Saturday, July 11, 2009

The market place.


Yesterday morning I woke up at 4 AM to go with my neighbor to a wet market. She told me about this certain market which is open only during the early morning, where food seller from nearby city come to buy their daily stock at prices half of any other market.

When we got there, I saw a bustling market. The place overflowed with activity as people gears up for another day. Other seller spill out onto the street, and parked vehicles take up a lane off the road. Jeepneys stream by, slowing down just long enough for people to jump off carrying their baskets.

Exploring the market is an assault on the senses. I start off with a bang in the meat section and my eyes were stunned by row of freshly killed pigs lying split open and spread-eagle on tables. My ears can hear the chomp-chomp sound of shirtless men, knife holster strapped to their waist, hacking at bone with their razor sharp knives and slicing the dead pigs into pieces. It's an orgy of bloody body parts everywhere. Pigs head, all with the same anguished expression are piled on top of one another. Intestines, giant livers, stomach and legs hang from hooks.

The icing on the cake as far as the senses go is the smell. The sense of smell tells you that what you are seeing and what you are hearing is all very real. In the meat section, a harsh and rank smell of blood and flesh fills the warm air.


In the fish section, the bountiful catch of every kind of fish imaginable is on display.Long skinny fish, big fat fish, colorful fish, are all inside tubs of ice water.The water spills onto the ground making walking a bit perilous (was it why it's called "wet market"?).

Around me people, many of whom, carries bucket filled with fish jostle for space in the narrow lane and it is difficult to tell who is selling and who is buying. Amidst all the sellers, other people walk up and down peddling everything from rice cakes, coffee, plastic bags, fresh pancakes, towels, and many more.


Next I walk over to the friendliest and most colorful area: fruits and vegetables. My country has the most incredible amount of fruits and vegetables you will ever see. Different kinds of eggplants, shredded bamboo shoot, several varieties of potatoes, white and purple onion, thick orange carrots, squash, pumpkins, cabbage, tomatoes, yellow banana, green banana, leaves of banana, trunk of banana trees, piles and piles of ripe green water melon, bright yellow mangoes, bundle of white garlic and other spices. The selection made me realize how resourceful we Filipinos are. Everything has a use in my country and absolutely nothing goes to waste.

My bag, now heavy with fresh food and daybreak coming, I walk through the mass towards the parking area. I listen to the sounds. Indeed, market have such a great sounds - people haggling over prices, sellers barking, people shuffling and running from place to place.

It is the sound of life at its core!

There is nothing high tech here. It is just people bringing the food to the people, who will then bring it to the rest of every household table. Market places are the pulse of every city.

As the darkness heads towards dawn, the action of the market mixes with the now waking city. The day's first streak of light appears in the sky.

I stare once again at the awfulness around me. It made me realize that amidst the squalor and loneliness of the city night there is life.

There is bounty.

And with it Manila gets set to explode in its daily frenzy.

14 comments:

NEO-CONDUIT said...

Now that is a feeling of being alive. Wow your city never seems to sleep. In a way that is comforting.
Here after 11.pm (except for Friday/ Saturday nights)he streets are deserted, its hard to find anywhere to go apart from the odd snooker bar, or 24 hour supermarket, petrol station, or Mc Donalds. Boring, is the only word I can come up with.

I miss living at times in a City like London, where its not as busy as your City but people are still out and about.

Tantilising post Odette, even if my nose would probably explode with the smells!!!

Love
K
xoxoxo

Odette said...

Kirst,
you wouldn't dare go near one because the smell alone is repulsive. even with eyes close you will know if you passed by a market place because of the awful smell emitting within a 5 mile radius. this place i go to when i am on a tight budget, otherwise i can buy from an air-conditoned supermarket.
love,
xoxoxoxo

Tracey said...

Brilliantly described Odette, I actually felt sick! Now I can't get the images of the pigs out of my mind. LOL
xxx

Odette said...

Tracey,
i haven't even described the cow, the carabao(water bufallo) and the goat's meat!!!
would you be surprise to see a snake being sold in the market as food? or do you wanna puke now? hahaha!
xoxoxoxo

Boysie Gonzaga said...

One thing I like about our local wet market are the sights, sounds and smell of everything real. You can go to the wet market in khaki shorts, havaianas and old tattered t-shir and nobody seems to mind. You can sample delicacies for free. You can bargain and haggle. You can meet friends, talk loudly and guffaw to your hearts content... nobody cares. So casual and so at ease. LOL!

Sid Brechin said...

We have such things here as well but they are not open to the public. I imagine most citys world wide have them. The wet means fresh. It is where Restauants shop for their food for the day. As well as many small Grocer's. Here it is much larger and even the major Grocery chains shop there. Years ago we had farmers markets and I used to be taken to one to shop every Saturday by my Grandparents if we were not at the Cottage. If we were we went to the one in the city closest to the cottage. Today they are few and far between but I do miss them. You saw things you see nowhere else.

joy oh said...

uggh sa pork section! last month we went looking for pork in a market that caters more to mongolians than expats. no pork, nor beef at that place. instead rows of stalls selling mutton. the smell was nothing like that manila wet market as you described. its a hundred fold worse.

the fruits and veggie sections of the markets in indochina and india i would say has a wider variety of produce than ours in the philippines. they have the same as ours, and more. they have both tropical as well as temperate fruits and veggies. plus herbs and spices that we don't have. but the explosion of colors in ours is just as pretty.

when i get to a new place, priority visits when i have time to spare (ie. if work schedule allows and other than the mandatory museums and touristy spots) are: churches and local markets .. first one is to connect with pinoys, the second is to catch a glimpse of the mass culture.

boysie, havaianas! hahaha! more like beach walk or spartan, if indeed spartan is still around.

Amy said...

oooh, i would be sick with those smells. how can you get up that early and go out and face those smells, lol? now i know what you meant earlier on msn about mums comment making you laugh!!

talk soon xxxxxxxxx

Mimi said...

Hey Odette!
Talk about fresh!
It sounds like an interesting place to shop. The smell of flesh and blood must be over powering, but I guess after a bit, you'd grow used to it. I grew up on a farm,so I wouldn't be shocked or repulsed. I bet Gordon Ramsey would shop there if he came to visit.
What goodies did you cook with your fresh finds?
Hugs, Mimi

Odette said...

Boysie, Joy,
we all grew up going to the wet market with our parents, in my case, my grandma. i would always volunteer to come because i know i can have my fill of sweets, and i had learned the art of haggling from those rendezvous, hahaha!
joy, i have seen the market in india and i have seen piles and piles of spices but not much variety of fruits. maybe i was in the wrong section, no?
xoxoxoxox

Odette said...

Mimi,
i bought a week's supply of food, so when i got home i just cleaned them and store in the fridge. i had enjoyed the grilled fish at dinner, though.
xoxoxoxo

Odette said...

Sid,
we also have farmer's market but the real star in that market are not farm produced but the sea bounty. it is where one will get the freshest fish and other seafoods. i'll bring you there too, so marked it as amomg the "must-see" ok?
xoxoxoxo

Angry American said...

I've seen fish markets from Japan on tv. It shocked me how the fish were just lieing all over the place with no supervision. People can go anywhere and pick out any kind of fish without anybody watching. You could never do that here.

In the U.S. we have lots of areas in differetn cities we call "China Towns" and "Little Italys" and "Slovok Villages". These places each have their own stores and markets. They sell their own ethnic products and foods and even spices.

The main difference is how they're run. Any stands outside have to be watched very closely. Sure, you have the occasional kid who might snitch an apple as they walk by.

But, the real problem is the niggers. They'll literally steal a truck load then open a "mini market" in the ghetto. Then they'll lie and tell you "it be fresh off da boat yo".

It's one of those things that makes me almost ashamed to be an american.

Odette said...

AA,
then you should see how the avatans leave their stores unattended. the buyer will just get the items he need and leave the payment there. if the money need a change, he will write what he took and leave a message. then he can come back the next day and he will get his change in the counter attached to the note.

very recently a filipina who lost a job in hongkong had to resort to scavenging through the trash when she stumbled upon a stash of money worth over 2million pesos. she seek the owner and return the money to him. in return she got a a pack of biscuit as a reward.
her good deed however did not pass unnoticed coz our govt. had shouldered her plane ticket back to the country.

of course, there will always be robbers, but maybe not as blatant as the gangstah bro and sistah in your country.

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