Freshly caught grouper fish lay in a box awaiting the ice in which they’ll be packed ahead of a 24 hour boat journey from Coron to fish markets in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The fish are being packed in ice right next to the homestay I’m at that’s built on wooden stilts and juts out into the shallow waters of Coron Bay. They’ve been caught by hard-working hook and line fishermen who earn on average just 200 pesos a day. That’s about £3 or a little less than US$5.
My friend Yolande, who has joined me for a few days here in the Philippines, celebrates her birthday today, so we ask the fisherman if we buy a couple of fish. The price for two ‘first-class’ Lapu-lapu fish (otherwise know as Grouper) is four cigarettes. I don’t have cigarettes to give the fisherman so I offer a cigar instead. He laughs and accepts it, putting it somewhere safe “for later” he says.
Our hosts prepare the fish for us, and so it was that on the morning of Yolande’s birthday, the pair of us sat on the deck enjoying glorious sunshine and eating freshly steamed Lapu-lapu with rice.