Monday, April 1, 2013

Gifts from the sea


I was in Cebu last week for work and since it was Holy Week, there was nothing else to do in the city.   Everything shuts down during Holy Week and a friend was kind enough to invite me to stay with her family in Liloan, a town 18 kilometers from the city.   So on Wednesday morning, I checked out from the hotel and met with my friend at the mall to get a cab to Liloan.

It is usually very hot during Holy Week, and humidity levels in Cebu are high all year-round---averaging 70-80%.   By noon, I started feeling sluggish, then a really bad headache hit me.  I had all the symptoms of a heat exhaustion which I never experienced before.  I didn't want to spend the afternoon sleeping so I drank lots of water, took a shower and stayed in an air-conditioned room for about an hour.  When it cooled down in the afternoon, we decided to walk to the beach.


I am used to the white sandy beaches of Mactan and the nearby islands and didn't expect this rocky coast of Liloan.  At the distance is a new, upscale subdivision called Amara, located in Bagacay Point.  It was low tide and the sea bed revealed a thriving meadow of sea grass.  These underwater grasses are commonly found on sandy bottoms of calm bays and between coral reefs.  Sea grasses are sometimes called ecosystem engineers because they partly create their own habitat:  the leaves slow down water currents and the roots stabilize the sea bed.


Sea grasses don't only control soil erosion of coastal areas but also hold the oceans' CO2 storage and support a great deal of marine life.  Starfish are abundant here, as well as various species of sea urchins and other sea creatures I haven't seen before.  

Sea urchin roe or uni sashimi is expensive in Manila restaurants, and when the kids learned that I love uni sashimi, they picked some sea urchins for our sushi dinner.  But they stayed away from groups of black, long-spined sea urchins, locally known as "tuyom"---they were everywhere. I was warned to be very careful not to step on them.  Sea urchin spines can be venomous and can cause infection.


Not many people like the looks and taste of sea urchin roe.  I offered it to a British client once, and he said it looks disgusting---like sh-t, like brain matter, something Hannibal Lecter would eat.  But after he tried uni, he was a convert. Sea urchin roe or swaki is an acquired taste for most---it completely grosses out most people but I love its briny, rich flavor and creamy texture.  Try it when you have a chance.


Starfish are so pretty---I've been fascinated with them since I was a kid.   I believed that starfish were there for the sole purpose of making sea beds and beaches beautiful.  But I guess everything in nature has a purpose.  And I've read that starfish have an important role in ecology and biology, and a well-known example of the keystone species concept in ecology.

The brown spotted creature with two "horns" on the head is sea hare or Aplysiomorpha.  Sea hares are also edible and they secrete something really interesting---it's a noodle-like thingy locally known as "lukot".  I had "lukot" ceviche and it was really good!

The black worm-like creatures below (right) are sea cucumbers or sea slugs, locally known as "balat".  Sea cucumber is typically used in Chinese cuisine and traditional Chinese medicine.  Locals eat it raw with vinegar.  


The girl in red shirt had a basket full of sea urchins after about an hour.  It's wonderful that people here enjoy the gifts from the sea for free and with minimum effort.  When you take care of nature, it rewards you back.



Linking with Our World-Tuesday

16 comments:

Photo Cache said...

very fascinating to see all these living creatures that normally we don't see. i am not sure but i think i may have eaten the sea urchin and its roe. i'm quite adventurous when it comes to eating :)

hoped you had a wonderful easter.

eileeninmd said...

I am glad you felt better to go for your walk. It looks wonderful along the coast. And I love all the pretty sea creatures. The starfish is my favorite. Great photos, thanks for sharing your world!

Gemma Wiseman said...

Intriguing photos of the coastline and sea creatures! Star fish fascinate me too, but I have never seen them in Nature - though I live by the sea. And those sea grasses are certainly abundant there!

islandwonder said...

I had no idea people ate sea urchin. I just hope to never step on one. Fun shots!

Karen said...

Really great shots! Those sea creatures are really awesome.

Molly said...

Amazing images of the various sea creatures

Mollyxxx

Kusum Sanu said...

Sounds like fun! Nice shots of tide pools.

Linda Kittmer said...

Wow! I love that first collage! The images are so interesting and they create such a fabulous collage!

George said...

It sounds as if you had a wonderful time in Cebu after you got over your heat exhaustion. You got some wonderful pictures from the beach. I ate sea cucumbers when I was in China, but I can't say they were a favorite with me.

backpacking philippines said...

nice. i also explore beaches if i can find nice sea creatures. so it's swaki there ;P kmusta na?

Hildred said...

What a very interesting post. I have a daughter who has a passion for starfish, and is not even squeamy about picking up sea cucumbers.

Marja said...

oh wonderful that seabed is green never seen it before. When our children were smaller their favourite pastime in the holidays was looking in rock pools and find starfish We have these big sea slugs here as well

Kim, USA said...

Very interesting Luna. So nice if all the people are aware that if we take care our coastal area it will give us back the food we want. To think that this kind of seafood are very expensive. ^_^

EastCoastLife said...

I have not tried a sea urchin too. Some Chinese restaurants in Guangzhou serves a starfish soup.

lina@happy family said...

I learn a lot here, Luna. Thanks for sharing them -the gifts from the sea. Awesome shots!

joanne said...

I love your photos and accompanying commentary...The sea urchins reminded me of how my dad loved to pick and eat these raw with a piece of Italian bread! Thanx for sharing .....