It's white and slimy, worm like, but dip it in spicy vinegar and its one hell of a tasty (raw) fare!

I wasn't really expecting to eat "tamilok" or woodworm, a type of mollusc that burrows inside old and decaying wood and are present primarily in mangrove areas. But when I was at the Bakhawan Eco Park in Kalibo, Aklan, the Philippines, a world showcase of community development according to UN's FAO, it was posted that there's a tamilok eating challenge. When I reached the picnic area of the park near the sea, Ruperto de la Luna, the one who officiates the challenge and do the demo, was already preparing his stuff.

From an old mangrove wood, around three feet, blackened and, I guess, discarded. Ruperto showed me the tip and there were holes, mostly, around 1 centimeter in diameter. With an ax, he cut it open. After a minute or two, he showed me the halves and there were several woodworms across the length and width in different sizes. Some were white while others were darkened with the chewed wood inside.

Upon closer inspection, the head of the tamilok has two chisel like teeth that's quite hard, the only hard part in its entire body. It's quite amazing to see these wood worms (also called shipworms) consuming the dead wood, and there are many in such a small piece, a way for nature to reclaim back to the earth what once was living!

With his wrinkled fingers, he took one tamilok, washed it in a pitcher of water and trying to empty its insides. After a few seconds, he held its head by its teeth, dipped it in spicy vinegar and placed it in his mouth. I stood there wide eyed.

Now it was my turn. With a little trepidation but more of excitement, I did not object or squirm. I stood my ground. After he cleaned another worm and gave it to me, I held it at its teeth and head, twirled it on the white saucer with the spicy vinegar, and with a deep breath, placed it in my mouth.

Salty, spicy, soft and just tasted delicious. Just like eating raw oysters but better. Some more of this stuff and I had my fill!

Published in Philippines

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