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“Bolinao” at its best

For decades, Filipinos’ taste buds have long been in utmost insensitivity when it comes to
saltiness and sourness. Our virtually insatiable tongues seem to be relentless and unconquerable to grab
any opportunity that would gratify our discontented appetites. But somehow envisioning, is there any
edible stuff that would congregate the salty and sour taste into a single soldered dish? Fresh and lively
dynamic all the way from the deep blue sea – “bolinao” has an answer.
Anchovy or locally known in the Philippines as “bolinao” is a small, green fish with blue
reflections due to a silver-colored longitudinal stripe that runs from the base of the caudal fin. They range
from 2 to 40 centimeters in adult length, and their body shapes are variable with more slender fish in
northern populations. Such young fishes often travel together in schools along the coast, and move into
estuaries and sometimes up rivers where they can be easily caught with fine meshed fishing nets.
Anchovies are tender and palatable and can be regarded as a delicacy on places adjacent to any bodies of
water most especially alongside the shore of Philippines. What more could you ask for a fish with its
head, fins, bones, and guts outright ready and edible for you to clutch?
Considering some redolent account, our friend, “bolinao”, who has offered its utmost devotion
and piety to Filipinos, is occasionally abhorred and fustigated due to its stinky and aggravating smell. As
you stroll through the market, it would inevitably frown your face once the familiar smell drops by your
subtle nose in musky sticky waves. Even then you’ve already made yourself quite remote from the area,
the bothersome scent would always chase and follow, for it superficially had its comfort on your rearing.
Considerably, no one is to be blamed for such matter barely, for it’s not the dreadful fragrance that’d fill
and seal our stomachs with burps and pleasures, but it’s the irresistible taste that will do.
Despite the uncovered and unprepossessing odor it owns, this endowed and flexible friend of
ours is still widely known for it could be prepared in a myriad of ways and employment, such as in
“Kinilaw” and “Paksiw”. But amidst all its diverse ways of cooking and preparation, nothing beats on the
way how this fish conquered the spotlight, literally-and-figuratively, through the distinctly astounding
conflation of the salty and sour flavor – the dried fish. Dried fish of every imaginable species, most
commonly “bolinao”, have been the source of livelihood for most of the fisher folks in the country. As
these seemingly minute fishes are rolled over a seabed-like base of salts and laid under the debilitating
heat of the sun, a superbly scrumptious delicacy gets its birth. With its crunchy tone, savory and briny
flavor, and stimulating scent, as dipped in the mouth-watering pool of vinegar, who would defy to give
even just a single bite on this extramundane gift from heaven? Well, in absolute honesty, no one, I
believe.
Aside from the provoking salty and sour taste it provides to Filipinos’ endlessly famished
appetite, anchovy is also appraised due to its oozing and plenteous health benefits. It is a good source of
protein notably for unfortunate families who can’t afford expensive protein sources like dairy products,
meat, and classy fish varieties. It is also high in poly-saturated fatty acids that can help alleviate
cholesterol level and reduce the risk of heart disease and an outstanding source of omega 3 oils which are
good for triumphing a beautifully looking skin. And just recently, The Department of Science and
Technology (DOST) has released a report by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) that shows
100 grams of fresh anchovy contains 752 milligrams of calcium almost twice the content of a cup of milk.
In consonance to that, they also adduced that small fishes like anchovies have a shorter life cycle, so are
better than larger fish because they contain less heavy metal such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic and
other environmental toxins. The smaller the fish, the shorter the lifespan, and therefore the less
accumulation of toxicity. Such displayed enticements are just least bits of facts manifesting the
tremendous boons and Godsends of “bolinao”, not just for our stomachs, but also for the whole body’s
health.
. The exhibited privileges are nowhere near impractical under the nurture of our friend, either way
on health benefits or taste, even putting regard on the smell, the commended fish is worth surmounting.
Truly and no doubt, our dried friend is a blessing in disguise delicacy for Filipinos. Such gift from the
magnanimous creator above manifests how lucky and blessed we are to be given with such curio. But no
matter how primitive the fish is to our tongues and appetites, the delectably unfading salty taste as
submerged in a gurgling sour vinegar would always make every Filipino say– “Bolinao is always at its
best!”
Daryl Brix R. Colita