(May 23, 2016 to September 15, 2016)

Black Gold of Ilocos Norte

The windy drive on the smoothly paved highway along the rolling verdant green hills north of Laoag City leads to a magnificent structure rising from a hill, reaching up to the azure blue sky – the famous Cape Bojeador lighthouse of Burgos. This majestic tower stands out like a marquee announcing that you are now in Burgos.

Burgos is a beautifully quaint municipality along the West Philippine Sea. It is a farming community where rice, corn, sugarcane and vegetables are grown. Because of lack of heavy rains, often times farming could not produce sufficient yield so the hard working and industrious farmers ventured to seek farming work in neighboring towns like Bacarra, where they were given a share of the harvest for their labor. Customarily, the farmers usually ate together and shared their packed lunches. The Burgos farmers brought seaweeds for their vegetables. One particular seaweed called “gamet” was relished by the Bacarra farmers. It rapidly became a favorite. The Burgos farmers started bringing gamet to barter with rice and goods they needed. The demand continued to grow fast becoming a high priced seaweed earning a new name “black gold of Burgos.”

The “black gold” of Burgos, Porphyra Marcosii, a species of seaweed found in northernmost Luzon, locally called “gamet”, was named after the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos. This purplish, blackish seaweed grows abundantly in the intertidal zone on the rocks and barnacles from November to March when the Northwest monsoon brings rainshowers, cold winds and big waves. Today, gamet has a high market demand not just because it has become a gourmet’s delight but it is  known to contain high percentage of protein, iodine and vitamins A, B & C. Porphyra production in Ilocos remains underdeveloped because of lack of technology and resources. However, because it holds a better promise for a better livelihood, fisherfolks abandon fishing as they are attracted to gamet harvesting which is more profitable, even though it is a hazardous occupation.

For the adventurous, especially those in search for gustatory delights, Burgos is the town to visit. This picturesque town holds an annual festival to celebrate the uniquely delectable black gold of Ilocos – the gamet, which has acquired a celebrity status. The festival held in May includes parades with floats, street dancing and other forms of entertainment. The highlight of this celebration is the feasting on gamet dishes and other signature Ilocano dishes. This is an event you will always remember along with a lasting impression of the warm hospitality of the Ilocanos.

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