Thursday, September 20, 2007
There’s more to Farmers Market than meets the eye.
It is easy to take note of Farmers as one of the few dainty markets the Metropolitan Manila can be proud of. More so with the competitive prices of products despite Farmers’ reputation as a bourgeois market. Noticeable too is its strategic location; it is right next to the super-busy area of EDSA Cubao, Quezon City, so the throng of people in the market resembles a queue going to the box-office. All these would pale compared to the little known fact that the market is peopled by happy workers, merchants and laborers alike.
Picture a typical market and what looms before you is a place where noise, garbage and disorder thrive. As a market, Farmers has a share of all these, but not so. Credit it to the spacious setup and aisles as well as the organized way in which stalls are maintained and waste disposal is managed. Along the side adjacent to the popular mall Farmers shares its name with may be found the dry merchandises for sari-sari (all and sundry) stores. Name the product and the vendors have it, be it junk foods which kids love, kitchen condiments or canned goods. A little further toward the imposing dome of the Araneta Coliseum are stalls for baked products and fabrics. Sales staff may be seen preparing hopia straight from the improvised oven or manning glassed products of mouth-watering Spanish breads, loaves, chocolate cakes and quickmelt ensaymadas. On the other hand, fabric stores imitate imperial laundryhouses with the colorful array of clothing merchandises. Sales assistants approach with a smile, asking if textile for special occasions, buttons or needles are needed. Along the side facing the Big Dome’s parking lot may be found appliance centers and other such popular stores like fastfood, membership store and pharmacy. If you happen to enter their stores, expect to be welcomed warmly and to be asked respectfully how the staff may be of help.
The side facing the Expo may be found the elevated food court where fresh meat and seafood products may be cooked, the fruit and vegetable stands and the flower shops. The food court boasts of clean stalls with especially prepared dishes ranging from the Pinoy staples Adobo, Menudo and Tinola to the more universal fried chicken or fish, and roast meat. On that special time I visited the place, I got the chance to hear a band serenading the enamored crowd with its cover of Apo Hiking Society’s “When I Met You.” Appropriately, couples dating on the tables are cheerfully served by the stores’ crew. A little further and the fruit and vegetable stands will tempt with their exotic offerings. Only in Farmers did I discover that kiwis, mangosteens, Bangkok-imported lanzones, plums and other such non-endemic fruits are being sold. The regulars like green and burgundy grapes, green and red apples, avocado, durian, watermelons, bananas and the like also fiercely compete for space. Smiling salesladies even gave brief background of the foreign fruits while weighing the berries I had bought. Meanwhile, vegetables from Baguio, kamote tops, squashes, eggplants, spices and others are as fresh as the smiles of people peddling them. Near the corner are the stalls abloom with chrysanthemums, anthuriums, roses, daisies, and many other varicolored blossoms reeking with sweet scents. Sales staffs turn into romantic bards whenever they try to convince people into purchasing their self-styled ikebana. Further down, running parallel to the eternally busy Edsa is the wet market. Men either hauled banyera-full of variegated fish or brought carcasses of pigs and chickens. Trading jokes while performing the difficult work, they seem to be tireless in handling their agri-aquatic farm products. Deep into the market’s interior, fresh eggs are being color-coded into either white or red, fish are being cleansed of their entrails or scales while shrimps and prawns jump helplessly from their containers. Stall owners gave their welcoming smile as customers picked their way into the fresh goods. Neighboring the wet market are stalls offering dry products like kitchenware, school and office supplies, and house appliances. They share the rest of the interior’s space with service shops like beauty parlors and with magazine stands. In spite of the differences in their offerings, the stall keepers warmed to their potential patrons by offering their friendly smile.
Then, it dawned on me that a common theme was running in most of Farmers’ sections: they are all manned by happy people. As if it was not enough that this private market was nationally cited for its cleaner surroundings and competitive prices, the workers there seem unperturbed by the regular harshness of life. They still manage to smile even as the market tasks involved can get difficult. It’s a part of the package, yes, but admirable all the same. They mirror the capacity of the Filipinos at-large who can break into a grin despite or precisely because of life’s complexity. They show dignity in their labor, even as butchered animals or boxes of goodies or sacks of rice throw their weight in their back. Whether or not potential patrons will eventually be charmed into buying from them, they show happiness in what they do best: selling. Small wonder why all these years, the landmark that is the Farmers Market still stands—it’s significantly because of its denizens who smile their way to business.