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Getting Clarified on the Maliputo, the Talakitok and the Muslo

The maliputo.  Image from Joseph Razon.
Last month, a former colleague who was vacationing from Saudi Arabia and I visited this turo-turo (literally, you point at the food at the counter) restaurant in San Jose. At the counter, I quickly took a fancy towards what to me looked like kinamatisang (a soup soured with tomatoes) maliputo and told the lady behind the counter to give us an order.

“It’s talakitok,” the lady corrected me. Alright, I told her, I’m still having an order. That was the end of the matter for the meantime and my former colleague and I caught up on what we had been up to the preceding months.

Truth be told, Lipa born and raised that I am – and the city is land-bound – I never could quite tell the difference between the two. It still rankled to be told off by the lady behind the counter, so days later I asked a friend who lives in Taal and owns a restaurant.

“The maliputo and the talakitok look alike,” he told me. “But the maliputo has yellow streaks along its tail and fins.”

And what about the muslo, I asked him. When I was a small boy, my mother and I used to travel all the way from Lipa to the market in Lemery just so she could get her precious muslo. I remembered that it looked also exactly as the maliputo.

“The muslo,” he told me, “is how the maliputo is known when it is still small.” This statement, however, included the word “daw” (supposedly), the standard Tagalog word to premise deniability.

So off to the Internet I went to get more definitive information.

First of all, the maliputo, talakitok and muslo belong to a specie of fishes called the caranx ignobilis or the giant trevally. The specie is basically a marine fish found in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.1

The maliputo belongs to a sub-specie called the caranx ignobilis FOORSKAL, to distinguish it from the ordinary marine trevally. A Batangas-oriented web site called Batangas-Philippines.com gives some valuable insight about the differences between the maliputo and the talakitok.

Kinamatisang talakitok.  What started this research.
According to this web site, the trevally breeds in brackish waters, or where saltwater and freshwater meet, usually in river mouths or mangroves. Trevally that remains in marine waters is apparently what is referred to as the talakitok. Those that are spawned off Balayan Bay and are able to swim up the Pansipit River into Taal Lake and adapt to its fresh waters are what become the maliputo.2

And as though the matter is not confusing enough, small trevally caught from the Pansipit River is referred to as maliputong labas (from the outside). True maliputo is that which is caught in Taal Lake; and this is also referred to as maliputong loob (from inside).

So what about the muslo? Batangas-Philippines.com gives a simple enough explanation. The muslo, according to the web site, is how the talakitok or the trevally is referred to in the Taal-Lemery area.

Another friend who was born and raised in Taal says the he will only eat the maliputo, or that caught in the lake, because the talakitok just does not taste the same. Exactly what the distinction is, he could not quite describe. As for me, while I have sharp taste buds, I have not really eaten enough of either to be able to discern the difference, which must be subtle.

The maliputo is very expensive because it is apparently difficult to catch, not just because it is elusive but also because its very presence in the lake is being threatened not just by fish cages but also by the heavy siltation of the Pansipit River which makes it difficult for the trevally to swim up to the lake.

To conclude, the talakitok, maliputo and the muslo are actually the same fish: the giant trevally. Talakitok is the marine trevally while the maliputo is that which is able to swim up the Pansipit River and adapt to the fresh waters of Taal Lake. Muslo is how the giant trevally is referred to in the Taal-Lemery area.

Notes and references:
1 Giant trevally, Wikipedia.
2 Maliputo Fish, online at Batangas-Philippines.com.

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