August last year, my beloved hometown, after much campaign, prodding and intrigue (there was the story of a coconut vendor whose stall in the New Public Market was locked down by the Munisipyo for days only because he voiced out in a news interview that he wasn’t in favor of the cityhood), was officially declared the 4th city in our region after the Plebiscite turn out of 54,000 YESes and merely 2,300 NOs.
I don’t know much about the legal or technical or economical aspects of being a city. All I know is that change will come at a much faster pace. In fact, in the last three or four years, Jollibee, McDonald’s and Mang Inasal, three of the leading fast food chains in the country, opened a branch in our humble
town city. In 2011, Robinson’s Supermarket and a shopping mall with SM’s Savemore were erected as well. But these things meant nothing to me because I spend 80% of the year away from home anyway.
It was only when rumors that the Old Public Market would be torn down that I was affected because the change would be hitting too close to home. In fact, it would hit my second home.
Sometime last year, my mother called with the bad news. The rumors were true. The old building would be converted into some sort of Private and Public Investors Cooperative. The lessees were called in for a meeting and was given an ultimatum for them to move.
The deadline to pack and go was postponed. Weeks and months passed, the inhabitants of the public market became optimistic, maybe the plan did not push through, maybe they could stay and continue on with their lives for another year or two. And then the blow hit on the week leading up to December 8, Mary’s supposedly blessed birthday.
When I came home a week after for the holidays, my heart was crushed when I saw the barricaded building with a tarpaulin showing the design of the new infrastructure that will rise. Oddly enough, there were no trucks or any other building equipment on site, they just wanted to clean the place of clutters — which in this instance are people — before the year ends.
A few days after arriving, I forced my mom to bring me inside the building. The guard on duty let us in under the premise that we forgot some things in our old stall. What I saw inside made me even sadder because it reminded me of the years I spent roaming around this place. I know the intricacies of the building like the back of my hand (of course knowledge is an advantage when playing hide and seek). While other children stayed at home, my formative years were spent in a bustling, loud, dirty, fun place that is a public market, this public market.
Seeing the place void of the vendors selling merchandise ranging from groceries to meat products and second hand clothes felt eerie. It was as if I was visiting a ghost town. Funnily enough though, every corner we went to reminded me of some childhood memory which only proves that this would always be a huge part of my life.
The Quadrangle. When I was a kid, there used to be Muslims selling radios and other stuff here and I remember always wanting to be teams with their children when it comes to games like 10-20 because they were SO good. In high school, the vegetable vendors moved here from the second floor after a typhoon destroyed the ceiling. This was where I failed to learn how to ride a bicycle after bruising my knees many times, where I first made friends and enemies alike, and where I ruined my complexion among other things.
The front. I used to love the front portion of the building especially the second floor because the floor was tiled and we could slide through them especially after someone applied wax. I started hating the place after my family forced me to join the Little Miss of 1999. We held our dance practice in the same tiled floor and unfortunately, I suck at dancing the same way a deaf person suck at hearing. Gah, I always dreaded those practices.
The corridor. Ah, the corridor my family has occupied for the last 27 years. My sister used to throw epic tantrums here, right in the middle. She would kick every chair in sight and if you make the mistake of putting them up again, she would go and lie on the concrete floor, bang her head and flail her extremities in unison while wailing like a pig about to be executed. And I am NOT exaggerating.
The sign. I would always be indebted to this name. Thanks to this canteen, my maternal grandparents were able to send all seven of their kids to school, one turned out to be a chemical engineer while another became a doctor of medicine. My mother was neither. She inherited the business and was able to give her four children comfortable lives.
The Sink. When I was in grade school, I gave the change of a one thousand peso bill to the wrong customer who was evil and dishonest enough to take the money and leave immediately. My mother was furious and she was scolding me in front of everyone. To shy away from the usisera customers, I hid in the comforts of our sink and pretended to wash the dishes while crying. haha.
Now only the cats live here. Seen in this picture is the barricade they used which the people tried to break down out of sheer anger or joy during New Year’s Eve in the midst of the fireworks display. The kids and adults alike kicking and forcing their way in, It was a fun scene.
The meat section. This was directly beside our canteen so next to our corner, this was where I hung out a lot. At dawn, you would see (and hear) a pig being killed and chopped on site. I have always been amazed by the skill the matadors show in removing the intestines and other internal organs of the poor creature. In the morning, the thud thud sound of knife on skin, flesh and bones would be heard at all times. My favorite part though was the way they make longganisa. When all meats have been sold, usually in the afternoon, the place would be full of flies, yes, house flies. There would be so many that my cousins and I, armed with a plastic bag captures a dozen or so with one swift motion. I later learned (especially in college) that this was very unhygienic but the younger me only cared for the fun she was having. Lastly at night, this place turns into a mini beer house because the tired meat vendors sit in for an ice cold beer or two (or one case) to end the day.
The stairs. There used to be a sari sari store under this stair, Aling Roling’s (or was it Rolyn’s?). Every kid in the block flocked it with our octagonal 2 peso coins because it sold all kinds of candies popular in the 90s, bazooka, MikMik, butterball and etc.
My Aunt’s corner. Me and my cousins used to play all sorts of games here. And I am having problems with my weight now because as early as 7 years old, I was having two dinners, one here (unknown to my mother) and one at home. hehe
There were a lot of other places I wanted to take a picture of but my mom was rushing me, saying she couldn’t stay long in the place. Hence, I’ll have to remember Luz’ Creations, Melba’s Grocery and other stalls from memory.
More than the place, I guess I will miss those whose income, like us, depended on the palengke. Here I encountered people from different walks of life which taught me at an early age that what you see is not always what you get. That college education and a degree doesn’t necessarily mean good manners. And that everyone has their own story to tell and those stories are sometimes not fit for the child that I was.
We live in a time where it is not important how much you have or how great you are. It is about how fast you cope and adapt to change because the world is ever changing in an exponential manner.