A Repository of Culture and History: The Palengke

Three Sundays ago, my family and I decided to have our brunch at the Lung Center Sunday Market. None of us have ever been to that weekend market but based on what we have heard, it was a good weekend market. The people who go there come from Quezon City’s middle class, and according to some, the choices are numerous and varied.

The former Lung Center Sunday Market has moved to a new place

However, on that fateful day, upon reaching the Lung Center, we were told that the market has already moved to another location. It was no located at a more commercial and more accessible plot of land near the corner of EDSA and Quezon Avenue. We had to make a U-turn to reach the new venue. The market, by the way, is managed by Sidcor.

It was a very hot day when we went to the “Lung Center” Sunday Market. We were all sweating profusely. There were limited tables and chairs, and the tents they used there absorbed a great deal of heat. Likewise, the place was bereft of trees unlike in Salcedo.

The new venue is in great needs of trees, grass and other natural cooling agents

But the products and goods sold in that market made us forget the sun and sweat. There were, indeed, a lot of choices. From steamed shrimps to Vigan empanadas, from roasted calf to lechon de leche, Sidcor’s no-frills market was a joyful experience. We enjoyed our brunch there and although the dishes we ordered were almost clashing (I had fresh lumpia with sea weed and empanada while my sister had lengua con champignon), we still had a wonderful time. Before going home, my parents ordered a whole native chicken and although it was quite pricey as compared to the estrogen-injected plump chickens in the supermarkets and ordinary wet markets, it was a good buy. When it was cooked for dinner ala adobo sa gata, it tasted gamy but tasty and savory.

Why then do I blog about this Sidcor Sunday Market? Well, for the simple reason that these are the kinds of destinations that continue to preserve and actively relive aspects of our heritage. One such aspect is going to the palengke or market. Up until a few decades ago, Filipinos did their household shopping in town markets. Here, local as well as foreign (as in products from other provinces or countries) are brought in by farmers, fishermen and businessmen to be bought and consumed by shoppers. From the freshest catch of the day to the fruits of the season, products in markets highlighted the bounties of Philippine seas, mountains, forests and plains.

This stall sells traditional Fil-Hispanic food🙂

But more than anything else, it was the interaction among shoppers and vendors that made the palengke a real living venue. The suki or patron/client culture was best seen in the palengke, where buyers and sellers become good friends. What happens is when a client often buys from the same vendor, that client would eventually become a suki. He/she would then be afforded some benefits such as being informed when the newest products would be arriving, or receiving some seasonal discounts. The suki is often accommodated before every one else, and is also held in esteem among others. However, it is also in the palengke where one gets his/her daily morning dose of gossip. Customers who talk about their neighbor while buying help disseminate information when the vendor hears the content of their gossiping. Thus, news in town spread like wildfire. The palengke (palenque) has been an old feature in the Philippines, and it began as simply an area in small towns where tables were lined up parallel to each other and on top of these were products being sold by indios and sangleys.

Stall of German and other European sausages.

Sadly, the heritage of the palengke has been replaced by the airconditioned supermarkets that have sprouted like mushrooms in our country. Most notable of these supermarkets is Henry Sy’s Save More, which I strongly believe, is a threat against the Filipino people. Although we could blame the eventual pollution (e.g. noise, smell, solid waste pollution) in palengkes as to why people have opted to abandon it, the solution is not the supermarket. There is nothing wrong with supermarkets, mind you. I buy so many things from the supermarket because these products aren’t offered in markets. But to have supermarkets everywhere, even beside local markets, is like murder. These big supermarkets that are not really franchises eat and kill the small businesses of small people. The suki culture is also dead in the efficiency of supermarkets. People only interact in supermarkets when they need something from aisle 8, when they pay or when they ask for an extra kilo of meat at the meat section.

YUM!

Supermarkets are also a banes to the environment because these make use of natural resources, and release more wastes. More plastics are use, and more cement is needed in building these. On the other hand, wet-markets need little maintenance, and utilize natural air and lighting more. The present problems with wet markets (rats, WET, pungent, etc) shouldn’t, however, deter local authorities or private owners from improving the markets. Indeed, it is a challenge to engage vision, innovation and imagination. Santa Ana Wet Market’s waste-water treatment facility is a good example that wet markets still have hope. Sadly, the same market is facing a gigantic competitor next door: an SM Save More. Boo.

Textiles stall

And then, there are the weekend markets such as Sidcor, Salcedo, Legaspi and Ayala Alabang. These, I believe, are the fine examples of how markets still gain relevance (not to mention, attractiveness) in today’s fast-paced world. Indeed, these live up to the ideal of town markets, where people get to know each other, mingle and enjoy fresh products. Here people spend mornings under the sun, and smell the different aromas of the different cooked and uncooked products. One can also avail of specialty dry goods in these weekend markets. The challenge now is for barangays to tidy up their own small talipapas or for cities to spruce up with plants their big wet markets. Now is the time for some real PEOPLE POWER against the big companies, which aim to monopolize and control almost every aspect of our lives with the banal MALL CULTURE. Enough of SM!

100 Pesos for this container of steamed shrimps!🙂

Laziness has no place in the realm of cultural heritage preservation, and the hustle and bustle of a good and lively palengke could attest to that!

The palengke is definitely hecho ayer.

About hechoayer

Things made yesterday still influence us until today. Things made today will influence us tomorrow. Things of the essence such as faith, culture, food, music and values should never disappear nor eroded by the times. Instead, these must be recorded, lived and shared. Something made yesterday - hecho ayer - can be tomorrow's saving grace. Never ignore the past.
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