At this point when prices of prime commodities are going up, it’s good to think of ways in making our homes self-sufficient. I’m talking about converting our lawns into spaces that will accommodate vegetable patches, fruit trees, flavoring and medicinal herbs, chicken coops, pig pens, and rice fields.
But for urban dwellers, self-sufficiency has become less and less practical. Not just for the lack of time for tending a fruit orchard or a rice field or domesticating farm animals, but also the lack of feasible space in the city to do all of these.
Town Markets or Pamilihang Bayan have provided urban residents for centuries with a simpler and more accessible method of procuring edibles than growing, fishing or hunting them down.
The term pamilihan has evolved from the vernacular “bili” (to buy). The Spanish “mercado” and Spanish-Mexican “palengke” are very common terms nationwide for market (Palengke was once a famous town in Mexico’s Chiapas state).
Although prices of commodities in the wet markets are relatively pesos cheaper than the ones displayed in air-conditioned supermarkets and groceries, nothing can be compared to the trading practices during the olden days when trading took its natural course from bartering excess garden produce and cottage goods to cash payment, first in shells and rings, then in Spanish silver.
Some markets today are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This gives urbanites the luxury of time to purchase the freshest produce at any time of the day.
Centuries ago, not every town had a market open everyday. More often than not a large once-a-week market took place in a town, with vendors or a smaller collection of stalls on the other days. These were the sources of cooking ingredients for many provincial as well as city families.
According to Felice Prudente-Sta.Maria, it paid to have a popular town patron saint because large and complete markets thrive in towns and along busy crossroads were festivals are well attended or where wealth was strong and steady.
The Parian was a pioneer in providing a permanent market for the Spanish colony during the 16th century. The Parian was located at the other side of the Intramuros wall. Dominga Salazar, the first bishop of Manila, described the activity at Parian when, “Everyday is held a public market of articles of food such as fowls, swine, ducks, game birds, wild hogs, buffaloes, fish, bread and other provisions, and garden produce and firewood.”
By the nineteenth century, a native marketplace was an official part of most Philippine towns. Areas that did not warrant large daily markets developed the weekly tiangge wet market.
According to Sta. Maria, the tiangge was like the peninsular feria that began during the times of faith (fe being the Spanish for faith). As pilgrims gathered to celebrate a patron’s feast, the industrious offered food, souvenirs and diversions.”
Information source: Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria, Governor-General’s Kitchen