Humorous fish names: Cory, Gloria, Imelda, and many more

Published October 7, 2021, 8:03 AM

by Sol Vanzi

Fish politics

In the 1986 snap election, galunggong (horse mackerel) gained prominence when a campaign ad of opposition candidate Corazon Aquino used its price, which was ₱30/kilo at the time, to illustrate how tough life was under strongman President Ferdinand Marcos. Fish vendors quickly gave galunggong the nickname Cory’s fish. The name stuck, used by some even 35 years later.

Pundits point out that galunggong shares some traits with its human namesake. It is gray and uncolorful, ordinary-looking, and small to average in size, usually 100-150 grams per piece.

Today the poor cannot afford Cory’s fish, currently retailing at ₱200/kilo.


It was in the early 1980s when another fish was making waves in the government’s efforts at providing inexpensive and sustainable protein—the bighead Asian grass carp. It immediately earned the nickname Imelda, for many reasons other than the fact that she introduced the fish after her successful diplomatic forays into China.

Like the flamboyant former First Lady, the bighead carp is bigger than ordinary, weighing up to five kilos each, ensuring a profitable harvest. It has a broad body and a showy glittering exterior.

FIRST LADY OR FRESHWATER FISH? Imelda Marcos (Yvonne Hemsey) and the bighead Asian grass carp

Filipinos easily adapted to its bony character and fishy flavor. Soon, it was being sold as the more expensive maya-maya. The restaurant chain Hap Chan serves it in a stew with Chinese herbs. Beer joints grill its fat belly for pulutan.

Today the poor cannot afford Cory’s fish, currently retailing at ₱200/kilo.

While it is shunned as an invasive species in other countries, Imelda is treasured and farmed all over the Philippines.

Striking likeness

The newest species sold in our markets is the black-chin tilapia, known by all as Gloria or Arroyo, after you-know-who.

SHORT FISH The blackchin tilapia (right) is informally called gloria or tilapyang arroyo after the former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

It is small, not growing more than 110 centimeters long, with a dark spot on its cheek. Completing the resemblance are prominent Bugs Bunny upper front teeth. Gloria is much cheaper than ordinary tilapia because “it is not real.”

Hammered head

Biya (Goby) is a lake fish found throughout the archipelago. But there is a fish called biyang pukpok, which looks like a goby whose head has been flattened with a hammer. Thus the name.


A deep sea fish that swims upside down, its tail twirling like helicopter blades while it hovers over coral reefs. Suwarik is a colloquial version of the Tagalog word tiwarik, meaning upside down.


Is a flat, big bellied sardine. Kinabasi is a bangus shaped like a kabasi. Since the belly is the most treasured part of the fish, kinabasi is more expensive than ordinary bangus.

Blackened, scorched

Isdang sunog is a term used in many parts of the country to refer to different kinds of fish, which share one common trait: black skin and scales as if the fish just jumped out of a grill.

Kamot Pusa

Second only to the Manila clam (halaan) in popularity, the all-white kamot pusa is distinguished by the deep scratches all over its shell.

Believe it or not

Tampal-puke is a nickname for a small type of sole that fits snuggly in a man’s palm. Believe it or not, the term is widely used, accepted, and not considered lewd in many parts of the Philippines. Just check Google.