unnok/ginukan, freshwater shellfish

Unnok or ginukan (Delillia sp.) is a freshwater mollusk or bivalve that grows in rivers, it is believed to be endemic in the Cagayan River especially along the towns of Lal-lo and Camalaniugan (unnok is abundant as well in the Abulug River), although it can be usually found in rivers close to the coastlines (deltas) in Northern Luzon. But nowadays unnok is becoming rare in Cagayan itself, reportedly because of the ongoing quarrying/dredging activities (actually mining of magnetite or black sand which is reportedly wreaking environmental havoc) along the Cagayan River which affect not just unnok but also the kabibi (Batissa violacea), another important shellfish endemic in the area (and other shells and fish, like the rare and expensive ludong). Quarrying/dredging/mining of sand in the river disturbs the habitat of these shells endangering their very existence.

This is somehow true because I myself rarely can find unnok for sale in the wet markets, whereas in the past years it's sold in abundance in regular market days.

And imagine my pleasant surprise when I found this in the Allacapan (Cagayan) market and was told that it came all the way from Laoag City (Ilocos Norte)! The vendor said unnok is almost a thing of the past in Cagayan, it's not readily available anymore as it were, and she's not exaggerating, I guess. I bought the whole remaining lot for fifty pesos:

We made it into a soup with lots of tomatoes and onions, and some bugguong juice to taste. The broth is so savory with a hint of sweet and sour tomato goodness.

The tiny bits of flesh has a distinct taste and texture among other freshwater shells that makes unnok a kind of delicacy, especially now that it's diminishing and becoming a rarity.

And of course, unnok meat is also prized because it's great to be made into a bugguong (salted). The vendor also sells bugguong nga unnok at one hundred fifty pesos a bottle (yes, it's that expensive). But I was able to convince her for a hundred bucks plus the fresh shells, so this is it, I got one, it's been years since the last time I saw bugguong nga unnok being sold.

It's perfect with a squeeze of calamansi and it's a great appetizer, just like bugguong nga ipon.

What an opportunity to once again blessed with this bounty, now that some greedy people are destroying nature that nurtures its very existence... What a pity that future generations might not enjoy this delicacy anymore, when it's already extinct in the Cagayan River... 

Meanwhile, here's a video by Youtuber mjrfmpaul123 of unnok (ginukan) being prepared as a kind of "salad":



  1. I savored this dish growing in Nueva Ecija and on visits to Nueva vizcaya where my father is from.

  2. meron din yan sa surigao del norte...

  3. We call it here in Navotas as "Paros", this is good, I miss this seashells

    1. Yes sa dating Pulo ng Tanza, kayang kaya mo isang galon pag weekends

  4. It really help on our study thank you!

  5. May i know its scientific name? Thank u

  6. Where can i buy this