Manila Bulletin

Believing in the Bangus

by Alex Bichara

As far as national symbols go, perhaps the most overlooked in the Philippines is the water creature often served to us on a breakfast plate: the Bangus (Chanos chanos), also known as the Milkfish. Perhaps the reason they are so overlooked is they aren’t considered official national symbols by Philippine law.

So why do we believe in the Bangus over other familiar Fishes such as the Tilapia (Orecochromis niloticus), Tawilis (Sardinella tawilis), or even the Lapulapu (Epinephelus summana)?


An undated Google Site titled Philippine National Symbols lists every symbol associated with the Philippines, from the national anthem (Lupang Hinirang) to the national vehicle

(kalesa or a horse-drawn carriage). The entry for national Fish reads, “Bangus is a popular table fare among Filipinos.” The Bangus is listed after the supposed national dish: lechon or roasted Pig.

That Google Site isn’t alone. Taste Atlas, a travel guide for traditional food, makes the same mistake, writing that the Bangus is “the national [F]ish of the Philippines.”

On the other hand, some outlets have attempted to change public perception of the Bangus. In May 2020, Flipscience, a Philippine science news and features site, published an article by Mikael Angelo Francisco explaining that the Bangus “isn’t the national symbol our school textbooks made it out to be.” In September 2021, retired lawyer and journalist Connie Veneracion of the blog Umami Days wrote that there is no national law declaring the Bangus as the national Fish of the Philippines, and “there is no law that names any [F]ish as the national [F]ish of the Philippines.”

Much of the confusion can be traced back to a 2014 house bill, as cited in a June 2020 article by Ryanne Co for Tatler Asia which lists the Bangus as one of the unofficial national symbols of the Philippines.





Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp