When you ask locals where to buy the best fruit, everyone and their mother-in-law(s) points to the San Andres Market. All of the fruit vendors are street side in this market and their colorful displays of local and imported fruit are rather eye-catching. At night, the lights, color and bustle do well to tempt passerby to stop and buy a kilo of something. But personally, despite the frequent mention, I have to give this market a lukewarm review. I was not impressed. My hunch is it is more tourist trap than serious market.
Officially designated the Pamilihang Bayan ng San Andres, the San Andres Market is located on San Andres Street, a block away from Quirino Avenue, Manila. It is on the way to the popular nightspots in Malate/Remedios Circle and a bright sight (particulalry because of the dark surroundings) when you drive by at night. A relatively old market, the full market size is surprisingly small at say 400+ square meters and is now a kind of transport hub with jeepneys plying the Quiapo, Baclaran and Cartimar routes converging outside. Some car parking is available on the side of the market. The main entrance of the market faces San Andres Street and this is where the fruit vendors are located. Few people venture into the market proper and I can tell you exactly why. It is dark and at last visit muddy and dirty. Inside the market you would be hard-pressed to find faucets with running water to clean out stalls and hallways and there were large plastic drums of water beside each stall that contributed to the generally unsightly conditions within. Floor were slippery and strewn with garbage. Product selection in the meat, seafood and vegetable sections were unimpressive. A researcher of mine who did preliminary market visits described the stench in the meat section as “overpowering”.
The fruit stalls out front do have a wide selection of fruit on offer. As the pictures in this post show, there were mangoes, santols, rambutans, mangosteens, bananas, pineapples, lansones, melons, durians, oranges pomelos, apples, pears, etc. There appeared to be sufficient turnover to ensure reasonably fresh fruit but a lot of what was on offer didn’t look so hot on closer inspection. Prices were high and it was clear from the vendors’ demeanor that they served more of a “tourist” or “drive by” market rather than “regulars”. Gift baskets were plentiful as people purchased mixed fruit baskets for gifts or pasalubong. I wouldn’t be surprised if bus loads of tourists stop here on their way to the nightspots of Manila All stalls seemed to carry all kinds of fruit, rather than specialists who could point to having the best mango or pomelo because it came from a particular farm or was grown in a particular manner.
I am not certain why I took a disliking to this market other than it lacked a feeling of being genuine. The disparity between the fruit and the other sections was part of the problem. The tone and demeanor of the vendors was another. If I were going to trek all the way to San Andres I might as well go a few kilometers further to Chinatown or Divisoria to get a better, fresher and cheaper selection of fruit. If you are desperate and need a wide variety of fruit, check this market out. Otherwise, keep a lookout for future posts on this site regarding better alternatives.