The magical aroma of Lingayen bagoong

Written by Venus H. Sarmiento; retrieved from PIA-Pangasinan Feb 24, 2011

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan (23 Feb) –Whenever you dip that mango in bagoong or simply sprinkle the fish sauce in your bowl of rice, do you imagine the number of people who benefit from a single drop of the famous condiment from this town?

What started out as a simple way livelihood of two fishermen turned out to be a huge business employing more than 60 persons and producing a thousand boxes of bagoong marketed throughout Luzon and parts of Visayas, bringing the aroma of fish sauce in almost every table.

Daniel Bernal, Jr., 48, owner of JB Bagoong in barangay Pangapisan North, recalls how his parents started out their simple business in the 1940s. “Dahil fishermen sila, yung mga nahuling maliliit na isda sa Lingayen Gulf, sinubukang nilagyan ng asin, nilagay sa banga at tinago sa silong ng bahay. Binebenta nila yun sa mga bahy-bahay, bitbit sa balikat, style ng magtataho,” Bernal said.

His parents soon witnessed a growing market that resulted in the shortage of fish supply. They now saw opportunity in the nearby province of Zambales but still the supply of fish falls short of the demand. And then they discovered Camarines Norte which boasts of abundant supply of dilis and galungggong, the main fishes used for making bagoong.

“Ang isang balde nuon, limang piso lang, ngayon umaabot na sa P350. By 1960’s, marami na ang gumaya at gumagawa ng bagoong business. My parents thought of supplying raw materials by volume to the growing number of manufacturers.” he continued.

Bernal formally took over the management in early 1980’s and immediately installed an accounting system in the business, being a Commerce graduate. He also improved the marketing and credit line facilities of the business. He then invaded the provinces of Masbate, Mindoro, Marinduque and even General Santos City to find ample supply of fish.

From sea to family tables

A bottle of bagoong right on the table has undergone a tedious process, Bernal explains. From the fishport, buyers make sure to buy only fresh fish. These are immediately placed in bodegas and soaked in salt. Trucks now bring the fishes from Bicol to Pangasinan which takes about two to three days. In the Lingayen factory, the salted fishes are processed again for fermentation. These are placed in container tank and will stay there for weeks or months depending on the fish size.

“Pag mapula na yung patis, pwede nang i-harvest at ilagay sa container uli, kukunin, gigilingin, sasalain lahat ng tinik, at titiyakin na sauce lang ang mahuhulog. Saka lang maibobote at iseselyadong mabuti,” he explained.

Bernal revealed the latest development in their product — the boneless bagoong. “It is ready to pour unlike before na didikdikin at pipigain pa bago ihalo sa gulay. Mas mataas na ngayon ang demand sa boneless bagoong pero may market pa rin ang may halong maliliit na isda,” he continued.

Helping others

Bernal said he and his fellow bagoong makers are lucky that even in times of crisis, their products are still marketable and even help a lot of people.

“Ang bagoong business, maraming natutulungan. With a drop of bagoong, makaka-surivive na ang tao, pwede na itong ulam. Dagdagan mo lang ng kamatis, masarap na pantawid gutom na ito.Napakamura pa with a bottle costing only P15,” he said.

Fishermen also benefit from the industry, he said. Small fishes which the public wouldn’t want to buy, now find a steady market in the guise of buyers of raw materials for bagoong. Unemployed neighbors hired in the factory now earn more than P300 a day depending on the volume of production.

Secrets of success

Bernal admits that there are now adulterations of the world- class product. That is why, he says, it is important to maintain quality of the product. He only uses fresh fishes “para kapag binuksan mo yung bote ng bagoong, aalingasaw yung aroma, hindi amoy malansa o bulok. He also instills honesty to his customers and employees and maintains cleanliness because “pagkain ng tao ang ginagawa namin.”

Competition is stiff noting that the entire barangay is a bagoong producer and manufacturer but cites good service and quality products as two reasons why customers keep coming back.

“That is the magic and mystery of bagoong. Pagbukas mo, para kang nalalaway na gusto mong maghanap ng mangga o inihaw na bangus. Kaya kahit panahon ng krisis, tinatangkilik ang produkto namin at nakakatulong pa sa mga tao,” Bernal quipped.

Indeed, when Pangasinenses go to other countries, bagoong is a favorite ‘pasalubong’ or ‘padala.’ And when they tell their place of origin to other people, one thing comes to mind — the magical aroma of bagoong. (venus/ PIA-Pangasinan


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