Saturday, May 7, 2011
IT IS TEN IN THE morning and it is so hot by the time we leave the cool cavern that is the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug, Cebu City. The WE are no other than cousins Jay de Paula, Albert Lavilles and me. Staying behind is Aunt Lourdes, Albert's mother. She has special visitors today – my mom Marietta and my aunt Evangeline, Jay's mama.
Albert is a naturalized Australian of Cebuano origin and I last saw him in the early '90s and that was a long long time ago. Since then he visits Cebu every now and then and I just can't cross paths with him. Not until today – November 22, 2010. Our meeting is already arranged by Jay's sister, Coy. It is very important for Albert to visit Carbon Market. Taking pictures of markets and places that are exotic to his adopted country is his passion and I am tasked to guide him there as well as protect his person and camera.
On the other hand, Jay is a frustrated basketball star, having shined his behind on the bench of the Santa Lucia basketball club. Not the pro club, pardon me, but a grassroots team somewhere in Barangay Tinago. But, despite possessing a pair of arthritic knees, Jay could do a Michael Jordan pirouette during a fastbreak or do a Tim Hardaway crossover dribble above the arc. Yeah, I'm telling the truth. Honest. And he will add his brawn today.
Anyways, we did go to the Carbon Market. But, first, I insist that we drop by at the Cebu Heritage Park in Pari-an. It is the first time that Albert saw the monument designed by the famous Filipino sculptor Reynaldo Castrillo. A short walk brought Albert to the Yap-San Diego Ancestral House at the corner of Mabini and Lopez Jaena streets.
Then we transfer to Freedom Park. Sitting right across is my alma mater (and of Jay's too) - the University of San Jose-Recoletos. Freedom Park is not a park anymore and it is converted to a dry market where you could buy flower bouquets, native crafts, cabinets, cribs, juju medicine, second-hand RTWs, etc. We cross a street and ogle at the stall lining the former Warwick Barracks with its wares of home-made hearths and lanterns, giant tansan1 basins, slippers and those things made in China.
We took a left turn to Escaño Street nearby the VECO Power Plant and Albert kept on putting pressure on his camera button and shoot whatever that took his fancy: poultry eggs, fresh seaweeds, laundry dyes, alum, peddlers, stalls, tobacco leaves, fighting spiders, etc. We cross MC Briones Street and go inside the wet market designated by city administrators as UNIT I.
I disdain visiting the wet market of Carbon because of filth and dirt but, today, it is a different matter. The unsightly makeshift stalls have been removed and fresh air could now move freely so it doesn't stink anymore. The floorings have been tiled and there is a semblance of hygiene. We saw a squad of market administrators doing their inspection rounds. That is fine. Former city mayor Tomas Osmeña did a good job overhauling Carbon.
The meat stalls are now more orderly and stall owners are much more organized. Greeting our eyes were small production shops, on the stalls themselves, of local sausages, known as chorizo. People are grinding pork meat, some are mixing spices and dye on the ground meat while others were stuffing the meat into cellulose-like intestines and tying a string around each segment and finally display the finished product!
Moving on, we saw more of the different red meat for sale like beef and goat; chicken were a-plenty too. What's interesting with these vendors selling meat and chicken is that nothing is wasted. Meaning the skins, the heads, paws, lungs and other innards, intestines, claws, the tails, the blood and anything in between can still be sold for there are many many ways how people cook it. We Cebuanos are very good at using these animal parts into something of a specialty. Yes, for every part there is a different way to cook.
Then on a neighboring section, fish, sea shells, crabs and prawns are sold. Rabbit fish, white mackerel, yellow-fin tuna are very common. Mussels and clams also. I could name a lot of fish and shellfish in Cebuano dialect but I am at a loss of how to give its English version. Haha... Anyways, Albert did get his shots of the sea critters that will soon be food on someone else's dining table. Now time to move on the other side of Carbon Market, this time to UNIT II.
This second building is dedicated to fruits and vegetables. Green and half-ripe mangoes of Guadalupe are so plentiful. Citrus fruits, coconuts and root crops too like sweet potatoes, taro, cassava, greater yam, ginger, carrots, radish and peanuts. Amidst all these are cabbage, breadfruit, spring onions, Malabar nightshades, sweet potato tops, cucumber, string beans, taro hearts, swamp radish, cayenne, bell peppers, camias2, soursop, tamarind, melon and Mambajao lanzones3. Albert didn't miss them all, it's still part of his system.
Now, we retrace our route and take a pee at a public toilet in Freedom Park. Despite the frequent washings and cosmetic appearance, the urine odor stuck to the wall, the tiles, the ceiling, the fluorescent bulbs, the electrical wires, even on our clothes, hair and nostrils. It stink! On the tiled floor is an orphaned brief that used to have an owner. Held my breath for as long as I could and I got my own version of the Guinness record for myself.
Thankful to get rid from that claustrophobic wetbox, I towed Albert and Jay to Magallanes Street and pushed them up and inside a horse-drawn carriage locally known as the tartanilla. The cart creaked and rocked as we settled in the wee seats where our knees crossed and touched each other's crotch then the jockey say something to the horse and it made a slow U-turn towards Tabo-an Market – our last destination.
Right after crossing Forbes Bridge and taking a right turn to B. Aranas Street, the tartanilla took on an easy roll. The steel shoe make a clop-clop-clop sound on the hot asphalt pavement and it is almost noontime. We cross busy C. Padilla Street and the horse showed consistency and discipline in evading careening vehicles and slowing down on street corners through the tug of the reins. All this time, I took a video from our starting point until the cart stopped infront of a dried-fish store. Word of caution: Do not do this if you are not street-smart.
I don't know how to eat dried fish and my palate is not in good terms with it. But today I am overwhelmed by the different types, colors and shapes of dried fishes. In one basket is a heap of anchovies; on another is a tinier variety. Over there is rabbitfish or “danggit” - everybody's favorite. Some basket contain dried-fish, tapa-style; while others contain either “toloy”, “mangsi” or “bodboron”. I see strange varieties of fishes, salted and dried. Over one corner is my favorite – the “pusit” or dried squid; right beside it is another dried-squid variety and another basket is full of dried shrimp.
Hanging on a post are dried tentacles of octopuses and dried skins of large fishes packed inside of plastic. Stacked neatly are bottles of pasted shellfish, sea urchins, crab, tiny shrimps and tiny fish. The place is swarmed by a sinister fish odor that is strangely pleasant and acceptable for humans on this side of the globe. I see Albert having a relapse of his asthma and sinusitis but Jay is enjoying this gastronomic delight. Me? I badly need a cold drink.
We could have spent more time were Albert have a day or two of stay; and he needs rest too. He and his mom just came from Labason, Zamboanga del Norte; a far-away place that takes a day of travel. Yes. But, for less than three hours, I have achieved more than what he has done visiting Cebu by himself or with another through the years!
By ten before twelve, we were now inside a taxi cruising back to the hotel. I drop by my place and that ended the less than three hours of the old-city market tours that produce valuable images for Albert. Enjoy the ride.
Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer
Images courtesy of Albert Lavilles
1Cebuano for tin bottle caps.