It's been awhile since I've posted -- we've all been really busy tying up all the loose ends and making preparations for our family trip to the Philippines. This time, I am happy to report that I am posting almost "in real time" from the Philippines and that we're enjoying some much-needed vacation time.
While I love all the famous tourist spots and natural beauty and beaches, historical sites, etc. of the Philippines, I also enjoy getting out and experiencing the typical, everyday "real" Philippines. I like to go beyond the typical tourist experience, get out and mix and mingle with the people, and visit the places that are typical of everyday life in the Philippines... farms, blacksmith shops, sari-sari stores, malls, docks and piers, etc. Like any place, I think it is important and interesting to see the many facets and diverse walks of life of the people, to get a sense of the sights, sounds and smells that are commonplace and normal for the inhabitants, but exotic for the tourists. A short while ago this morning, we went to the Mandaue City (a suburb of Cebu) wet market, which was a great experience for me. I've been to some smaller wet markets before, including the one in Boracay, so I knew what to expect to some extent and was really excited about going there. But I've never been to a wet market of this size and scale, so I was in for a very pleasant surprise that did not disappoint.
The Mandaue City wet market has tons of vendor stalls with a diverse selection of all kinds of goods, including a beautiful selection of fresh fruits and vegetables of all colors (many of which cannot be found in the U.S.), eggs, rice, dry goods, some clothing and electronics, and, of course -- what makes a wet market wet -- fresh fish, seafood, and meats. It is an indoor market in a large building and covered from the elements, although the sides of the building are open to provide ventilation. To foreign tourists from the U.S., Europe, Australia, etc., a trip to a wet market in the Philippines will be quite different from what he or she has experienced in everyday life in the supermarkets in their homeland, which resemble the SM hypermarkets in the Philippines. We have farm markets in the U.S. with farm-fresh produce, we have traditional butcher shops and fish cleaning shops, and there are wet seafood markets in the larger cities, especially in the coastal cities, but these are all quite different from the Philippine wet markets. Many of the foods would be seen as very exotic by Westerners -- such as chicken feet ("Adidas") or rooster heads etc. -- and have been featured on some of the Food Network shows like the American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain's show "No Reservations". I saw Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" episode about exotic foods to be found in the Philippines (this can easily be found in its entirety on YouTube if you are interested), and I was impressed with his great attitude, open-mindedness, and very respectful treatment of Filipinos and their culture.
For all these reasons, I think that a trip to a large (or even small) wet market in the Philippines is a gem of an experience, and something truly not to be missed. Getting there by way of jeepney, multicab, or pedicab, as opposed to taking an air-conditioned taxi, should also be a part of the experience. One last tip - the seafood part of the wet market is not the place to wear your "Sunday best"... dress casually and wear sandals or shoes that can be washed afterwards, unless you want your nice leather dress business shoes to smell like a fish market!
I was the only foreigner/tourist to my knowledge there at the time, which is a shame, because I really had fun and was treated with the well-known gracious Filipino hospitality. I'd highly recommend going there to anyone who wants to check it out -- you'll love it! Not to mention, there are some great deals to be had there on all kinds of fresh fruit, veggies, fish, seafood, meat, baked goods, etc.
|Eggs for sale at the Mandaue City wet market|
|View down an aisle of vendor stalls|
|Bananas, mangoes, watermelon etc. at Mandaue City wet market|
|Both smiling, one shy - vendors with lots of calamansi (limes)|
|Circular center of the Mandaue City wet market (this part is open-air to let in air ventilation and light)|
|This young egg vendor was happy to give me a cheerful smile for the camera|
|Eva's Banana and Fruit Retailer, Mandaue City wet market... I was surprised to see the owner's husband's authentic Pittsburgh Steelers jersey (Troy Polamalu #43)!|
|Proud vegetable stall vendor, Mandaue City wet market -- humongous carrots!|
|Bebie Boy & An-An Meat Shop, Mandaue City wet market|
|"Adidas" (chicken feet) and rooster's heads... cock's combs, anyone?|
|Fish section at Mandaue City wet market. Note the baskets hanging above -- these are the cash registers where vendors keep their money and make change.|
|Galunggong fish at Mandaue City wet market|
|Butcher shop area of Mandaue City wet market.|
|Segments of jackfruit pre-cut and ready to go|
|Poultry section at Mandaue City wet market|
|Jumbo prawns (shrimp) at Mandaue City wet market - these are awesome!|
|Eva's Banana and Fruit Retailer, Mandaue City wet market... I was surprised to see the owner's husband's authentic Pittsburgh Steelers (Troy Polamalu) jersey!|
|Tata & Mia's Fresh Dressed Chicken, Mandaue City wet market|
|Snapshot of the action at the Mandaue City wet market|
|Proud vegetable stall vendor, Mandaue City wet market -- humongous carrots are about 3 times larger than the ones I've seen in the U.S. and Europe!|