Mourning the loss of old Malatapay market

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Another fond childhood memory of mine was going to the Malatapay market near the town of Zamboangita, about 10 miles south of Dumaguete City. It was always a special trip because the market is only open on Wednesdays and farmers, craftsman and fishermen converged on this tiny strip of beach to sell their goods.

For a kid who lived in the city there was plenty to see. The food was exotic — puso, rice cooked inside palm frond baskets; lechon, roast pig; kinilaw, the fresh catch of the day served raw in vinegar, ginger and coconut milk. Best of all it meant eating with your fingers like the farmers and fishermen did.

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The Malatapay of old is gone. In its stead is a carnival of merchants, tourists and hucksters all angling for a piece of what this market used to be. It is crowded, noisy and smells like a market.

There was a line to board a boat to Apo Island where a fish sanctuary is located. A parking lot near the beach was bumper to bumper with cars from the city. Medicinal remedy hucksters made their pitched through the scratchy blare of speakers mounted high up on wooden poles. Just getting to the beach was a bit of a hike with stalls lining every inch of the half-mile road.

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The innocence of old Malatapay is dead. Today it takes a determined effort to blunt the advances of jewelry vendors as they follow you around. “Sir pearls from Zamboanga sir,” they say as they tap you on the shoulder. One can be seen cornering a tourist at the end of the jetty and making his pitch. They are everywhere it seems.

I suppose Malatapay was established as a market where fishermen could bring in their catch. It was a good place for framers to bring in their produce to barter for fresh fish or dry goods. People from the city learned there were deals to be had. Everyone could enjoy fresh fish prepared the way the fishermen like to eat. It was a place to relax and meet people.

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Well, not anymore. But it is still a place to get a deal on salted dried fish, livestock and farming tools. The eateries now offer “videoke” — karaoke off a television screen set on a bamboo table in the middle of the cafe. The pace is a lot more hectic and foreigners from nearby dive resorts mingle with the locals in search of a good buy.

Thank you for the memories Malatapay. I shall remember you the way you were.

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