I wish I could say that the photo was taken at our suburban market. It wasn’t. It was taken in Roxas City when we spent a few days there. The inside of the market where I live is not worth taking photos of. In fact, I never run out of excuses not to go there. It’s filthy, the lack of ventilation is suffocating and, oh boy, it’s so dark that there are areas where it’s hard to see if you’re stepping on dead fish or someone’s toes. Parking is always a headache and it doesn’t help that the roads that surround the market are narrow and made even narrower by the tricycles whose drivers can never seem to understand that they are not exempt from traffic laws.
The Antipolo public market was gutted by fire some years back. The second floor where all the dry goods stalls are located was destroyed. The galvanized iron roof held up by a wooden frame caved in. Everyone thought that the government would do decent repairs but all it did was patchwork here and there, and voila! — the market was open again. Never mind that the roof looks like it would come falling down with the wind or rain.
Some two years ago, a new structure rose along Sumulong Highway, a stone’s throw from Hinulugang Taktak, the once famous waterfall that brought tourists in but which is now no more than a garbage dumpsite. The rumor was that the structure would house a new market. About bloody time, I thought. It was something to get excited about. The site has ample parking space, it is located along a main road and it looked well ventilated. As the structure neared completion, we started seeing signs announcing that leasing of stalls was open. The signs were there for days, then weeks, then months.
Meanwhile, I was still doing my marketing in that old arson-infested market. One time, I asked the fish monger when they expected to transfer to the new market. I simply assumed that every seller would move there so that the government could demolish the old market. That’s really the only logical thing to do because the structure is a public hazard. To my surprise, the fish monger pointed to a sign above his stall — a sign that he would not be forced to move. I scanned the rest of the stalls in the aisle and they all had a similar sign.
I asked why. Why didn’t they want to move? The new structure looked better and SAFER. The fish monger explained that it was a privately owned market and the rental was much higher. Ah, my mistake in assuming that the new market was government owned.
Construction has been over for more than a year but the would-be market is still nothing but a sad-looking gray shell. No sellers. No buyers. No nothing. The area had been fenced and security guards man the property 24/7. The story behind it is both sad and enraging.
According to the ever reliable surburban grapevine, the new market was a joint venture between the city government and private corporations — public land and private financing. When the agreement was signed, the mayor was someone named Leyble. By the time construction was finished, Leyble had lost his bid for re-election and a guy named Ynares took his place at city hall. Story has it that Ynares declared the market joint venture illegal because the market’s proximity to Hinulugang Taktak endangered the beloved (sic) tourist spot as the likely recipient of all the trash coming from the market. Consequently, the market never opened. Last I heard, the issue has gone into litigation.
The controversy, of course, is whether Ynares’s position is valid. Legalities aside, Hinulugang Taktak is already one big dumpsite so what’s the big deal? Any claim that the government is working toward its rehabilitation is negated by the fact that the government has not demolished the illegally constructed eateries that line the road adjacent to the waterfall. These eateries, along with the squatters’ shacks in the area, have been dumping their waste into the water for decades.
Of course, I have theories about why Ynares is blocking the project — about one administration getting a huge kickback in the project while another administration has gotten none, so far.