Wednesday, August 21, 2013

City after dark: Manila Night Market opens for dry run

Text by Ana Valenzuela | Photos by Romsanne Ortiguero and Arman Clemente | Lifestyle Section, · Saturday, August 17, 2013 · 1:30 pm

As soon as the sun set on Friday, August 16, the crowd of shoppers and vendors on Recto Avenue corner Juan Luna street in Manila were already in pandemonium. It was the first night of the Manila Night Market, a solution created by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to decongest Divisoria and to continue giving opportunities to vendors who were displaced in the process of clearing out the sidewalks and streets during daytime. The night market is open everyday from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Alis kayo dyan, para makalatag na sila! (Get out of the way so they can set up already!),” some volunteers and policemen were shouting, calling out to pedestrians so the fruits and vegetables vendors can set up their stalls. And as the surrounding malls and commercial centers were preparing to close their shops, almost a hundred vendors lined up their stalls along Recto Avenue and Juan Luna Street.
There was even news that Mayor Joseph Estrada will be there. True enough, at around 7 p.m Mayor Estrada arrived in a black SUV, creating more madness along Recto, the center of Tondo and Binondo.
Mayor Estrada made his way through the thick crowd of vendors and consumers who were calling out, “Mayor, Mayor!” trying to get a shot of him with their mobile phones. Others gave their complaints, expressing the less than expected number of shoppers at the night market. After a few minutes of shaking hands with a few purveyors, Estrada stayed for a few photo ops while some members of media got to interview him.
View of the Manila night market during its first evening, August 16, 2013. Photo by Arman Clemente,
View of the Manila night market during its first evening, August 16, 2013. Photo by Arman Clemente,
Experimental stage
Mayor Estrada articulated that this is all under dry run, and that the night market is still under observation. Vice Mayor Isko Moreno revealed that the area was chosen as the venue initially for a few weeks only so that the vendors will have access going to Juan Luna and Abad Santos Streets. “We would like to emulate the night market in Hong Kong, which has organized vending so that the likes of kotong, lagay, may mga patong sa mga manininda will be eliminated,” Moreno revealed. “This is all experimental, so that the government can recognize these sidewalk vendors as an industry, and so now we can start regulating them.”
When the mayor left, more goods started to come in, with trucks making their way on one end of Recto Avenue, where the drop-off point of the fruits and vegetables has been designated. Majority of the vendors at the night market were selling fruits and vegetables from Baguio. There were also vendors offering balut and other street foods. Only a few were selling dry goods such as kitchen wares and clothes.
Airconditioned malls like 168 Mall and New Divisoria Mall offer convenience but nothing compares to checking out Divisoria’s sidewalk vendors for a wide range of items. Juan Luna, for instance, has stalls selling everything from party favors, toys, t-shirts, underwear, to mobile gadget accessories. You can find fresh vegetables on the stalls along Sto. Cristo Street; and candies, candles, and baking equipment on Sto. Cristo Street; and hair accessories on Planas Street.
The Divisoria streetscape may soon change permanently with the Manila Night Market project of the city government.
A street vendor sells garments on the first evening of the Manila night market, August 16, 2013. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero,
A street vendor sells garments on the first evening of the Manila night market, August 16, 2013. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero,
Initial confusion
There was confusion during the first night since the old set-up along Juan Luna and Abad Santos Streets had two shifts followed by sidewalk vendors. Merchants during daytime used to vacate their area come night time to give way to the evening vendors. Now, with these streets cleared for traffic during daytime, the former daytime peddlers were caught in a quandary that had them figuring out how they can squeeze their stalls between the evening vendors.
A woman named Ressa, who has a t-shirt sidewalk stall in front of Tutuban Mall since 1974, revealed that she has only started selling at night time along with the other retailers due to the ordinance of Erap that there will be no street vendors during daytime. She is reluctant in moving to the new spot designated for the night market. She told “Lahat ng stall may manininda na noon pa. Nagtitinda na ako sa Divisoria since 1974 tapos papalipatin pa kami. Hindi ko magagawa yon. Mahirap.” (“Each spot already has a designated retailer, I have been vending my goods here since 1974, and then someone asks me to vacate my spot. I just can’t do that. It’s difficult.”)
One of the hawkers that Ressa was talking about is Mary Ann Tupas, 22, who sells onions and has been in charge of the stall since she was 14. She shared that there are a different set of vendors from morning to night, making retailers fight for the same spot that they share. Still, with this new ordinance of Erap there have also been new improvements, “there were many things that changed all thanks to Mayor Estrada, the street lights here at Recto were implemented, plus it became cleaner.”
One shopper at the night market, Maricel from Marikina, bought artificial flowers. She shared that it has been some time since she has been to Divisoria and she was curious about the new night market. “It’s more spacious compared to the one in Divisoria,” she shared. “But, compared to the Marikina Christmas Bazaar, the one in Marikina is more organized. Plus, They are more strict there when it comes to implementing rules. Using plastic bags, for example, are not allowed and both the buyer and seller shall be fined if they violate this rule.”
Even though the night market is still on a dry run, the city government made sure security is visible as policemen from Manila Station 2 and Station 11 made the rounds.
“We have already set up our security deployment,” said Wilson Doromal, commander of Station 11 “This is to help the people and the vendors, and also to man the traffic. We have a tent where people can can report or air their concerns.”
Doromal shared that this is all experimental, and if the night market will be a regular stint, they will adjust their scheme. Hopefully, the beginning of the night market will kickstart a more organized Divisoria shopping district, especially when the “ber” months, the start of the holiday shopping season, begin next month.
One of the few vendors selling garments at the Manila Night Market. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero,
One of the few vendors selling garments at the Manila Night Market. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero,