Well, it is actually a one stop pasalubong shop for having delicacies ranging from otap, rosquillos, chicharon, bottled bagoong of different kinds, dried mangoes and anythig you can think of when you think of Cebu. Okay, except for lechon.
But what Tabo-an Market is really famous for are the dried fish stores that abound the area with the sought after pasalubong, danggit (rabbit fish), as its flag bearer
Photo from Penfires!
There are many ways to go to Tabo-an Market and it is easier if you know where Colon and Sanciangko streets are or know how to get there. Anyways, you can hail jeepneys with signs and route numbers such as Guadalupe 06A (which passes in front of San Jose Recolletos University), Lahug 04D (passes Cebu Colliseum) or if you're from SM Cebu, you can ride a 10H jeepney. Or anything with Carbon or Tabo-an signages, but ask the driver first, to be sure. All of which goes to or near the market. You'll know if you're near the vicinity when you see a short bridge (don't worry, you'll pass only one). If the jeep does not cross that bridge and turns left, just shout lugar lang or if you're feeling polite, lugar lang, 'ya (cebuano for para and para po manong). Of course, it's more convenient riding a cab but where's the adventure in that?
Jeepney tips are from Penfires!
Being adventurous myself and having my boarding house near Colon and Sanciangko and being armed with only researched knowledge from the internet and having only memorized the area from my map, I decided to walk my way to Tabo-an Market. Oh, if you own a map of Cebu like me, please don't bring it with you or publicly consult it when navigating the streets. Trust me. You don't wanna look too tourist-y.
I took the Sanciangko Street because it is a more direct route compared to Colon. Just follow the street going south and after probably 10-15 minutes (I used University of San Carlos as my benchmark here), you'll see the bridge that I was talking about. Cross it and you're already there! You are now looking at Tabo-an Market! And with that, take a deep breath and smell the air! Turn right from the fork (two roads going left and one going right) because that's where most of the dried goods are. Look for the Tabo-an Dried Fish Dealers Ass'n, Inc. signage. Start there.
Photo from www.pinoyislands.com
I went there at around 7AM to avoid a horde of pasalubong buyers but I guess it was too early since some stalls were just opening and some haven't opened yet. I guess 8AM would be the best time to go there. Nevertheless, even with some closed stores, the variety of dried fish and pasalubong overwhelmed me.
Photo from www.pinoyislands.com
As suggested by other bloggers, I only wore pambahay clothes. That's because the smell of dried fishes there is very strong, it clings to you and your clothes. And that is not an exaggeration.
Photo from www.pinoyislands.com
Photo from Baktin Corporation
I was looking for Nang Aying's stall (as recommended by Baktin Corporation) but I guess she haven't opened yet so I just bought from the nearest open stall. I bought the small, gill-less, unsalted ones (washed with fresh water or tubig tab-ang) because I heard that those are the best ones. Easy to crispy fry and less salty. It was sold at P540.00 per kilo. A far cry from the the P100+ per 100 grams you see in supermarkets and airport kiosks. I bought half a kilo and asked the crew to seal them into five 100 gram packs for easier distribution to friends and relatives.
There are also dried squids, fish bones, fish tocino and others that I don't know the names. I was on a budget so I opted not to ask for their prices. I was only there for two things, danggit and the mango chews.
Yes, mango chews. Well, they're pretty much the same as "the" dried mangoes only without the fibers. Mango chews are basically mango puree mixed with gelatin to be of the same consistency as dried mangoes. They look and taste the same that it could easily be mistaken as the real ones. Believe me. I was fooled big time once. How to tell the difference? Well dried mangoes are fibrous so check if your purchase have hints of fibers in them. Also, mango chews have uniform shape and size (shaped like a mango leaf) and at closer inspection, you can see trapped air bubbles inside. There are those with brands that you see in super markets but I guess their prices, if not just some pesos cheaper, are more or less the same. I was after those unbranded ones which are way cheaper. Okay, they maybe unbranded and packed on clear plastic but I'm pretty sure they are legit. They must have come direct from the factory just by seeing how it was neatly packed and marked with an expiration date in the corner (definitely machine packed and labeled). The tindera told me that the mangoes are distributed by the same guys from 7D Dried Mangoes.
It really pays well to check some stores first before buying. I found out that there could be a P30 difference for a kilo of mango chews from two stores that are just beside each other. I bought one kilo for P350.00 and asked them to repack it into four 250gram packs. The only factory packed are the one kilos. The store just repacks them into 250 and 500 gram denominations so that buyers are presented with different options but I insisted on them repacking my one kilo just to be sure. The other store beside have them for just P320.00 but does not do repackings that's why I bought from the latter. Also, there are these mango chips (about one fourth the size of ordinary mango chews) that are about P50-P100 cheaper but were out of stock. I guess they sell pretty fast because of it's cheaper and bite sized.
It also helps if you have a local with you to do the talking and haggling. I'm pretty sure that the price I got are "haggle-able" but I'm never really good at haggling so I didn't try. Try to also visit some stores before buying to know where the best prices are. One rule of the thumb is that prices on well established stores (located in front of Tabo-an Market, just across the street) are higher because of higher rent and more people tending their spacious stores. Also, the price of dried fishes fluctuates. It depends if there's a full moon and catch is small or if there are festivities like Sinulog.
Equipped with just a handful of cebuano vocabulary, I tried my very best to speak like a local but I think the tinderas I talked to found my bisaya (trying)hard and just spoke to me directly in Tagalog. I was actually laughing at myself when I came out of the store. So much for my local disguise.
Anyways, mission accomplished! Ready for the airport!
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