Last week one day, I decided to make a visit to the public market in Bankerohan, Davao City. Bankerohan is the biggest public market in the City, and it’s not too far from our house. Probably between 5 to 10 minutes on a tricycle from the house, and we are at the market. I have written before that I like to try to visit the market once per week or so (sometimes more, sometimes less…) for language practice. There really is not much better practice in speaking the local language than shopping at the various stalls in the market. It has gotten to the point that with my many trips there, I have a number of vendors who know me, and I regularly do business with them. In Bisaya (perhaps in Tagalog too, I don’t know) this kind of relationship is called a “suki” relationship between a vendor and a customer. If you are a suki, the vendor always gives you the best deal, the freshest product, etc., because they want to preserve their relationship that they have with you.
Well, this trip to Bankerohan, as it turned out, was really a microcosm of how life is in the Philippines for a foreigner. As I have written, there are many good and enjoyable things that I experience living in the Philippines, but there are also some things that are not so enjoyable. Let me tell you about my trip.
Whenever I go to Bankerohan, I always ride a tricycle. I never drive my car there. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- Going to the market is something I like to keep very “Filipino” in the way I do it.
- There really is no place to park a car there, so why hassle?
Well, the first thing was that there simply were no tricycles passing by the house! So, I started walking and figured that I’d catch a tricycle along the way, when one passed me. I actually had to walk a long way, which is unusual, before a tricycle with space for a passenger came passing by. Also, it was a very hot day, which made walking somewhat uncomfortable, out in the sun like that. When the tricycle came along, though, I waved to the driver and he pulled over. He already had one passenger, an older lady who was sitting in the front, so started walking toward the back. The driver shouted out in English:
Where do you want to go?
I replied to him in Bisaya: “Sa merkado sa Bankerohan, palihug.” (The market in Bankerohan, please.). When he heard my reply, the driver immediately started chuckling and talking to me a lot in Bisaya, and the lady passenger in the tricycle too. We all had fun just exchanging pleasantries. About 100 meters or so down the road the driver stopped to pick up a younger lady in her 20’s. She boarded the tricycle and sat across from me in the back. When she sat down, I said to her “kumusta ka, maayong buntag.” (How are you, good morning.). She did not reply. The tricycle driver looked to her and said “kumusta daw” (he said how are you?). He was quite clear that she should answer me! Ha ha.. the girl looked at me and told me she was fine. But, it seemed the this driver had quickly become my friend, and he wanted to make sure that if I asked the lady a question, she should answer me!
As we approached the market and the tricycle stopped to let us all off, I paid the driver P10 (the fare is P7, but I told him to keep the change, which he appreciated). We exchanged goodbyes and I went along my way. I was going to buy a piece of fresh tuna, which I intended to grill that night for dinner, so I needed to go to the Isdahan, or the fish area in the market. As I entered the Isdahan, I saw that there was not much fish available at the time. Only a few of the vendors had any fish at all, it seemed, and the fish that they had didn’t look too fresh either. I talked with some of the vendors as I passed by, especially my various sukis there. Finally, I did find one stall that had some fish that looked like it would be OK. The tuna looked only somewhat fresh, so I bought only a small amount of it. However, they had some other fish that looked pretty good, so I bought that instead.
After buying enough fish to cook on the new grill I walked around the market a bit more, and I bought some vegetables there too, some kangkong. Again, I bought from a suki that I know in the market, and she gave me a good deal. I talked with her a bit too. I asked her about her daughter that is usually there at the stall, but she is already back in school now.
After finishing up my shopping, I walked out to the main road at the market and looked for a tricycle to ride home. Again, there were not any tricycles in sight, so I started walking toward home, figuring that I’d catch a tricycle on the way. By this time, even though it was already hot on my way to the market, the sun was really beating down, and the heat of the day was quite intense. Sweat was running down my face, and I thought to myself that I better catch the first tricycle that I saw, because it was pretty uncomfortable.
Within just a few minutes, a tricycle pulled up from behind. I waved at him. He stopped and I said to him “Marfori 2” (that’s the name of my neighborhood). He looked at me and said “how much?” Well, as I said earlier, the fare for this trip is set, and it is supposed to be P7. I replied to him “how much do you want?” He told me P20 was the minimum. Normally, I would let him go on, but because the heat was really intense, I said OK, and hopped in. Along the way, he kept trying to turn off of our route, and I would tell him to go straight. This happened three times. On the third time he told me that he knew a shortcut. Well, I have lived in this neighborhood for about 8 years already, and I know the route. I know that there is no shortcut by turning where he wanted to turn. So, I strictly told him in Bisaya where he should go, and asked him if he understood me. My tone was very forceful and direct. After that, he did not try to take any more “shortcuts” along the way.
I sure enjoyed that first tricycle trip a lot more than the second one. Much friendlier.
So, why was this trip a microcosm of life in the Philippines?
- There are always shortages of items, or “out of stock” problems when you want something. On this trip that happened with the tricycles in both directions, and also the fish at the market was in very limited supplies this time.
- The people. Most people in the Philippines are very friendly, and I enjoy them, just like that first tricycle driver, and the passengers on that first tricycle trip. But, there are always a few people who are out to rip you off, or are unfriendly. They are by far the minority, but they exist. The second tricycle driver shows that.
I enjoy making my visits to Bankerohan on a fairly regular basis. Most of the time, there are no complaints. People are friendly. Products are readily available. This trip, though, there were a few problems. As I thought about it, I realized how the challenges on this trip really represented how life is in the Philippines for a foreigner.