Malatapay Market

Malatapay Market runs from National Highway down to the sea

Every Wednesday the nearby town of Zamboangita comes alive with Malatapay Market, the well-known, outdoor market that takes place only one day per week.  Located just off the National Highway, it’s about a 25‑minute ride from Dumaguete.  I visited the Market for the second time just a couple of weeks ago with my friends, Edna and Rhiza, riding the Ceres Bus from Dumaguete (P25 each).  We knew we’d arrived when we saw all of the fruit and vegetable stands and many motorbikes parked along the highway.

Fresh-ground coffee, sold by the kilo

The Market begins at the National Highway and runs down a side road all the way to the sea.  Local vendors set up stands on both sides of this small road, selling home-grown fruits and vegetables, tobacco, chicken, meat, pork and “freshly-caught” seafood.   One man, using a homemade grinder, was selling his fresh-ground coffee by the kilo.

... very big eyes!

I was overwhelmed by the variety of seafood – everything from octopus and very large squid to assorted fish and crabs.  All around us people were bartering for the best price, purchases were weighed and bagged, and money was constantly changing hands.

Quite the selection of fish

Live octopus, anyone?

Many native crafts were displayed, including jewellery, artwork and wind chimes (I purchased a beautiful set of chimes to hang at our front door).  Still more vendors arranged tables underneath large tents selling plastic storage containers, an assortment of glassware and dishes, tools, pots & pans and cooking utensils.

I tried - unsuccessfully - to convince Rhiza to buy this hat!

There were racks of T-shirts, shorts, dresses, hats and baby clothes; tables full of slippers (what we call “flip‑flops” in the United States), watches, key chains, wallets and sunglasses.  A number of extremely persistent young men were walking around selling both loose and stringed pearls.

Boats at Malatapay, Zamboangita

Reaching the end of the road, we walked out past the boat houses to the sea.  It was a beautiful day allowing for a clear view of nearby Apo Island, a famous spot for diving enthusiasts.  Boats were lined up all along the beach, and we watched a couple of boys snorkeling just off the shore.

Heading back to the road, we saw two large tables with cooks serving the Filipino specialty, lechon.  Lechon is roasted pig and is the centerpiece to all major Filipino celebrations, from fiestas to weddings, graduations, baptisms, etc.  Anthony Bourdain himself has proclaimed that the best lechon he has ever tasted was here in the Philippines.  I spoke with the cook, asked if I could take his picture, and then requested he chop and bag up a kilo (including a generous amount of the popular, crispy skin, which my husband loves!) to bring home.

The famous "lechon" prepared for take-out

We noticed a crowd across the road and went to see what was happening.  It was an “auction” pen, where people were selling and buying livestock, from caribou to pigs, goats and chickens.

Caribou for sale!

... future lechon?

We continued down the road, stopping to purchase tomatoes, avocados, green beans, mangoes and bananas.  The prices were just incredible, and we each came home with bags of gorgeous fresh fruits and vegetables (along with my kilo of lechon and a set of wind chimes!).

Edna in the Jeepney, preparing for the ride back to Dumaguete

Rather than waiting for the Ceres bus, we hopped on a Jeepney (my first Jeepney ride!).  We climbed in the back and took our seats on the bench.  As is so common here in the Philippines, whether it’s on a Jeepney or a trike, I watched as Edna and most of the ten or so passengers did the sign of the cross before we started our journey.  I guess it’s a good thing, as the driver wasted no time getting us back to Dumaguete (there is really no official “speed limit” observed on the Highway, and the Ceres buses and Jeepneys just fly!)

Our driver let us out in downtown Dumaguete, where we hailed a trike and were back in Barangay Daro by about 2:30pm.  We had a terrific time and plan to make it a monthly event.  I highly recommend a stop at the Market for anyone that visits Dumaguete!

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Dumaguete Trike Drivers

I have tremendous respect for Dumaguete’s trike drivers… these men work very hard, 12-15+ hours per day, driving all over the city.  I can go out as early as 5:00am and find a trike on the street and a driver happy to take me wherever I need to go.

Trikes downtown

The fare from my house to the heart of the city costs P8 (about $0.20), and the driver will take me door to door.  If I’m going to the ATM and ask the driver to wait and bring me back home, I have never had a driver said “no.”  They are happy to take a break while I wait in line, knowing they have earned a higher fare.  Being a chatty person, I always strike up a conversation with my driver as soon as I get in the trike.  It never ceases to amaze me how well we can communicate — English is so widely spoken here, and I throw in what little Visayan (the local dialect) I have learned, which makes the drivers smile.  “Oh, you speak Visayan?”  I respond with “gamay” (which means “little”), and they love it!  From there the standard “where are you from,” and “how long have you been here” questions come, along with “are you married,” “where is your husband,” and “do you have children?”  I recall reading — before we moved here — that Filipinos love to talk and learn about people, and this is absolutely true.  “How old are you,” a question that most would find offensive in the United States, seems to be commonplace here, and I never mind answering.

Often I ask my driver if he will make a few stops for me, and the answer is always sure!  We might stop at the ATM, the pet store and then a sari-sari before returning to my house.  Or it’s evening, and I take a trike to pick up (incredibly delicious) chicken for dinner at Jo’s Chicken.  I always bag up an extra piece of chicken and a drink for my driver.   If we stop at the sari-sari, I will grab an extra bottle of cold water for him.  Small tokens like this go a long way here, and the drivers are always so appreciative (and quite honestly surprised).

Sadly, many foreigners here have earned a reputation for being cheap when it comes to service, which absolutely appalls me.  We have been welcomed into this beautiful country with open arms, yet I have heard foreigners complain that a trike driver “ripped me off for P10.”  (Really?  Your driver, who works 12-15 hours per day to support his family, is ripping you off for a whole P10?   Have you taken a taxi in New York lately?)  I will proudly admit that my husband and I consistently over-tip trike drivers, servers at restaurants and anyone we have hired to do yardwork or a job inside the house.  We’ll buy them drinks and food – because we appreciate them, their hard work, their genuine smiles and the long hours they keep.

As a result, we have numerous drivers’ names and numbers stored in our cellphones.  If we send a text, asking if the driver is available (even as early as 4:30am the next morning) to take us to the pier to meet a ferry to Cebu, you know what?  They say yes.  I think they enjoy our company as much as we enjoy theirs — sure, they know they will be paid well, but my husband and I also know we will have wonderful, friendly service, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

Welcome to My Philippines Diary!

The Philippines is truly an incredible place, a “secret” that lucky expats from around the globe have known for quite some time.  Now an “expat” myself, I am enjoying a relaxed, peaceful life here, having been graciously welcomed and then surrounded by all of the beauty this country has to offer.  Since moving here in August of 2009, I continue to experience something new almost every day, and I have created this online diary to share my experiences and observations.  A slight twist — these are coming from a female expat’s perspective, which I think is a bit unusual.

I invite you to read About Me, where I share our relocation experience to Dumaguete, and I encourage your email subscription to continue following our Filipino adventure.  There will be much more to come, including photographs and interactive pages — I welcome your comments and suggestions!

SALAMAT!