The Philippine Wet Market: Allure beyond Mud and Personal Space

The wet market is a landmark in every town in the Philippines. It is where mothers, fathers, cooks, maids and anyone needing fresh ingredients buy their produce. Almost every household need, from food to clothes to school supplies to utensils and small appliances, the wet market has them all. The wet market is timeless: the old ways rarely change. The markets open at three or four in the morning when the fresh produce of the day gets delivered, or “bagsakan” as they call it. Pig and cow legs still hang on hooks in meat supplier’s stalls together with tripe, head, tongues and prime cuts. Fresh fish are gutted and cleaned for buyers, vegetables are charged right to the guhit (exact weight) and the place is jolting noisy. A happy noise; the noise of commerce.

The wet market is taken for granted, yet it is an essential part of the Filipino life. Even with grocery giants competing and opening strategic branches the wet markets stay a staunch institution. Perhaps it is the impression of groceries being commercialized and therefore more expensive. Perhaps because produce are sold packaged; one who has been taught to check freshness through touch and smell will have doubts. The markets are familiar, connected to the community’s pulse. The people are at times rude and some try to cheat, but most are generally helpful.

Most markets are cramped and needless to say wet. Buyers should be prepared to squeeze along crowded aisles full of buyers haggling over prices with sellers. This is also one of the best things about the wet market: you can canvas for the best produce and haggle down the price. Some shoppers see haggling as a kind of sport: the one who gets the best bang for the buck wins. However there is an unspoken rule when haggling: if you haggle for the price you want and the seller capitulates, you should buy the item. Don’t haggle for something if you are unsure of buying it. The seller has already gone out on a limb to give the lowest price possible, so don’t leave them hanging.

Divisoria Market is one of the oldest and one of Manila’s most popular wet markets. There are rows upon rows of stalls to buy from. Divisoria Mall, located within the market compound is the go to destination by anyone looking to save big on textiles, gowns, barongs, home fixtures, costume jewelry, clothes, shoes and others. The Christmas season shopping is notorious; starting early October up to thousands of people are shopping there at a single time.

The place is also teeming with pickpockets. As a precaution, one’s belongings should be watched over carefully. Bring only the essentials: money for buying, a face towel just in case it gets hot (it will), rubbing alcohol to disinfect your hands before you eat anything and your eco-friendly reusable shopping bag to carry your purchases. Put your wallet in a shoulder bag with a zipper and divide your money into at least two and keep them in separate places in your bag. Take out credit cards and important identification cards from your wallet just in case it gets stolen. Don’t leave your shopping bag or even put it down beside you without watching it: it will get stolen.

But: don’t let the previous paragraph intimidate you, the wonderful buys and bargain prices more than make up for the precautions you have to take!

Arranque Market along Soler Street in Manila is known for its offerings of uncommon produce and exotic animals. Need to buy fresh frog legs or tasty beltfish? Or looking for that cute pink toe tarantula to jump into your heart? Arranque market is where you’ll find them all. The pets section of the market also sells dogs, cats, rabbits, and aviary livestock.

Farmers Market in Cubao is a Quezon City shoppers’ favorite. It is in front of the Smart Araneta Coliseum and Gateway Mall. It is very accessible with good parking options. It is along EDSA bus routes and commuting accessibility to the MRT and LRT Cubao stations. The only thing that shoppers will complain about is the perpetual traffic along EDSA and the number of people taking the trains.

Suki Market along Dapitan Street boasts of food stalls that have wonderful cooked Chinese and Filipino foods. Some stalls also sell Japanese sushi served on different sizes of bilao, flat woven circular trays made from bamboo. Fresh produce are also available, but if you find yourself just wanting to eat, you can buy delicious chili and scallion crab, Chinese style roast pork leg, lemon chicken, tongue adobo and other mouth watering entrees. Plus, beside it across the road is the Dapitan Arcade, where one can find home furnishings at really cheap prices. However with the place’s popularity, it might be hard to find a parking space.

Mahogany Market in Tagaytay City is a beef lover’s paradise. Tagaytay has a lot of grazing plains and many cattle farmers. Buyers can be assured that the meat bought here are fresh; more often than not the meat was freshly butchered not more than a few hours ago. Aside from the wonderful beef, the market is also a great place to buy fresh vegetables grown from nearby farms.

The Philippine wet market is an experience all to itself. It is the perfect organized chaos. Not all markets are the same: each one has something unique to offer. So grab your wallet, go out there and buy your best bargain ever.

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One thought on “The Philippine Wet Market: Allure beyond Mud and Personal Space

  1. Pingback: A Girl in Manila | I Married An Angel

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