After 15 Years I Visited a Wet Market in the Philippines
I remember this wet market is a common scene for me when I was growing up. My mom always ask me to come with her when she buys our food for the week whether it is in Balintawak, Muñoz, Nepa Q Mart, Farmers Market in Cubao and Baguio City Market. Initially I hated it as it was usually wet and muddy plus I have to carry a lot of plastic bag that contain kilograms of meat and vegetables. That experience contributed to my knowledge in cooking and picking my ingredients, just by looking at how my mom buys her stuff I started to acquire the knowledge. How to the pick the juiciest watermelon, a good creamy coconut, a sticky squash and even a good meat cut are some of the skills that I unconsciously learned from that experience.
Then she left for Switzerland and I have to live on my own at a young age, too young for first world countries which is considered illegal. Trained to be living alone with a house helper at thirteen and totally independent at sixteen years old, I did sometimes hated that situation but as I grow older I understood the need, growing up with a single parent is hard and money has to be earned somewhere not in the Philippines so I can live a comfortable life. That experience made me as what I am today and I am happy with it, I guess without that I would not learn how to cook or even buy my food, probably resorting to fast food items.
Years forward, I am enjoying going to wet markets, in fact when I got married this was a part of our weekly schedule, visiting the market to buy for our whole week. I enjoyed it and as time progresses from wet markets it became supermarkets with proper butchers and fishmongers, still enjoyable sans the mud and water. We then moved overseas and wet market was a thing of the past, forgotten apart from once in a while visit to Pasar Besar Cempaka when we used to live in Petaling Jaya in Malaysia, this is the place where I get my non-halal meats like pork.
Then we moved on to New Zealand where there are no wet markets, only supermarkets and occasional farmers markets, I started to miss them, then we had an emergency trip to the Philippines. I never imagined that I will be back in the wet market, they even said when we planned to go into one whether I am sure I want to do it, in my mind I said definitely, I miss the chaos of what a wet market it like.
Fifteen years later I am in a wet market buying stuff for a feast, pigs face anyone? fresh birds chillies, odd leafy vegetables, shaped jellies and even tropical vegetables these are the things I cannot easily buy in New Zealand. It was still muddy, still wet, still chaotic, the haggling was still there and I enjoy that, where the seller offers you 300 pesos and buy them at almost half the price. It was the same old wet market experience, where I am presented with many options of one thing, sellers trying to get a sale out of you, numb fingers because of carrying tons of heavy plastic bags, occasional mud on your feet and the usual stench of different fresh meats on a humid environment, it was good in my own ways.
After the markets we also head up into a supermarket, unlike here where Pak n Save is the biggest, the one we visited is a medium sized one, still way much bigger than Pak n Save and millions of options. It was good only on occasional times but I would now be stressed choosing one type of product with hundreds of brands. Here if you want a peanut butter you will only have a maximum of 5 options in most times, in the Philippines there might be at least 10 or more. I tried to buy most of the ones I enjoy as a child and like a child just put everything in my shopping basket without thinking twice.
Till we meet again, we have to go back home here in New Zealand but I will make sure the next time I come back here in the Philippines I will visit wet markets again, and if my daughter wants to experience it, I will tag her along. It’s a different experience that you don’t usually try especially when you live in a country like where I am now.
I miss the jumping shrimps but hate the slaughtering of chicken with the blood splattering. My lola used to get the hens who have past their prime from her backyard coop, then reserve the brains for misua soup.
Wonderful post, Raymund.
Like the one we have here. These markets are absolutely vibrant, bursting with colours.