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Memories of old Baguio
The life of a Market Lady – Part 1

One of two children of Pedro Catacutan and Andrea Espino from Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, the young girl arrived in Baguio City at age 11 in 1936. Her father was employed by an American Mr. Souganoff to be chief inspector of the Rural Transit bus lines that would ply the routes going to the mines in Benguet and neighboring provinces of the Cordillera. The bus terminal was in front of the present DBP and Tiongsan Department Store, now a garden triangle.

Her first image of Baguio was a city full of pine trees and cold; much colder than it is now. She was enrolled in grade 7 in 1937 at the Baguio Central School and she remembers Mr. Herrin, who was the principal. She completed her elementary education in 1938 and graduation was held at Baguio City Auditorium. She recalls having a classmate whose surname was Bernal.

Growing up, she remembers helping her mother sell products her mother bought from her travels to her home province Nueva Ecija and neighboring towns in Benguet and Pangasinan in a makeshift store in the vicinity of the old stone market abutting Kayang Street.

The old stone market had a vacant space at its left side where the market children could play during the day and at night, they would go to the skating rink in front of the City Auditorium.

She recalls residing at Abanao Road in the Yandoc Apartments, then General Luna where the Reygas Apartments were. They resided with relatives Gonzales and Bayuga at General Luna fronting Upper Mabini. Being in the market after school, selling mostly fruits like bananas, apples, oranges, guavas, lunch was at the old carinderia where they had full meals costing 50 centavos. In her words “mura ang mabuhay nuon.”

Cost of living was cheap as a peso coin then could buy rice, meat, fish, sugar a day. An apple would sell at 10 centavos. No money needed for transportation as Baguio was a walking city then. She enrolled at St. Louis Girls High for her secondary education but finished only her second year high school due to poor health. When World War II broke out and the city was occupied by the Japanese, her family had their own makeshift store at General Luna. Market life was normal as she remembers the Japanese soldiers were in her words “mabait.” They had no bad experience with the Japanese soldiers.

She recalls that Baguio was destroyed during the carpet bombing by the Americans while liberating the city. The market was the lifeblood of the city so the vendors stopped selling only during the carpet bombing and resumed trade after the incident. (To be continued)

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