What to see, what to see in so short a timeâ€¦ Soon after arriving at the hotel, and while waiting for 3 other colleagues to arrive, I decided to head out to the â€œSatellite Marketâ€ that is supposed to be handicraft central. Our vehicle for the stay hadnâ€™t arrived yet so I hailed a tricycle and gamely headed to the market, a ten minute ride away. Iâ€™m not sure if tricycles have gotten smaller or my rear end wider, but I could barely fit in the passenger cabin with one other passengerâ€¦and frankly, it was a bumpier and more exhaust-filled ride than I had bargained for. At the satellite market, I perused the aisles quickly and took in the thousands of similar looking abaca bags and slippers and pili nuts and was a bit disappointed by the selection and quality of goods on offer. Prices were outrageously low when compared with Manila but I didnâ€™t buy anything on the first pass. I even got the â€œour bags are only overruns and this is the bag that JLo used in the movie Maid in Manhattan spiel.â€ I watched Maid in Manhattan (twice!) and I know which bag they are referring to BUT IT WASNâ€™T the bag they were hawking at me, so there! And yet, I do know that that bag did come from the Philippines and was probably made in Bicolâ€¦
After about 12 minutes at this handicraft market, I jumped into another tricycle and asked him to take me to the newer Central Market which is more downtown. Now we were in business. The second floor of this big, clean, airy market had a terrific selection of seafood, meat, vegetables, fruit and dried fish. Not to mention a spectacular view of Mt. Mayon. We started off in the fish section that had some of the freshest looking seafood I have ever seen in a provincial market. Many of the fishes still had gills flapping and the selection of larger fish such as malasugi (swordfish), talakitok (huge jacks) and maya-maya (red snappers) was impressive. Prices were roughly 30% below Manila markets and thatâ€™s already with their adjustments upwards when they heard me asking in my unique and yet baluktot taga-cebu-lano speak (unintended mixture of tagalong/cebuano/bicolano). There was a lot of volume on the counters and a lot of buyers as well, despite it being mid-morning by the time I got there.
All the photos in this post are from the Central Market, starting with the talakitok or malasugi eyeball up top. Not sure what they do with the eyeball but I do recall my dad eating fish eyeballs fairly often in soup (his Dad was from Bicol). From the very nice fish section I moved to the meat selection that likewise had both a nice selection of meats and cuts and a lot of customers. Heads of pigs, whole legs of cows and everything in between were being chopped up, hung on hooks or lying in wait for hungry shoppers. With a market like this, I had to conclude that Legaspi was relatively prosperous as the market was definitely well-stocked and abuzz with activity.
Vegetables were also abundant and obviously extremely fresh. The shine on the skins of ampalaya, melons, tomatoes, etc. suggested they were picked just hours before. All of the leaves were still hydrated and bright green. The gabi (taro) leaves used in laing, pinangat, etc. were available from totally fresh to slightly dried and ready to cook versions. There were chillies up the wazoo (though they seemed to be more skin than pulp on the siling mahaba variety. There were also lots of root crops such as gabi, kamote, etc. And fruits such as bananas, papayas, pineapples, avocados, etc.
Finally, the market had a terrific section of dried, smoked and fermented fish. If I werenâ€™t worried about the bottles breaking in-flight I would have brought home some guinamos or other preserved shrimp concoctions such as balao, that uncolored preserved shrimp that is like a dried bagoong of sorts and is so critical in Bicolano cooking along with coconut milk. Overall, this was a very nice market and a pleasant surprise after the less interesting satellite market.