Yesterday, Thursday, I had a little lesson in socialization. Instead of my normal Bisaya language lesson, Bebe (my teacher) and I took a trip to the Bankerohan Public Market in Davao for a little social interaction with some local folks. It all started last week during my normal langauge class when Bebe and I somehow got into a conversation about Filipino snacks. She was telling me how she enjoys the snacks at the Public Market, and I suggested that maybe for our next class we should go visit the Market and have a snack together.
During our conversation, Bebe set some ground rules for such a visit.
- We were not to drive a car to the market. We could only go if we were to ride a tricycle.
- I was not allowed to speak English during the trip, only Bisaya.
Well, I was agreeable to this, so yesterday, we took the trip yesterday.
Bebe showed up at my house at 3pm, and we caught a tricycle from my house to the market. I guess that is about one kilometer and a half or so. Bankerohan, I believe, is the largest public market in Davao, it covers several square blocks. During the ride to the market, I had a nice conversation with the Tricycle Driver, Joshua. He told me that he was 23 years old, married with two kids. He emphasized to me that he and his wife decided to stop with two kids, because life would be easier if they didn’t have too large a family, especially on a driver’s wages. Good choice!
At the market, we went around to a number of stalls, selling all kinds of goods. We would stop at these booths, and Bebe would ask me the names of the different products in Bisaya. I knew almost all of them. I can only recall one product that I could not name. I knew that it was called “Ampalaya” (bitter melon) in English, but didn’t know the Bisaya name, so Bebe had to tell me. I had to talk with vendors, ask prices of products, even negotiate a little bit – all in Bisaya of course. It was fun to meet the vendors, and have some small talk with them.
After our trip around the market, we were getting hungry (and thirsty), so we went to the area of the market where they had little snack shops. These places were like little eateries with bar stools all around the outside. We sat down and ordered. We each had Putomaya, a sweet rice snack, and cup of tsokolate (hot chocolate – Filipino style). It was quite good. After only a few seconds, we started conversing with a man sitting next to us. His name was Jun, and he worked for the City Mayor’s Office. Nice guy, and he really got a kick out of it that I could speak Bisaya. He asked if I could also speak Tagalog, but I just laughed and said no. Anyway, the conversation with Jun must have gone on for a half hour or so, covering all kinds of topics, and yes, it was nearly all in Bisaya. A couple of times I had to use a little English for things that I just had no idea how to say, but that was not the norm.
Off and on during my conversation with Bebe and Jun, the girls working in the eatery would talk with me too. It was interesting to see them at first, when they realized that I could speak Bisaya, their eyes were just glowing, and they listened to the conversation intently. I really had a lot of fun. When I spoke with these girls (ranged in age from around 18 to 25 or so), they all started asking me if I was married. Yes.. I am, I told them. Next question – “do you have any friends who are looking for a wife?” Ha ha… I got a kick out of these girls, they were fun to talk with also.
After enjoying our snack, and finishing up my conversation with Jun, I decided to pay our bill. Because of his kindness, I bought Jun’s snacks too, and even purchased an extra ten pieces of putomaya to bring home for Feyma and the kids. Even paying for 3 people, and ten extra snacks to bring home, the total bill was P131, very inexpensive! Bebe and I hopped on a tricycle and headed back to my house. I really had a lot of fun on my little market adventure, and talking with these folks in Bisaya seemed so natural once I got started.
As I explained in an article earlier this week, when we were in GenSan at the wedding, I finally was able to make a family conection with many in Feyma’s family because of my newly acquired language skills. Again, during this trip to the market, I changed from being the foreigner visiting the market to just a regular guy. Honestly, I never felt like I was being treated differently from the other people there. The people at the market at first, I am sure, thought of me as “the foreigner” but their guards went down when they heard me speaking Bisaya, and they treated me no differently than the others there. It was quite a unique feeling, something that I had not experienced on previous market visits!