Near Carbon market

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014


LINCOLN ST. was muddy because of the rain and was dark in certain stretches when I went there to buy a ukulele for my son Saturday night. I was there the day before to buy a guitar for the older son, so I was already familiar with the location of the stores that continued to sell the item despite dwindling sales because of competition from karaoke.

Electricity supply to one guitar store had been restored so I went there directly to shorten the time spent in the area. I readied my P500, the price of the ukulele a middle-aged Chinese-looking woman, who was obviously the store owner, blurted out to buyers the previous day.

I saw the same woman sitting on a high stool inside the well-lighted store that night.

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She was surrounded, as usual, by guitars, ukuleles and other stringed instruments hung everywhere. She saw me approach and asked “Unsay ato?” before I could fold my umbrella and negotiate the few steps that separated the store’s elevated floor from the sidewalk.

“Uke,” I shot back.

“Pila ka dosena?” she asked.

“Usa ra ka buok, uy,” I answered. “Tagpila man?”

“Tag-P400,” she said.

I stifled my amusement. She must not have recognized me as the man who inquired about the prices of the store’s displayed items without buying anything. The uke priced at P500 per unit the day before was cheaper by P100 that night.

I noted that even if the store was not part of Carbon, its pricing scheme was not unlike that in the said public market where sellers peg a higher price for an item and you have to haggle to bring it down to its true value. The woman must have been desperate for a sale that night.

“Maayo na lang gani nibalik og siga,” she said while arranging pages from an old newspaper on a table to wrap the uke. It was obviously Sun.Star Cebu because I saw my old column and this old face on one of the pages before these were wrapped around the item. Ironic, I thought.

“Brown-out diay?” I asked her.

“Sunog man diha sa unahan ganina,” she reminded me. Early in the morning of that day, fire destroyed structures inside Warwicks Barracks in Carbon Market, which is part of Barangay Ermita. A child died in the conflagration.

“Kahibawo na man ka anang lugara,” she said. No need for elaboration on that. Warwicks Barracks is no longer just a market but a haven of informal settlers and a few wayward folks. .

“Aw, makalugar na ang mayor og implementar sa iyang plano. Duna man siya’y gi-announce nga project diha,” I told her, referring to Mayor Michael Rama’s announcement to build a medium-rise building and pension houses in the area, aside from market stalls.

“Mao lagi,” she answered. “Pero angayang molihok siya dayon. Kay kun dili, magubot gyod. Iya nang koralon ang lugar.”

“Maglisod siya og dalidali ana kay biktima sad baya na sila sa sunog. Unahon gyod ang pagtabang nila,” I said while receiving from the woman the uke that was already wrapped tight with the newspaper. I would have wanted to leave already but the woman was still talking.

“Kun gusto sa mayor ipatuman ang iyang project, dapat iya nang koralon ang lugar unya magda siyag 200 ka buok polis,” she said.

I had to cut the conversation short because I had other things to do, so I went slowly down the steps towards the muddy sidewalk while listening to her. She stopped talking, smiled, then sat again on the high stool as she watched me open my umbrella.

I gingerly walked a few meters away where I waited for several minutes for a PUJ.

Inside the vehicle, I watched at the seeming chaos that the driver was deftly negotiating with. Carbon market and its environs have always been that way.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 15, 2014.

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