I am not really familiar of its scientific name, but as far as I know, it’s a type of seashell that can be found farther away from the coast of Sorsogon Bay. Frankly, I have no idea how they catch this, but according to some, somebody has to dive for it. Thus, derogatory description of those with blond hair due to the seawater minerals is “parabuso baluko”.
When I was still a kid, it’s easy to buy this from the wet market. I know, because we normally have this, at least, once a month and this was around 20 years ago (jeeez, I am really that old). But lately, sometimes, you won’t find it in the wet market; of course, if you knew somebody, you will find it in abundance and dirt cheap. My in-law, who leaves near Brgy. Bulabog, can get it for PHP60/kilo, cheaper when there’s red tide.
For those who are familiar with Baluko, it’s normally cooked with coconut milk; for those more adventurous ones, they would add crushed hot chili on it. Another version is to cook it, Bicol Express style, with plenty of hot chili and with Baluko as the ingredient. For my mother-in-law, who is a great cook, she can prepare it on different ways – in this case, simply fry Baluko with vinegar dip. Before she fries it, she tenderizes the meat under a boiling water for several minutes. One can also store it in the freezer after boiling, and cook it later.
Even during red tide, my father-in-law would buy several kilos of this for personal consumption (yours truly and my own family is one of the beneficiaries). During one of my visits on my in-laws place, he told me that red tide doesn’t affect Baluko due to the fact that it settles on the deeper part of the Sorsogon Bay. Frankly, considering I grew up in a red tide-prone area, I am not really familiar how it affects the seashells – though, I know someone has to avoid seashells at all cost during red tide season! To make the story short, we were never rushed to the hospital after having a hearty meal of Baluco, though, we found ourselves in the restroom after a couple of hours for a different reason.
For those who are not familiar with Baluko, it’s actually the source of that expensive Scallops, normally offered in Chinese restaurants. In Sorsogon wet market, one can buy a kilo for PHP200; it’s cheaper if you buy it from the bagsakan, there are several along the coast of Sorsogon Bay. In Manila’s central wet markets, PHP600/kilo is already cheap and it can hit as high as PHP1,000 in the supermarkets. It’s heavily exported, thus, in Sorsogon one can buy the Baluko meat without the Scallops or simply not find it at all in the market.