The Philippines, resting its land on the Pacific and comprised of more than 7 100 islands, has a fishing industry that can undoubtedly satisfy your seafood frenzy. While you can easily cure your cravings for a delicious Oysters Rockefeller or freshly caught lobster by going into the nearest seafood restaurant, the Philippines’ dampa can offer you a whole new different seafood experience.
Dampa is the only word you need to know when you want to splurge on seafood in the Philippines. Literally, dampa solely means hut or nipa hut. But when mentioned in relation to seafood, it shifts to pertain to a number of restaurants in an area where a fish market is in close proximity. Before you wrinkle your nose in the idea of being near a fish market, I’ll have you know eating at a dampa is an adventure, almost like a treasure hunt before you can actually have that heavenly seafood trophy.
First thing you need to know, the restaurants don’t have food. They have a menu, spices and secondary ingredients in making your food but they don’t have the main ingredient – seafood. How do they serve you food, you ask? You have to go to the fish market yourself and find the perfect seafood for your dining. This can easily be dismissed as something many people can do in their own time, but it is essential in having the full dampa experience. In the market, you don’t only get to buy your food, but you also get to participate in the entertaining haggling culture of the Philippines. Many vendors will try to catch your attention as you walk pass their stalls, offering you prices claiming to be the cheapest among all the others. The best way to know for sure is to check other stalls, and like the locals, haggle for the best deal. In many cases, the customers win and even get a little more than what the initial price offers. Make sure your bargaining skills are intact!
After getting through much discussion about how much it should cost you to buy kilo of crab pincers, and 1 1/2 kilo of prawns, it’s time to pick your restaurant. Once you have decided on which restaurant you are dining in, you will notice someone by the entrance with a scale. That person is whom you hand in your freshly bought seafoods to, and let him know what kind of dish you want for certain scaled amounts of your food. He will then usher you inside the restaurant and have you prepared for your meal.
Finally, once the restaurant has finished cooking your food, it’s time to dive in and devour the food you’ve hungered for! To better complete your experience, don’t hesitate to dine like a local Filipino, and use your bare hands to eat.
Dampa-themed restaurants are famous not only to visiting foreigners but to Filipinos as well. It has grown to spread in different places and one of the most accessible one, if you’re coming to the Philippines via the International Airport in Manila, is called the Seafood Paluto Restaurants in Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City.
Sources: Fao.org,. 'FAO Fisheries & Aquaculture - Country Profile'. N.p., 2015. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. VisitPinas.com,. ‘Dampa (Seafood Paluto Restaurants, Pasay City)’. N.p., 2009. Web. 30 Apr. Maranga, Mark Anthony. Seafood Paluto Restaurants - Fresh Seafood. 2015. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. Macatulad, JB. 2015. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.
By Jazzmin Anne Nicolle Manuel Santos, ASEAN Correspondent from Philippines