the much-coveted rumpi. It is is a sleek-looking nocturnal fish that looks (and can get as big) as a barracuda. But unlike the barracuda that swims with a swarm of its kind, the rumpi travels with at most, five of its homies.
The longest a friend had sighted was about 1½ meters that weighed about 30-to-40 kilos. Rumpis can get incredibly nasty, especially when guarding its eggs. Its sharp, jagged edge teeth can cut a man’s leg off in only a matter of seconds. This is one fish most feared by nighttime divers.
However, the rumpis are considered a prized catch because they’re a rare find. They’re supposedly extremely tasty as well. Some claim they melt in your mouth like butter. They’re known to absorb the flavors of the veggies and/or spices you cook them with.
As for the Boholanos’ favorite way of cooking the rumpis and any catch of the day: a la chicken tinola, comprised of lemongrass (tanglad), ginger, spring onion, and malunggay or pechay. This is a very simple, easy to cook, and delectable dish.
Rumpi, a new quest for me to find, have cooked, and savor its legendary flavor.
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