Public market tour

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Saturday, March 1, 2014


THE public market in every town and city is the epergne of all tourism activities. The “maidan” has the conglomeration of hoi polloi from all walks of life. Bright ideas (and bad ideas) could be picked up in the “Mercado.” Even the Holy Bible confirms that the just and the thieves are there. Tourists (especially foreign habitués) would want to discover the gems in your “suk.”

We usually have the dry market and the wet market. Our dry market is expected to be really dry (but not during the rainy season). It could be congested like the bodega where you find RTWs (most are imitations). If you bring a foreigner there, (with you as a guide) she will enjoy a lot. A pair of shoes would cost P800. The “bargain debate” would take place with dramatic walk away until the costumer and the sales girl who is the owner also would settle for P350.

That bodega area would sell almost anything – ropes, plastic wares, kitchen utensils, bolos, traveling bags, plows, fish nets, pirated DVDs and CDs, rice, used clothing, diapers, and assorted pendants from a pawnshop recently ravaged by fire. You will be meeting peculiar characters like cargadores, in-house peddlers, street children holding rugby bottles, “taong grasa,” mentally-ill persons, and sometimes abandoned husband (or wife).

The public market is expected to have public comfort room (which after all does not give comfort but frustration). I do not advise that you bring your tourist friend there. You may bring him there at your own risk. Some public comfort rooms (or probably only very few) have also heavenly environment. We can only pray. Probably, local government executives should give a mandate to all market superintendents to at least make all toilets adopt to climate change.

Our wet market is more wet . . . and slippery. Just like the not-so-dry-market, it has also different sections. The meat section is an attraction. On top of long tables, you will see giant chopping boards.

The meat vendors are experts like surgeons. (I don’t say like morticians.) They could always give you the kind of cut you want for your adobo, pochero, or menudo. Meat vendors look like wrestlers (most of them). They have big muscles and bellies. They sell choice cuts, chicken parts, animal blood and entrails (pig, carabao, cow, and goat). (Dog meat is not popular in Negros.)

The fish section always smells fishy. Fish vendors are good singers, orators, declaimers and debaters. They can also yell, cheer and chant. They are best when it comes to sales talk. They can convince a dull costumer that “bukaw-bukaw” is fresh because it is very red. A wise customer would know that the red food color makes “bukaw-bukaw” very red.
My friend calls this area as “fish morgue.” In long tables, you will see a display of dead fish . . . shark, sting ray, cat fish, bangus, tilapia, sapsap, sunog, karaho, dalinuan, salmonite, upos-upos, bilong-bilong, bantalaan, lison, badlon, danggit, etc.

The vegetable section looks like a botanical garden and the vendors are like fairies. They have assorted packages for laswa (kalabasa, balatong, okra, tugabang, talong, alogbate). Patola is best for “pasayan.” Tambo and young corn is good match for crablets. Gabi and takway with coco milk go well with bagungon. The best ingredients for pickles could be papaya, sayote, carrots, ampalaya, cucumber, tomatoes and you will need strong “tuba” vinegar. Foreigners will always conclude that Filipinos are grass-eating mammals. That is correct because Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. wants us to be organic, at least.

You can amuse your tourist by letting him eat baye-baye, inday-inday, kalamay hati, sundol, puto tikoy, salab, lumpia, panara, empanada, dulce gatas, ibos, but-ong or botse. They are all sweet (almost) because Negros is a sugar province. Bring him to our “kapehan.” Let him drink native coffee. It kicks and the aroma is angelic. Let him hear how the daily coffee “suki” talk about politics and their stultification in the cock pits.

You see, your market tour is glorious. Your meet people with different breeds and you hear stories that you do not believe. There is always something unique in our public market… unique in the sense that there are things there beyond the comprehension of a common sense but you enjoy.*

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 01, 2014.

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