As a kid, I used to tag along with my mom whenever she had to go to the market–whether it was the one near our old house in Tondo or all the way in Divisoria (ground zero for bargains in Manila).
During these trips to the market, when I wasn’t pestering my mom on when we would have lunch in Jollibee or when we could go home, I observed how she would expertly haggle with the vendors over prices. A back-and-forth with her suki would ensue, sometimes one would appear insulted at the proposed price, or the other would appear as if she got the short end of the stick, but often a compromise would be reached and my mom would walk away with the item having paid for a discounted price. She did it effortlessly and unfortunately, none of us, her kids, ever acquired the same skill.
This Sunday morning, my sister and I went with her to Sidcor Market in Centris along EDSA in Quezon City. Under the green and white tents, we watched while our mom haggled her way to some discounts. She wasn’t always successful but when she was, my sister and I couldn’t help but shake our heads and laugh.
While researching about Osaka, I came across this old New York Times article on how Osaka is becoming “more like Tokyo in one fundamental way: a lack of haggling.” Apparently, haggling over prices in the Japanese city was a time-honored practice. One shop owner interviewed said that he used to enjoy conversations with customers when they tried to haggle. “It was just like a comic banter between people. We played our role and the customers knew how to play theirs.” Yet another reason why I think my mom would fit in that Japanese city.
My mom definitely knew how to play her role and did so as we stopped by numerous stalls of fruits and vegetables–racks and racks of leafy greens, sacks of basil leaves (pick your own bunch!), bags of different herbs, baskets of French beans, huge Sagada lemons, equally huge bell peppers, mounds of mangosteen, and the familiar and not-so-familiar tropical fruits and veg. There’s such a wide selection, you’ll be inspired to cook and eat more veggies.
Past the stalls of fresh produce, at the back are the stalls of fresh meat and seafood. If you want it already cooked, nearby are stalls selling grilled meats. There are a number of stalls selling prepared food. Follow the smell of simmering oil to find local deep-fried favorites such as crispy pata, Ilocos empanada, turon and okoy. There are also a few stalls selling non-Filipino dishes (though not as varied as Salcedo Market), and after I searched for the vigan longganisa without any preservatives or sodium nitrates, I found my sister and my mom in the stall selling Thai food. One of the dishes sold was som tam or green papaya salad and the old man who owned the stall made it in a large wooden mortar while telling my sister that if it’s not any good, he tells his customers to return it. When my sister asked if he had his own restaurant, he replied, “I’m too old to run a restaurant!” But not too old to make good som tam.
Sidcor Sunday Market, behind McDonald’s and between Centris and National Printing Office, EDSA, Quezon City. Nearest MRT Station: It used to be close to Quezon Ave. Station, but the market has been moved farther and farther away from Centris, so it doesn’t really make a difference if you go down GMA Kamuning Station, since it looks almost the same distance. Parking slots nearby are limited.