Meet Nana Cion, Dagupan’s ‘Bagoong Queen’

THIS 73-year-old woman makes bagoong (fish sauce) the classic way since the 1980s and shares the ABCs of producing it to many.

Purificacion Natulan or Nana Cion to many of Sitio Russia, Barangay Bonuan Binloc this city has created a name in bagoong making. She is sometimes referred to as ‘Bagoong Queen’.

In fact, she was among the honorees in the list of popular and influential women of the city during a Women’s Day celebration in Dagupan. But she declined the invitation to attend as she felt she did not have the social standing like the rest of the awardees.

She prepares bagoong at home whose distinct taste has not only impressed even the fishery experts and leaders here but has been promoted by the city government under Mayor Belen Fernandez to a trade exhibit in Metro Manila.

The mayor also gave her specially-designed product labels to enhance her packaging and merchandising while Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Center Chief Westly Rosario had sought her help to teach his office’s personnel traditional way of making bagoong.

Rosario had her bagoong tested for quality at BFAR’s laboratory and it passed with flying colors.

Nana Cion usually gets the dilis (anchovies) she needs for her bagoong at the shoreline behind the BFAR center and when the supply becomes scarce, she orders form the Navotas market.

NANA CION AT HOME PREPARING HER BAGOONG.

Pinoys overseas who have tried her bagoong are known to regularly order bottles for consumption here and overseas. Yet, despite the product’s popularity, Nana Cion produces bagoong only at her home, just enough for her suki.

Given the reputation she has earned for herself and the quality of her production, she now oversees the bagoong production of a small venture owned by a local businessman. Today, one of Nana Cion’s daughters is now in-charge of the factory.

Nana Cion openly shares her ‘trade secret’.

She said she cleans and washes the dilis two to four times; uses rock salt (not the iodized salt); mix the dilis (five containers) with the rock salt (two containers) or 5:2 ratio; closes the containers tightly for the fermentation process for four-seven days; and slowly stir.

All told, after a two-week period of preparation, her suki begin to pick up their orders although she insists fermenting it for 30 -45 days is tops and its quality can last up to two years.

The success of her trade enabled Nana Cion to send her three children to college to earn their diplomas in Computer Science, Banking and Finance and Medical Technology.

She has also been featured by different radio and television programs, the latest of which was DZMM through Ka Louie Tabing’s Sa Kabukiran and Motorcycle Diaries of Jay Taruc at Q11 Channel of GMA 7.

Rosario said, “With Nana Cion sharing her know-how and trade secrets… it would create more livelihood opportunities for many families.” (Eva Visperas)