Saturday, May 14, 2016

Giant Lapu-lapu (Kugtong)

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog []
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday []

I saw two giant lapu-lapu or kugtong in Sablayan Occidental Mindoro caught by local fishermen sometime in 1982. I had been hearing kugtong since childhood, a threat to fishermen and picnickers because it could swallow a whole human being, and here with my own eyes the kugtong in Lola Basiang’s story is true after all. 

So huge are these overgrown lapu-lapu that two men could hardly carry one of them with a bamboo pole on their shoulders. A third man had to lift its tail from the ground as they inched their way to a waiting vehicle. 

I examined the fish; its body is coarse and shaggy, covered with seaweeds and tiny mollusks, and had lost all semblance of the favorite lapulapu on our dining table. But this makes a perfect camouflage that suits the predatory habit of this benthic fish.

There is a story about a kugtong that lived under the old pier of San Fernando, La Union. For a long time the strange fish was feared by the residents and many animals around had mysteriously disappeared. Then the local fishermen decided to catch it with a big hook luring the fish with a live pig as bait. The fish took it and struggled until it was finally subdued. It was hauled by many men and if the story is accurate it took a six-by-six truck to transport it.

There are giants in the deep. After the tsunami in 2004 that hit the Indian Ocean, by coincidence I saw giant squids measuring 3 feet long being sold at the SM Fairview supermarket. I surmise that these were flushed out from their deep dwellings and landed in the fisherman’s net when the calamity struck. I remember the giant squid that almost sank Captain Nemo’s submarine in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

This giant Lapu-lapu makes the rest of the catch minuscule to its huge size. (Internet photo)  

By the way, only the female lapu-lapu grows into a kugtong; the male remains small and becomes attached for life on the female's body. Also, there has been no authentic case reported about a kugtong swallowing a whole human being. The kugtong however zealously guards its territory from any trespasser. ~

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