This is a continuation of the previous post: Staycation at Sea Residences! Oasis in the City and New BFFs (Part 1).
We had our dinner at the nearby Seaside Macapagal (Dampa sa Pasay), located only a walking distance from the Sea Residences … if you’re not lazy. Dampa is a must experience in the Philippines. Literally meaning a roughly built cabin or hut, Dampa has come to connote a wet market teeming with fresh seafood surrounded by ‘paluto’ (request to have something cooked) restaurants.
The Dampa experience entails buying raw seafood and having one of the restaurants cook them in whichever manner you prefer. You will also find this popular seafood mecca in other locations in Metro Manila, particularly in Cubao, Libis and Marikina.
Wet Market, Seafood Galore, and Bargaining Prowess
As with any wet market, Dampa can get a little rowdy. This turns some people off … not me though. I actually love wet markets, mostly because I find them nostalgic. They bring back memories of when I was young and I would wake up at 4am to accompany my mother to the huge wet market in the downtown area of the city I grew up in – Tacloban! Also, the right mindset helps me become tolerant of the sometimes pushy vendors. These people are trying to earn a living. Us customers, on the other hand, are trying to take it easy on our pockets. People do what they gotta do. It all boils down to meeting halfway (or outsmarting each other, which can be fun too. heheh).
As with any wet market, Dampa has rows after rows of stalls filled with a seemingly endless array of goodies: all sorts of fresh fish and a wide range of crustaceans, including shrimps, crabs, clams, oysters, scallops, mussels and lobsters! Upon arriving at the scene, KC started negotiating with the vendor on the first stall from the entrance. I urged her to walk farther inside, as I presumed the prices at the first stall would be higher, given its prominent (and consequently prime) location. The man tried to keep KC from leaving and was literally in her face. A man can try. hahah
As expected, the farther we went inside, the cheaper the goodies were. We were able to buy a kilo of shrimp that ranged in price from 500-640 per kilo for only Php 350 per kilo. The vendor was selling it for Php 550. We were haggling with the vendor when a man standing nearby told me that he could sell it to me for Php 350. He was starting to lead me to the back when I said loudly, “for only Php350?”. The vendor overheard, and tried to keep us by offering to sell his shrimp for the much lower price of Php 350 (nothing like competition to get the price down. 😉 ). We got a win there! Most stalls only agreed to a discounted price of Php 450. We also got our oyster for only Php 100 per kilo and our crabs for only Php 450 per kilo. We ended up buying a kilo of shrimps, a kilo of oysters, and half a kilo of crabs.
Paluto and Delectable Dishes
After our little wet market adventure, we headed to our chosen restaurant. It’s called Sis. To be quite honest, we didn’t really know where to go. We chose Sis because it looked nice and a little more upscale than the rest. Some of the other restaurants were a little drab. We ended up liking the place.
At a Dampa, after you’re done shopping for your food you head over to a table where someone would weigh the goodies, ask how you’d like to have them cooked, then charge you accordingly. Prices average at Php 200 per dish. You could choose from options offered on a menu, or you could just request for what you’d like. We agreed on having the shrimp sauteed with butter and garlic, and the oysters baked with cheese and garlic. We had the crabs cooked as recommended by the vendor – in thick, spicy chili sauce, Singapore-style. The woman at the table suggested that we have the other half of our shrimp cooked in a different way (Additional revenue for them. Pretty clever. Can’t complain though. I love me some variety. 😉 ). I suggested shrimp adobo. KC and the woman at the table reacted a little too violently to my suggestion. This shocked me. I didn’t know it was a novelty. “That’s how Anthony Bourdain had it in his show. Adobong Shrimp! And that’s how my mama cooks it. All the time … my whole life!,” I said. The woman responded by saying that they may not be able to cook it the way I’d want it, so I relented and suggested ginataan (adding coconut milk) instead.
I loved the buttered shrimp and ginataang shrimp. The oysters were perfect! I wasn’t much of a fan of the crabs in sweet chili sauce, but KC loved it. What would have been ideal for me was to have the crab cooked ginataan, and the shrimp cooked adobo style, or maybe sauteed in Sprite and spices. The Filipino way. The way we would have ‘em at home. Then I remembered that was exactly how Bourdain had his feast in Dampa – ginataang crabs and adobong shrimp. “The” Filipino way! yummm
Everything we got was fresh. I am a big shrimp lover, and I would know a fresh one when I taste one. And the crabs were practically alive! That’s guaranteed freshness.
The Little Joys
Among the things I loved about the Sis restaurant – these two singers! I especially liked the Chinese-looking guy. He was singing so passionately he’d have his eyes closed.
They would approach every table and sing up to four songs, and would ask customers if they’d like to make a request. We didn’t request for anything specific, but the singers sang songs I loved nonetheless (one of which was Forevermore by Side A) when they were at our table. Just my luck! <3
After eating, we walked back to the Sea Residences. When we arrived at the condotel, KC proclaimed that she’d have an hour’s sleep to recharge, after which we could all go grab a beer while listening to music. See, I brought my speakers. Having music on put her in the mood for some chill-out drinking. But I kinda knew she would just end up sleeping through the night. So I slipped out and went to the poolside and do a bit of writing and a lot of reading. I was relishing in the solitude. mmmmm solitude. I loooove me some solitude. Heheh. There were people by the pool, but there were too few of them for the huge area that I felt somehow isolated. I loved the ambient lighting too. One caveat though … smoking is not allowed in the area. *gasps* heheh. But I revel in the idea that such a prohibition does make a lot of smoking-averse people happy. 😉
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Confessions of an Awful Human Being
Crabs, lobsters, prawns and other crustaceans are often sold alive – a prized badge of freshness. They are cramped in baskets or tanks with their claws tied shut. Awaiting them is the ghastly fate of being boiled alive. They are to rattle around inside the hellish pot … offering an audible testament to how they have struggled until the very end.
Ok that was a little too dramatic. Hahah. But truth be told, I have always found this a little disturbing. But I find solace in the thought that without the complex nervous system and brain makeup humans (and other animals for that matter) possess, these crawling creatures are incapable of feeling pain. I also find comfort in trying very hard to disregard the fact that just as visual processing centers are located in different areas of the brains of invertebrates and other such animals, the same may be true for their pain processing. And while crabs do tend to whisk away their claws at the touch of something potentially harmful, it’s easy to shrug that off as mere reflex, driven by instinct and not by the discomfort of pain. Buuut …
I had the misfortune of allowing my curiosity to get the best of me. I scoured good ole Internet for answers to the question of whether crustaceans feel pain.
The discomforting answer offered in a research published at the Journal of Experimental Biology is that they just might feel pain after all. In a study that is ironically also somewhat cruel, Professor Bob Elwood and Barry Magee from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University observed the reactions of common shore crabs when exposed to small electric shocks. Carefully designed to distinguish between the sensation of pain and a reflex reaction, the study aimed to test whether crabs would learn to avoid their preferred dark hiding place or shelter in order to avoid mild electric shocks (a long term change in behavior or avoidance is believed to be indicative of the experience of pain, as opposed to the short-term, knee jerk reflex reaction). The study revealed that the crabs indeed started to avoid their preferred shelter after being electrocuted in the area twice.
Philosophically speaking though, it is virtually impossible to demonstrate with absolute certainty that crustaceans experience pain. Because not only is pain subjective, but there’s also the fact that the most we could do is study the crustacean’s reactions or behavior, and infer whether it reflects the experience of pain. Truthfully speaking, I am an awful human being who cares more about her palate than another creature’s possible suffering!
On a serious note, us people need to get over our anthropocentric existence and try to ponder on these matters a little more. Because we do not NEED to have these harmless creatures cooked alive, we just WANT to!
Still, crabs are just sooo good. On this note, can somebody please invent something that would enable us to give these crabs a painless euthanasia? PLEEEAAASE???!! (ok ok I’m being silly) Because the awful person that I am … I am still eating them!
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Author: Tahna de Veyra
Voracious eater. Coffee dependent. Book sniffer. Music addict. Profound thinker. Certified ambivert. Life-hungry maverick. Nonchalant realist. Hesitant blogger.