I have always been fascinated with the "palengke" or the public market. In fact, my trips to different Philippine destinations have always included the "palengke" in my itinerary. I guess the cheap and interesting finds in public markets and the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the community's culture and life has always attracted me to check it out. I have a theory that the "palengke" of a town or city has a distinct character that mirrors that of the community.
This is the same reason why I have decided to start a segment on my travel blog that will work on checking out public markets - discover the unique finds, look into its development and how it is affected by the advancements in the community, and try to undestand what makes it unique. In the end, I would like to understand and learn something new about the community through their "palengke".
I decided to kick-off my Palengke Attack with a public market that I frequent almost every week - the Baguio City Public Market. My family is based in Baguio City and my weekends are usually spent in the city of pines. Weekend itinerary usually includes the market where I get my favorites - coffee grounds, longganisa, fresh flowers, fresh vegetables, and other Baguio produce. Going around and getting through the market's nooks and crannies can be exciting and can be quite an adventure in itself.
The Baguio City Public Market is located at the lower end of Session Road and it occupies a huge land area that covers an old mall and the stretch of Magsaysay Avenue. Clothes, both new and pre-owned, souvenir items, and fresh produce are the things that you can find in this city's market. I would consider the Baguio City Public Market a tourist market as it is an attraction in itself with tourists visiting the market before heading home.
The market is divided into four areas: the main market, Marbay/Maharlika, Hangar, and Hilltop.
Marbay / Maharlika
Maharlika and Marbay are located at the corner of Harrison corner Magsaysay Streets. Maharlika is a multilevel building that houses both offices, cellphone shops, and service shops and can be considered as one of the oldest malls in the city. I remember when I was still a child going to Maharlika's basement when my mom goes to the market so I can enjoy kiddie rides at Maharlika's basement. Now, it houses beauty parlors, clinic, tailoring shops, optical shops, and other specialty shops.
Adjacent to Maharlika is Marbay - the older building. The one-storey building is a haven for tourists as it houses a lot of souvenir shops. You can find Baguio printed shirts and sweaters, local handicrafts, wood carvings, silver jewelries, and Baguio sweets. A good find in Marbay are knitted items - sweaters, vest, bonnets, mittens, etc. Prices are reasonable and are a lot cheaper compared to the shops located in tourist spots in the city so I suggest that you hold the scouting for souvenir items until you get to Marbay.
Adjacent to Marbay is the main market of the city. If you are looking for fresh produce, PX items, souvenir items, etc. then the main market your place. The front of the main market is a tourist lane. Again, souvenir shops can be found along this stretch. Baguio brooms, rattan items, and Baguio sweets can be found here. The prices here are probably the cheapest in the city so bring your haggling skills with you. Best find is the Tamtanco's Ube.
The end of the stretch is where you can buy fresh vegetables and fruits. There are stalls that sell vegetables on a per kilo basis but there are also vendors that sell pre-packed vegetables for the price of a hundred pesos. Strawberries, if in season, can also be bought here. But if you have extra time, hold off from buying vegetables for later.
The tourist lane have alleys behind it and I challenge you to explore it, as well. You will be surprised as to what you will discover along these alleys - PX goods. PX or Post Exchange goods are imported products, mostly from the US, that are sold at a relatively cheaper price. The alleys behind the tourist lanes yield a lot of these products ranging from health supplements to baby wipes. Again, learn to haggle with the vendors.
Behind the tourist lane building stands the wet market - this is the center of the market where fresh fish, chicken, and meat are being sold. So if you are the tourist where you opted to rent a house for vacation and would be needing daily fresh supplies for the kitchen, this is the place that you need to visit. The old building of the market is still functional but adjacent to it is a newly constructed structure that would give the market a fresher look. A great find in here is the Alabanza Longganisa. Now...there are two types of longganisa - the red one is the sweet variant and the brown one is garlic-flavored. I suggest that you get both as I highly recommend both. The Alabanza Meat Stall is located at the 2nd floor of the old market.
I still cannot figure it out why the place is called Hangar and I have asked around but no one can give me the exact reason as to why the place is called as such. But this section of the market holds a lot of great finds. First on the list...flowers! Flower lovers and enthusiasts will have a fill as you can get a variety of flowers at a really cheap price. Roses fetch about Php75 a dozen or Astromela for Php20 a bunch. Again, your haggling skills can do a lot of wonders. Inform the stall owners that you will be bringing the flowers to Manila so they can wrap it properly.
As you reach the end of the "flower" alley, you will find a steep staircase that leads to the vegetable alley of the market. But just before you cross over, follow the strong aroma of fresh coffee grinds. Coffee lovers will definitely enjoy the different coffee variants to choose from at a lower price compared to what we buy at supermarkets. Garcia's Coffee is my preferred stall when I buy my coffee grounds. A quarter of a kilo fetches about Php80. A definite must to bring home from Baguio City!
Now if you intend to bring home tons of vegetables from the city of pines then head off to the vegetable alley in Hangar. This first floor of the building houses vegetable suppliers hence the prices are relatively cheaper compared to those being sold at the tourist lanes as most of the pre-packed vegetables come from here. Vegetables are weighed compared to the pre-packed sold at the front. So if you intend to bring more vegetables than usual then you need to drop by this area but just be ready to maneuver through small walkways of the building.
Hilltop is the highest point of the market hence the name. Apart from vegetables and the cool climate of Baguio, another "attraction" of Baguio is "ukay-ukay". For those who are not familiar with it, "ukay-ukay" are pre-loved clothes that you get at a very low price. Now...you do get a lot of great finds if you are persevering enough to dig into a wide selection that is laid out along the streets. If you get lucky, you can even get a branded apparel that still have their tags on. The phenomenon, as I call it, have resulted to the sprouting of different shops that offer these apparels but Hilltop is still the best area to scout for ukay-ukay.
The Baguio City Public Market has survived despite the presence of bigger and more convenient malls because of two things - local following and tourists. These two things made a difference in making the old but still existing businesses to flourish despite of the presence of malls. Locals still prefer to head off to the market to do their daily or weekly market chores which is cheaper.
Furthermore, the city's market is a tourist market that attracts thousands of tourists who visit the city every month making it conducive for small and medium enterprises to grow their business to cater to this demand. It has turned the market into a tourist destination in the city making it a presence that is bound to stay.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.