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Philippine Scene #3 - Public Market

Updated on February 11, 2012

Public markets in the Philippines abound with the local bounties that range from the fresh catch of fish and other seafood, vegetables and spices, fresh meats (pork, beef and chicken) or live livestock for the wet market and rice varieties, canned goods are among the major commodities for dry goods section.

As early as two in the morning, people who own small businesses, like sari-sari stores or carenderia (eatery) or home-based cooked dishes, are buying the freshest ingredients available in order to cope up with the demands of their customers.

The most convenient thing to do these days is to have a pre-order message or alert through text messages to the market vendor (your suki) so, that you'll just have to pay for your ingredients once you reach the steps of the market.

The public market @La Huerta, Paranaque City, Manila (Photo by Travel Man)
The public market @La Huerta, Paranaque City, Manila (Photo by Travel Man) | Source

Facts about public market in the Philippines

The word palengke is a local variant spelling of the Spanish word palenque, literally meaning "(wooden) palisade or stockade" and by extension the area enclosed by such a structure for defense, public festivals or some other purpose (Wikipedia).

Since my younger days, I was eager to go along with my mother when delivering bundled dry woods (ipil-ipil) that were used as fuel at the local bakery in Naga City (not knowing that the owner of that edifice were the parents of the former mayor of the city). Then, we will proceed at the market to buy a week's supply before going back to our place.

The concept of the palengke is usually taken hand-in-hand with the concept of local poverty. Because of this, a few local politicians have used it in their nicknames, such as "Mr. Palengke" (or some iteration of it) to signify their affiliation with poverty. Prominent local politician Mar Roxas used the nickname "Mr. Palengke" to his advantage, gaining a senate seat in the 2004 Philippine elections.

As part of massive campaign to eradicate poverty, former Senator Roxas (now heads the DPWH-Department of Public Works and Highways) used the moniker in order to gain more popularity and votes from the masses (those who belong to the poor). True enough, he topped the list of winning senators during that senatorial race, although, it was not easily converted during the presidential race (in 2010) as he was toppled by his political rival, Vice President Jejomar Binay for the post.

Haggling at the public market...a personal experience

Most of the residents in the city rely on the freshest catch of the day as they go to the market in the wee hour of the day.

This hubber experienced this since the start of his on-the-job training as resident cook trainee at the seaman's center of the manning company way back 1999.

His co-cook trainee and two stewards dabble the schedule in going to the public in order to but the ingredients of the day's menu (from breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

During that year, a budget of Php 1,500.00 (in Philippine peso) or $ 20.00 (dollars) a day was enough to feed more than 50 persons, the employee and cadets who are training and assisting the operations of the company.

For breakfast, ingredients that you can buy cheap at the public market includes, eggs, sausages (chicken, pork or beef) , pork tenders (tocino), beef tenders (tapa), sardines, fruits, etc.

For lunch and dinner, we usually buy either fish (for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays), pork (for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays), beef (for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays) with additional fresh fruits and vegetables (daily).

From that ingredients, I can cook different kinds of dishes (both Filipino and international cuisines) based from the menu we prepared for the week, approved by the head accountant of the company.

As cadets, our budget were tight and we have to haggle for price discount on our orders so that we can still buy mineral water for the resident cadets, as we can't use the water at the center for drinking.

It lasted for a year before this hubber was dispatched on his maiden voyage as cook trainee on board ship.

Note: Prices for fresh and canned goods are more cheaper at public markets unlike those that are being sold at supermart. Although, aspects of orderliness and cleanliness are among the issues being implemented by sanitary inspectors each day, market vendors see to it that they offer a clean, good and fresh products to their frequent buyers.

(With personal writings, opinion and biases from travel_man1971 aka Ireno Alcala)

What you can buy at the Public Market

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sweet Mangoes (All photos by Travel Man)Banana (saba variety)Dressed ChickenMixed VegetablesCrabsSpices PechayChayote and GingerWhite Squash and Banana HeartMarinated Bangus (milkfish)Sea salt (air-dried)TomatoesFish (Hasa-hasa)
Sweet Mangoes (All photos by Travel Man)
Sweet Mangoes (All photos by Travel Man)
Banana (saba variety)
Banana (saba variety)
Dressed Chicken
Dressed Chicken
Mixed Vegetables
Mixed Vegetables
Chayote and Ginger
Chayote and Ginger
White Squash and Banana Heart
White Squash and Banana Heart
Marinated Bangus (milkfish)
Marinated Bangus (milkfish)
Sea salt (air-dried)
Sea salt (air-dried)
Fish (Hasa-hasa)
Fish (Hasa-hasa)


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    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @precy anza: Thanks for reliving those memories. It's exciting to buy new, fresh and cheap but safe products from at the nearest public market.

      You can do a lot of haggling! :D

    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @earthbound1974: Yes, you can do it. Budgeting and planning meals will stretch your budget wisely.

    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 

      6 years ago from USA

      Wow! Nice hub and images. Reminds me of my own experiences too in the market. :)

    • earthbound1974 profile image


      6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      It's a very useful guide when going to the public market. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences and how you budget your food menu.

      I might try doing it, too.


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