Sunday Lifestyle

Rediscovering weekend markets

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez Ventura - The Philippine Star

You probably don’t know this about me, but I love going to weekend markets. I used to sell at the San Lorenzo market but that market wasn’t enough for me. I think my favorite market from a long time ago was the Sidcor market, a Sunday market once located somewhere before Cubao. I loved it because it was the cheapest and it had everything you could ever want from a wide selection of food, to all sorts of plants, an interesting assortment of clothes, from underwear to shoes, jewelry, and secondhand goods — plates, glasses. It had everything.

But one day it moved to the Centris site. That’s the development of Lucio Tan close to the end of EDSA. Of course the pandemic closed it, together with the other markets. We fell into the quarantine quickly, easily, I guess out of fear of COVID-19 and the new laws that kept us at home or allowed us to go out fully masked with face shields. We couldn’t breathe. I simplified my life, went out only once a week to the supermarket and drugstore. Once a month I would put on all that facial gear and go to Quiapo to buy materials for the rosaries that I spent my time making. I lost track of weekend markets. Circumstances made me forget about them.

But lately things have changed. Now we can go out with simple masks that still stifle me but I take them off when I’m in the car. Then, as we hit May, a month I remembered as the season for fresh lychees, I remembered my weekend markets. I remembered that I found the most reasonably priced lychees at Centris, which is how I think of Sidcor now, and at the Annapolis Sunday market in Greenhills. I wondered if they had reopened. So one Sunday when I had a driver I asked him to find out if Annapolis was open. It was! Centris was too far for him to go but I remembered a friend of mine who also enjoyed shopping there. I asked him if Centris was open. He said, “Yes!”

I was thrilled! I couldn’t wait to shop at my favorite baker, the salad maker and the tapa man. These were my three staples at Centris. I could hardly wait for Sunday.

So finally I went to Centris once more. It has been open since after Easter, a sign said. When I walked in the first person I saw was Roderick Marfil. He was wearing a mask, as everyone was, but I recognized his voice. He had been my writing student and I was a customer of his wife. That day he was manning her stall with his daughter. “Marfil,” I said. “Yes?” he replied. I slid my mask down. “Barbara!” he exclaimed. We hugged. Old friends who hadn’t seen each other for at least two years! That’s what I had missed about Centris, or about all weekend markets. I had made many friends there and I hadn’t seen them all in a long while.

“Is the tall, thin, long-haired baker still here?” I asked, taking a swift look around. The market didn’t look as full of sellers as it used to.

“Gng. Bukid?” Rod asked. “No, they are not selling anymore.”

“Why not?” I lamented. They had the best bread. I loved their brioche and their sourdough. The tall, thin, long-haired baker wasn’t really the baker. It was his wife. But he was the one who manned their bread booth at Centris. I even tried their Maja Blanca and loved it. I wondered why they didn’t sell anymore. What had the quarantine done to them? I hope none of them got sick. I wish they would return with their wonderful breads.

“Try another baker,” Rod suggested, escorting me to another booth that sold brioche. I bought one called Cheesy Brioche and a bag of brioche dinner rolls, both of which I found delicious but not as good as the Gng. Bukid brioche, which was sold as a braided loaf and really was deliciously buttery. It had character. That’s how I would describe their baked goods. Everything they sold had character. But now they were gone.

The other food booth I tried to find was the one owned by a mestizo couple who sold galantina. I think I ordered that product only once but every Sunday I would buy from them an assortment of their Filipino salads. They were innovative. The lady would look at local vegetables and order her cooks to make different salads. I loved them all and missed them. I would order the salads I wanted from one of their girls. The husband was the accountant. He would compute what I owed and give change. I couldn’t find them either. I missed them. I hope none of them got sick.

And the tapa man? He, too, was gone. I used to love buying tapa from him. It tasted like the tapa my grandmother used to make.

My three main reasons for looking forward to Centris were gone. But somehow, others partially replaced them. I bought hummus, which I liked very much. I bought spaghetti with mushrooms and truffles from Matteo’s Pantry. Those were pretty good, too. I bought sushi and radish pickles from another source. My husband and I enjoyed those. But I bought caldereta from them and found it too sweet. Why do today’s cooks always put sugar in our meals? I cannot stand sweetened adobo, caldereta or spaghetti. I must find another source for caldereta, one of my husband’s favorite dishes.

But I could buy my lychees from Taiwan and I saw atis with big eyes. I also found the orchids I wanted for my tiny porch. I will buy them next week. The lady from whom I used to buy my eccentric clothes is back. I saw her but didn’t have a chance to look at the clothes. I will look again today. It’s Sunday and I will be there! It feels like I am alive again. Who would have thought that a Sunday market would have this effect on me?

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