Friday, July 14, 2006

Diwal Makes a Comeback

Diwal is a juicy, sweet-tasting bivalve mollusk found only in the waters of Capiz province. Also known as “angel wings” because of its white-colored, wing-like shell, diwal used to be a staple in Ilonggo households and a favorite exotic cuisine in local restaurants. When I was younger, diwal was pretty much common and one can find it in almost all wet markets in Panay. Back then, Ilonggos considered diwal not as a rare gastronomic delight reserved only for special occasions (like lechon or lengua estofada for example) but more as an everyday “sud-an” or dish.

For years, diwal was a lucrative source of livelihood for Capiceños until its numbers dwindled due to over-harvesting and the destruction of its marine habitat by illegal fishing methods. Since diwal can only be cultured in the brackish waters of Capiz, ever-increasing demand for the sweet-tasting mollusk soon outstripped supply. Eventually, diwal “vanished” from local markets sometime in the early 1990s. And even if it is available in local restaurants (like Tatoy's and Breakthrough for example), the diwals they serve were mostly small and “emaciated,” a far cry from the luscious and juicy diwal of old.

Since diwal was gone for almost a decade, an entire generation of Filipinos grew up without ever having tasted this uniquely Ilonggo delicacy. While most Ilonggos in their 30s, 40s and above would surely have fond memories of eating diwal in family gatherings and beach outings, young Ilonggos born in the 1990s have no memory of ever having tasted it.

Thanks to Roxas City Mayor Tony del Rosario, diwal is making a comeback after ten years of absence in local markets. Several years ago, Mayor Tonydel started his “Diwal Rehabilitation Project” where he imposed a moratorium on diwal harvesting and established diwal sanctuaries all throughout his city’s territorial waters. Mayor del Rosario’s “diwal project” was adjudged as the “Best Public Sector Project” by the Regional Development Council 6. This year, the much sought-after diwal took centerstage during the annual Capiz Seafood Festival held last weekend in Roxas City. Due to the political will of Roxas City’s leaders and the cooperation of its residents, the diwal is slowly coming back and are available once again in most seafood restaurants and wet markets in the region.

Last year, I tasted my first diwal after ten long years. I was then celebrating my 32nd birthday and for my dinner party, I thought of serving diwal to my guests. So I ordered 2 kilos of diwal from a cousin who regularly goes to Roxas City on business. I then had the diwal thoroughly washed and boiled in hot water for just a few minutes because I like my diwal to be malasado (or not overcooked). Sprinkled with a little fried garlic and a light touch of butter, the humble mollusk is transformed into “Steamed Diwal with Garlic and Butter.” Needless to say, all of my dinner guests loved it and left begging for more.

Diwal is more delicious than talaba, tahong or sisi. Unlike talaba which becomes “gooey” and flat soon after it is pried from its shell, diwal retains its sweet taste and chewy texture long after it is cooked. Nowadays, I only eat talaba at Tib’s Rock Restaurant in Mandurriao which I think has the best-tasting baked talaba in the Philippines, bar none.

I am truly glad that the “angel wing” is back and that the present young generation can finally savor this heavenly oyster. The only downer is that since current demand for diwal is so huge, it has become too pricey for ordinary people to afford. You also have to go to the market very early because it usually sold out in a few hours. Also, diwal is available only at certain times of the year and its quality is dependent on the weather. But with that aside, I cannot wait to sink my teeth again into diwal steamed malasado garnished with garlic and butter.


Since we are talking about Capiz, let me share the true inside story about the arrest of the once future Congressman of Capiz, Joc Joc Bolante in Los Angeles recently. Joc Joc Bolante was arrested because U.S. Customs officials found fertilizer in his bags. Since fertilizer is classified as an explosive substance, American airport officials immediately detained him.

Bolante is also sore because American airport officials called him a "scam bag."

Joc! Joc! Joc!


Dominique said...

Oh, boy, this one had me laughing off my seat. Good one, Oliver!

peterlavina said...

I love diwal. Hopefully it's not laced with fertilizer.

Joc only.

vic said...

Diwal was abundant during "our" time. During my years of Tenure with The Phil. Railway Co., me and office mates will just hitched a ride in one of our trains for a good meal of 'Alimango' (ihope this one is not extinct yet), 'pasayan' and top it off with Diwal. But I don't know why wait until it becomes endangered before starting conservation measures? It should be an overall government policy, not an individual government official, like that of Roxas City mayor. What about if such personality didn't surface? Diwal would have gone unerwater forever...