Sardinella Tawilis Fish

Sardinella tawilis or tawilis, which is often called and known throughout the province of Batangas is a freshwater fish found only in Taal Lake.

Taal Lake in the earlier times was called Lake Bonbon and the third largest in the Philippines. The lake contains relatively little plant life and nutrients in its waters but rich in dissolved oxygen. It has an average depth of over 100 meters and drains through Pansipit River into Balayan Bay.

The fish is said to be distinctive, because it is the only Clupeidae family of fishes that is known to live in freshwater. It is deemed to have closed in when the lake was shaped during a volcanic eruption 240 years ago.

Tawilis is a small fish that grows to a full size at around 15 centimeters and weighs about 27 grams. The young fish develop at a level of 2 centimeters a month, and mature at a length of an average 8 centimeters in four months. This is according to a fisheries biologist of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – Inland Fisheries Research Station (BFAR-IFRS).

Other interesting facts about the fish is that, it breeds all year round and lay eggs the most during the summer months from March to June when water temperature is high. Their eggs are gluey and are mostly seen in plants and rocks around the edge of the lake. The fish feed mostly on zooplankton and small crustacean.

The tawilis is one of the most sought after fish dish in most parts of Batangas because of its good taste. And the batangueños has different ways in cooking the endemic fish from Taal Lake.

The most common and very popular among restaurants around Batangas is the fried and crispy tawilis. Usually served with bagoong Balayan (anchovy) with unripe mangoes, tomatoes and onions. However some prefer to dip it with vinegar. And eaten from head to tail.

Other common way of cooking the fish is by broiling it in coal or coconut husk. It also best served with bagoong Balayan with unripe mangoes, tomatoes and onions. Although the fish will not be that crispy when broiled, however the meat of the fish is much tastier.

Another common recipe among batangueños is the sinaing na pinais na tawilis (boiled and wrapped in banana leaves tawilis fish). The fish is cook for a couple of hours in earthen pot with low heat until the tawilis fish is soft and tender to eat. The fish can be eaten from head to tail, and usually eaten with a side dish of grilled eggplant with tomatoes, onions, vinegar, and bagoong balayan (anchovy).

There are countless ways in preparing the fish and one method in cooking the fish is by cooking it in vinegar, garlic and salt. And is commonly called around Batangas as paksiw na tawilis.

With the countless ways in cooking the endemic fish, the fish is now in the list of endangered species. And the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources is pointing to over fishing as one of the probable cause.

However, the proliferation of fish cages in Taal Lake is another reason why the tawilis numbers are dwindling. According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the unused feeds and waste of the cages found inside the lake has contributed to the degradation of the water quality of the lake. It was observed; that fishes caught in the lake has mud-like taste.

It will be a pity, if the province will totally lose these natural wonders that God has created and the province of Batangas is proud off. And I’m sure every batangueño will cooperate to preserve the natural wonders that God has provided the province.

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