Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Koja: A clam that makes Booy a destination

Scene: Undefeated Filipino boxer Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo returns to fight in "Pride of Bohol” on Aug. 31 at the Bohol Wisdom Gymnasium.

Scene:  Radio personality and public servant Julian "Teban" Daan passed away last Wednesday, August 21. "Sabrina Rayna sa Karagatan" is my all-time radio drama favorite written by Teban.

Scene:  From Chiqui Hollman’s trendsetting Crazy Colors in the late ‘70s; Pops Fernandez’ Crazy Curls in the ‘80s; and Milk and Gold Rebonding from the ‘90s through the new millennium, hair and beauty innovator Jun Quimpan (Fausto Quimpan Jr in real life) had been at the forefront of solving the Boholanas' most urgent image problems. The hair and beauty guru known by all as Jun passed away on Wednesday, August 21 at 52.  Cebu-based artist Edik Dolotina shared on Facebook that Quimpan was his hair cutter since college. "He is a great stylist, setting my hair in orange, blue, blond, green, one of the few people who dared in a conservative Bohol," said Dolotina. "Jun took styling seriously, aside from a great singer, together with Bebei Tagoctoc, they made beauty pageants more beautiful," he added. Talent manager Roger Ryan Magtagad  of The Art Noveu (Tan) said it was Quimpan who helped her transition she went out at age 16.  Jun, together with his partner Bebei Tagoctoc, he changed the face of beauty pageant and hairstyling in Bohol and helped many LGBT members to know their valuable role in helping and making a difference in other people’s lives.

If the stalls, rocks and the seas at Caingget Beach in Tagbilaran City could speak, they’d tell the same tale: The stars were here!
A visit to Bohol is deemed incomplete without dropping by the famous Caingget Beach to  taste the koja.  Photos by Leo Udtohan

Indeed, Filipino celebrities like Nora Aunor, the late Fernando Poe Jr., Eddie Perigrina, Victor Wood, Bernard Bonin, Stella Strada, TonTon Gutierrez and Cesar "Buboy" Montano, have at one time, dined in Caingget Beach that is renowned for fresh seafoods and koja.

Caingget Beach is known for koja, a sea clam abundantly found here that it has become a popular delicacy in the province both for locals and tourists.

Koja is so good that even top-rating show Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho (KMJS) has  featured the clam in 2007 that  intrigued with no less than Buboy Montano raving.

Koja is a collective name for saltwater clams of Chama lazarus and Spondylus of genus of bivalve molluscs.
While you eat koja fresh, vendors can 
cook level-up koja recipes-  abobo, calderita,
  Bicol Express and lumpia. Photos by Leo Udtohan

Chama is a genus of cemented saltwater clams in the family Chamidae, while Spondylus is in the family Spondylidae. They are known in English as thorny oysters or spiny oysters (though they are not, in fact, true oysters).

At Caingget Beach, many species of Spondylus and Chama vary considerably in appearance. Locals call them tapurok (Chama), tikud-tikod and koja (Spondylus), grouped in the same superfamily as the scallops.

The original koja divers were the late Angi Gabi, Juan Bermoy, Gunying Tagulalac, Pabling Telmo, George Gabi and Armando Oguis.

Early in the morning, some 10 fishermen including Aniano Quibol, Tito Niluag and  Boy Deja dive at least three to six feet deep to harvest koja that look like ordinary stones.

They break the seashells using an improvised hammer and use a small knife to extract the meat from the shell.  Vendors sell it for Php50 per serve.
The annual Koja Festival is held every July 24 at
Caingget Beach to honor the koja divers and vendors.
Photos by Leo Udtohan
To honor the koja divers and vendors, an annual Koja Festival is held every July 24 at Caingget Beach.

Different activities are held to entertain festival goers included koja cooking, lumba sa yaruk sa tuba (coconut wine drinking) and swimming contests.

While you eat koja fresh, vendors can cook level-up koja recipes-  abobo, calderita,  Bicol Express and lumpia, well, just for the festival only.

Vendors are not trying to be fancy. Those who are not familiar with the taste will eventually warm up to it. The food tastes even better because of, well, nostalgia.The heaviest day is Sunday to eat koja and other seafoods, eliminating gustatory confusion.

Koja, like most seafoods, is perfect when eaten fresh with chili and camote (sweet potato) and banana, along with tuba (coconut wine).

Residents claimed koja is an aphrodisiac that arouses sexual instinct or brings on desire or increases sexual pleasure or performance. But there was no scientific study that can support koja can increase libido or fertility.

Although Caingget Beach is getting stiff competition from other public beaches and restaurants, the vendors are unperturbed.

Many of the vendors and divers are open to rehabilitate the place to bring back the old glory of a famous landmark in the city.

“Just taste the koja,” said Francing Ayeng.

She was right. One bite and you’d think you had died and gone to heaven.And that’s just for starters.  
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Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at leoudtohan@yahoo.com, follow leoudtohanINQ at Twitter /Facebook.

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