June 24, 2024

In a few years, months, days or so, the “old” Baguio market, which we homegrown kids knew, would be extinct like a dinosaur to give way to a mostrosity of modern times – a mall.
It appears that the market’s rehabilitation and modernization is moving forward as SM Prime Holdings was awarded the original proponent status (OPS) last week.
As kids, the market was one of our favorite playgrounds while waiting for my late father Art to finish work at the old Pines Theater. When he needed to smoke his Salem stateside cigarettes, he would buy it himself or send us to the PX section where the Panglao, Sumali, Cunanan, Valeriano, Calara, and other families ruled. There, one could buy Kisses, Muskeeters, Milky Way, and other imported chocolates made in the land of the milk and honey.
For viand and other basic food, there was the wet and dry section, where manong Lalong, the Diomampos, and mang Mulong Brilliantes sold fish and its by-products.
There were stalls for clothing, household goods, strawberry jam, and even souvenirs of the Culatons.
Vegetables were aplenty at the hangar market and at Block 4.
The Hilltop section was clean and orderly, vendors disciplined. Everyone was familiar with each other and all elders were addressed “uncle” or “aunty” by us kids.
The carinderia section atop the fish and meat sections was the best place to eat porkchops and that’s where King Art took me and my brother Eric for brunch or lunch.
Speaking of the meat section, there was the Arellano Meat Shop (Morlous) and later on those of Alabanza, Sembrano, and even the Alvars.
If one wanted cheap quality shoes of the Ang Tibay brand, go to Berting’s Shoe Store.
If you go farther, you would reach the lechon stalls and buy the favorite Filipino dish per kilo.
You wanted fruits or more veggies, go to ate Bebot (Cerezo), the Tolentino, Bernabe or Garcia fruit stands or that of the late Monica Ronquillo Ng (wife of Ng Pee and mother of Pemoel Ng).
Coffee of all kinds – Benguet, Kalinga were sold near the rice section – an area where one can buy quality rice depending on the budget for the day.
It was a good, old fashioned market, not really out of the ordinary. It worked as a “palengke” that it should be, smelled like one and even if the alleys looked like a jigsaw puzzle and a mystery to solve for visitors and first timers, it was the “Baguio people’s market.” The vendors were honest and did not put one over the buyers whether local or tourist. No daylight robbery here.
I remember the stone walls of the market.My grandfather who operated the first jeepneys in Trancoville said the walls survived the World War II bombing of friends and foes, Americans and Japanese. The stone section is where we bought Army surplus uniforms, leggings, leather jackets, canteens, mess kits and us naughty kids the two-bladed “balisong” which we tucked in our pants but never got to use, by the way. It survived the war and was repaired until a fire hit it in the 1970s.
I remember the fire and we gawked and watched as the helpless victims tried to retrieve as much as they can. Instead of repairing it to its original state, it was demolished and Mar-Bay Corp. came in and built what was intended as a commercial complex with the imprimatur of then First Lady Imelda Marcos who was minister of Human Settlements. The foundation was super strong and had engineering rollers underneath. It saved a lot of tenants during the 1990 earthquake. It ended up as a five-story center called Maharlika which of course is home to Musar for over two decades now.
Baguio was designed as a rest and recreation area by the Americans but since then it’s population grew and indeed comes a necessity for market development to improve spaces, the water, drainage, and waste disposal systems.
While giving up the vestiges of the city’s historically important structure may be a move which the God’s in the local government unit want, for the “real” people of Baguio who matter, it may not be what they want. There must be a better option, or other courses of action.
Back to wearing the fighting boots soon, I guess.
I go back to the old picture frames of the market we knew, see what is there to come. I silently weep in my mind without a whimper of a muffled sound, mourn the eventual end of an era. What has become of the market, the city? Sigh, cry.