By Mona Sabalones Gonzalez
Meet the most expensive fish in the Philippines--the choice of presidents, senators, congressmen, royalty, socialites and Hollywood stars. It was the favorite dish of the late President Marcos. Meet the Ludong fish.
Also called “banak,” the “president’s fish,” lobed river mullet and Cestraeus plicatilis,it costs P10,000 for 2 kg., or some US $200 if you would like to try the ludong’s special taste and unique aroma.
The Ludong is prevalent in the Cagayan Valley region which is in Luzon and along the Pacific Ocean. In fact, Cagayan is the single known habitation of the Ludong in the world.
This fish was once believed to be an annual gift from the river goddess to the Ibanags, the people who, as the joke goes, have the darkest elbows in the Philippines and who live by the Cagayan River.
The Ludong is endangered and may become extinct. The more rare it becomes, the more expensive it gets. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said that from 2002 to 2003, no Ludong were caught at all. Poachers are paid in advance to get the fish when they are spawning, giving mature Ludong less time to breed.
The weight of the Ludong these days is smaller, only 8.9 ounces compared to 5.5 pounds just a few years ago.
The Philippine BFAR has imposed a five-year ban on Ludong fishing. They are also experimenting on breeding the valuable fish in captivity, and educating the local people on the need to preserve it.
So if someone says to you, “Ludong, anyone?” Just say no.