I usually start at the fish section, the Baguio Public Market isn’t exactly as organized as a boring supermarket – though there’s only one area where they sell coffee, the other sections recur in different places.
“Tatlong lingo ka nang hindi nag-uulam ng tilapia,” my suki scolds me at the top of her voice when she saw me approaching from a good 50 meters away. I didn’t plan to buy tilapia that day, but to appease her, I get a kilo. Her sister in the next stall silently smiles at me – from her I buy three pieces of boneless bangus. I call them Ms. Tilapia and Ms. Bangus. “Ang galing talaga ng mga taga-Baguio, ‘no?” I raise both eyebrows, not exactly knowing what she’s talking about. “Biro mo, tatlong taga-Baguio ang nakapasok sa Pilipinas Got Talent.” Ahhh, ok. I smile and agree with her. “Mabait na bata ‘yang si Karen,” she continued, “bata pa lang ‘yan kilala ko na ‘yan. Kapitbahay kasi namin sila sa Quezon Hill.” I paid for both the tilapia and the bangus, and I turned to go. “O, baka tatlong lingo na naman bago ka bumili ulit sa’kin!” Ms. Tilapia chided me. I smiled at her and, “Malamang,” I said.
Behind them is where I get other varieties of fish – tuna, blue marlin, maya-maya. Today’s batch didn’t really look fresh, so I moved on to where I get my chicken where I picked a whole chicken big enough to feed all five of us at home but not too big to fit in our rotisserie. I get another kilo of leg quarters for adobo too. “Hindi ka ba kukuha ng liver?” Why not, so I told her to give me a quarter of a kilo, and politely told the little boy offering big plastic bags to put all my purchases in that no, thank you, not today, I have my bayong.
I walk past the first vegetable section, I prefer buying my greens from the hangar vegetable section. But I do stop by “GrandFa’s” for a few blocks of freshly made tofu.
Just a few paces further, I buy a bunch of bananas and some avocado and along that same row, I get my ingredients for laing – dried gabi leaves, stalks, and a bag of niyog. I smelled basil while waiting for the guy to finish grating the coconut, just behind me was lady with whole sack of basil leaves. P40 per kilo, that’s whole lot of pesto!
At the coffee place, I placed my usual order of half a kilo of Benguet coffee, fine ground. I also got a bag of muscovado. While waiting for them to finish grinding the coffee, the coffee lady asked me to come closer, and amidst the din of roasted coffee beans being pulverized in an industrial coffee grinder, she said, “Huwag kang titingin kaagad, pero ingatan mo ‘yung wallet at cellphone mo, kanina ka pa minamanmanan nung dalawang lalake doon sa kanto.” Discreetly, I turned to look and true enough, there they were, I looked them in the eye, and they immediately turned around and pretended to look at the merchandise right behind them. I stuffed my wallet in my front pocket and moved on.
Ice lettuce, regular lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and garlic, some carrots and broccoli and a bag of shitake mushrooms. My bayong was almost full already, and much heavier. Time to check out the ukay-ukay at Hilltop. There were bags, shoes, pants laid out on the road – ladies’ leather boots in good condition selling for P50.00. I wasn’t sure if they’re my wife’s size, but I get them anyway. If they don’t fit her, then we can give the boots as a gift to a friend. Cleats for the boys, football jerseys for the girls. That’s enough for now. I buy a couple of strips of rubber for the leak in our pipeline.
I walk down to where I started – just above the fish section is where I get my meats - I get some porkchops, some ground beef to go with the 3 kilos of tomatoes I got (atP10.00 per kilo!) for the pasta sauce I wanted that night, and some beef for nilaga (and asked the butcher for a few extra slabs of fat, which he gives to me for free).
Last stop, a bouquet of rosal for the bathroom and newspaper. There’s a long line at the jeepney stop, but in just five minutes I was already seated inside a San Luis jeep, reading the day’s headlines on my way home.
The Baguio City Public Market, one of Baguio’s treasures.