The extremely poisonous puffer fish delicacy from Negros that really isn’t

The buriring fish. (Courtesy City Government of Sagay)


August is a curious month — while we celebrate Buwan ng Lahi in schools, it is also labeled as a “Ghost Month” where many Feng Shui practitioners believe “dead spirits roam the earth to hunt the living and cause misfortune.”

But for the fishermen of the towns of Cadiz, Sagay, and Manapla (about two hours north of Bacolod City in the province of Negros Occidental) August is a month for celebration and festivities, specifically for a species of puffer fish called buriring.

The buriring can be found in the waters off Negros, particularly July through August, when their numbers swell. It has been eaten as a delicacy in these towns for generations and locals will attest to the edibility of buriring. But for most people outside these fishing communities, misconceptions about the toxic nature of the fish still abound.

The problem? The buriring resembles a lot like other species of puffer fish. And unlike the buriring, those other species ARE poisonous. In fact, certain species of puffer fish are considered as the second most-poisonous vertebrates in the world.

To make things even more complicated, the toxic species are often caught alongside the buriring. Non-discerning cooks and chefs may unknowingly mix the deadly species in the meal.


The puffy buriring (R) alongside the poisonous species. (Courtesy City Government of Sagay)


The result? Reports like this one from Cebu in 2011 will often confuse the species, and the poor buriring ends up being misidentified as the culprit for deaths.

As a response to those growing myths about their beloved buriring, the congressman for the 2nd District of Negros, Rep. Leo Rafael Cueva, together with the mayors from the three towns, launched the first ever Buriring Festival.

Chefs, bloggers, and personalities from all over Negros were invited to set the record straight and help quash the bad rep buriring has been getting over the years.

Rep. Cuevas at the 1st Buriring Festival. (Courtesy City Government of Sagay)


As Sagay City Councilor Matthew Gamboa said: “The purpose of the buriring festival is to introduce this unique and flavorful delicacy to people from other places and erase all doubts that this fish is toxic.”

The beloved buriring has achieved an almost adobo-level passion in these areas, and each community has its own way of cooking the fish. In Cadiz, for example, the buriring is seasoned with santol, red hot peppers, red onions, and leaves from the libas tree.


(Courtesy City Government of Sagay)


The fish can be cooked so many ways that during the festival 10 cooks from Sagay and Cadiz were invited to demonstrate the many ways in which the fish can be prepared and served. Some of the variants included fried buriring, and buriring served in stew or soup.

As Betsy Gazo in the Sun Star writes:

One could almost feel anticipation in the air as thick as the smoke rising from the boiling soup. The aroma is not fishy but is redolent of libas leaves. The santol isn’t a dominant flavor and could have played a secondary role to the libas in ridding the mixture of its fishy taste.

Just don’t say it’s to die for.