Pacete: The other side of public markets

AFTER our tourism officers’ meeting at the Provincial Capitol on having public markets as tourist attractions in Negros Occidental, a group of tour guides made their familiarization tour in some public markets. They have wonderful and not-so-wonderful discoveries.

We would like to admit that public markets really attract tourists. If you go to Baguio, the best souvenir items are in public markets...blankets, fresh vegetables, and fruits, t-shirts, key chains, native bags and even dirty strawberry ice cream. In Bohol public markets, a tourist would find well-crafted souvenir items made of wood, bamboo, nito, and rattan.

There is no doubt about it, our public market is a vault of heritage products of a particular province. We have to bring our local and foreign tourists there. On the other hand, our tour guides who made the familiarization tour have observed many things that need the attention of our town and city officials, especially the market directors, superintendents, supervisors, and even the Sanggunian chair on markets.

Some public markets are really dirty. There is the presence of uncollected garbage (or probably, the garbage has not been collected for several days). The garbage receptacles are not covered (or the covers have been missing). The flies are all over. They are like raisins dotting the items for sale. The gutters (cannals) have cursing century-old foul odor (a combination of urine, stagnant water, and rotten matter).

If the market floor is concrete, some areas are slippery and always wet. (The floor sweepers could be absent always.) Market supervisors have to dispatch their inspectors to monitor the sanitary condition of the market. There are always senior citizens who are complaining that the wet section of the public market is not customer-friendly. That could be the reason why some vendors are complaining that their daily net income is a curse.

You can seldom find clean comfort rooms in most of our public markets. The toilet bowls are always unattended (could not be flushed). The urinals clog up. The faucet does not function (could not be opened or could not be closed). There is always a signage inside the comfort room “out of order.” The signage has been there for months. We challenge our public officials to do their own version of market tour.

Our public officials may possibly discover that some areas are dark (no electrical connection). If it rains, there are waterfalls inside the market and the low-level areas would create small ponds. Heavy rains would flood the lower grounds because the culverts have been clogged by garbage. Market goers are stranded and they have to wait for hours until the water subsides.

After the rain, cockroaches and rats start to appear because their hiding places have been flooded. No one would want to see pests joining market vendors and buyers in one location. In this case we need the collective efforts of our engineers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, garbage collectors, sanitary inspectors, and pest control team. The market supervisor is expected to make his comprehensive report to the chair of the committee on markets and the mayor.

During rush hour (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.), all kinds of vehicles are also rushing around the public markets to pick up passengers...trisikad, tricycle, jeepneys, vendors’ vans, delivery trucks, and private vehicles. Traffic is in chaos. Sometimes there are no policemen and traffic enforcers in strategic intersections. Accident could always happen.

When there is a market rush, we can always expect the participation of snatchers, pickpockets, “budol-budol” groups, and persons who use fake money to buy your items. There are also idiots who take their chances on women who are not ready to defend their spare parts. That could be the reason why parents do not send their young ladies to do marketing.

Some market vendors have to be reminded of their manners (only some). They cannot just spit or blow their nose in any direction. There should be a task force also to check if the meat or fish sold is still fit for human consumption. Food safety should be given priority starting from the market.

I agree that public markets should be tourist attractions. LGUs should put their resources together to come up with presentable public markets. It is hard to market tourism if what we market is a dirty public market.

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