June 5, 2023

One of the jewels of our city that defines its character and brings unforgettable memories to residents and visitors is the public market. Time was when Baguio market was the melting pot of cultures drawn from the lowlands and highlands as showcased in the variety of products brought by vendors and traders from as far as southern Mindanao, to as far as Ilocos Norte, and in the Cordillera. Baguio is in the midland area.
The products for sale were systematically arranged in a way that those who go to the market could easily proceed to the particular section where the products they want are found and neatly arranged. Thus, it has the meat and fish section, vegetables and fruits section, rice section, sari-sari and PX stores section, tobacco, caldero and coffee section, dry goods section.
Curio shops where paintings of local artists were displayed for sale, as well as, gold and silver jewelry sold by curio shops lined up the alleys of the iconic stone building where they were housed. Surrounding the stone building were flower shops and newsstands, coffee counter, shoe-shine stand, sweepstakes booths, handicrafts stores, and a pharmacy. The carinderia section can also be found on the second floor of the meat and fish section. Native wines specifically tapuy and basi could be found on the stores at inner side portion of the fish section.
A regular shopper in the market would then easily identify where in the Philippines the products came from. Thus, the fresh fish and seafoods were mostly from Pangasinan, the fresh beef and pork meats were mostly from Benguet and nearby provinces, vegetables and fruits from Benguet and Ilocos provinces, caldero, kitchen utensils, bolos and knives from Batangas; coffee varieties from Batangas and Benguet; tobacco from the Ilocos Region, rice from central Luzon and the Cordillera; souvenir items from Baguio and the Cordillera; native delicacies from the different regions in Luzon; basi from La Union and tapuy from Benguet. At the carinderia section, one could have a fill of different kinds of meals authentically cooked by the Ilocanos, Tagalogs, Kapampangans, Pangasinenses, Visayans, etc.
The public market had a clean and friendly atmosphere. The smell of fresh fruits and vegetables met those who go to the market together with the greetings of courteous and neat vendors who spoke in English when necessary. The vendors were kind and honest to the extent that they could give in to the tawad of the buyer and give extra products to their suki.
The vendors were helpful and happy and would always have time to give new visitors directions to places of interest and suggesting spots for sightseeing. Bag boys or komboys were ready and available to carry the bags of goods on their wooden kariton for a reasonable fee.
Thus, a visitor to the public market gave them pleasant memories that they brought home to their families in the different parts of the country and even abroad. That image of clean, courteous, honest and happy marketplace reflected on the city through the years, giving it that rustic ambience that had been one of the reasons why visitors return to Baguio.
Bearing this in mind, we find it disheartening that these pleasant memories that have defined the character of our city is being threatened to be obliterated by another monstrous commercial box at the heart of Baguio. As if Baguio was not yet saturated with concrete buildings and malls that have, in fact, threatened its ecological balance, now, here comes another one.
We are not blind to the reality that the public market needs to be rehabilitated and improved, but not at the expense of killing Baguio’s pride and joy. Modernity and high technology must blend with the culture of the place. Any project development that affects Baguio needs this serious consideration by our aldermen at City Hall in consultation with their constituents. It is not yet too late to consider other proposals available to our city.
Perhaps, to prove the capability of Baguio that had been enjoying surplus income in the past years and the goodwill generated by the good performance of our present leadership, it can pursue on its own the rehabilitation and improvement of the public market.
A bond flotation scheme which shall involve our residents, the stakeholders, to contribute and put their money where their mouths are. We are certain that thousands of former Baguio residents now living abroad will invest heavily because they still have Baguio at heart. The memories of Baguio of their youths shall move them to this beckon call.
Impossible? Of course not, look at what the Burnham Park Fencing Foundation accomplished through the contributions here and abroad. It only needs grit and determination to pursue a dream. — DEL CLARAVALL