Ian Benetua

Bataan Public Market

For the love of dried fish.

A public market is not always listed in a romantic trip itinerary, but during a recent weekend getaway to Bataan, a short detour was made to the Balanga Public Market before breakfast.

Getting to the market was more or less a five- to ten-minute trip, and after being dropped off at the terminal, we went straight to the market to find some goodies to take home.

Bataan’s market, as it turned out, was more interesting than expected. Unlike the usual chaotic, rowdy markets, it was organized, and the floor was spotless and dry that anyone wearing white shoes wouldn’t have minded coming in.

After the initial shock, we walked to the fish area, where I was kept going back and forth to find kapak, a local caviar that was one of Bataan’s specialties. I asked one of the fish vendors about it, but she gave me a sympathetic smile and told me it was out-of-season. I wanted to buy some fish to thank her, but since it might cause logistic problems, I asked if I could take photos of her, which luckily she didn’t seem to mind.

I thanked her and hurried off to find Jess, who was already carrying a bag with a pack of dried fish. She seemed pretty happy about it and took me to the dried fish area, which was just as organized as the rest of the sections of the market.

There was every variety of dried fish you could find, some of them still in the drying containers, gleaming and golden under the morning sun. In the end, we brought home more dried fish and squid than we intended but not even a bit of regret.