St. Valentine’s Day in Dumaguete – The Market
Daisy thinks we should stay home. “Because so crowded.” The lady requires peace and quiet, not the hurly burly that comes with crowds celebrating. Most of Daisy’s conversations start with ‘Because.’ We aren’t sure why, that’s just the way it is. Daisy is supposed to be learning proper English from me. Alas I find it easier to learn Filipino English. It’s just easier – if less precise. Filipino English uses about one third of the words an Englishman needs to say the same thing. It’s even understandable – in places. “I off?” when she asks if she should turn the light off, is an example.
“Have you got the items we were to return to the store today?”
We decide to go to the nearby Valencia market. Its claim to fame is that it is a market situated in Valencia. It does have a long tradition however and the Acacia trees prove it, they must be as old as English oaks. In all of East Africa where Acacia trees proliferate I never saw trees that matched these for size and beauty. Their limbs and branches stretch up into the heavens and instead of being simply all wood, they have growth, which may not be theirs, tracing the limbs outlines leaving them at once covered in green and yet individual enough to pick out each and every limb or branch. The trees grow down a central median of course, either side of which sports clusters of what might at first glance be taken as dingy and unlikely stores. Not, we ponder, quite up to Canadian health requirement standards. But I’ve been around long enough, not least in East Africa, to where this doesn’t faze me. “Let’s have brunch,” I propose.
Standing among the street-side tables and chairs of a café that calls itself ‘The All Day Breakfast’ place, beckoning with her smile, is a broad Filipina mama who is clearly hoping we will select her establishment. We do. Daisy orders some meat and rice concoction and I go for the corn based pancakes that, I am assured, grandma used to make. Not sure my grandma ever did. Pancakes of this style were never, in my experience, an English thing although we did go for the crepe style of pancakes once a year on Shrove Tuesday. The Filipina mama’s cakes were just fine and were washed down with a glass of pineapple juice. A street vendor cantered by with a 6’ rod over one shoulder from forward to back with weighty looking bags suspended either end; reminded me of an olden days’ milk maid. He was moaning in the wind like a hurt buffalo, Tahooooa, Tahooooa. He was selling a snack food made of soft, silken tofu, arnibal and sago pearl. I’m not into tofu, however silken.
Sadly, nature called just as I was enjoying myself. Daisy assured me these bathrooms would not be appropriate. A tactical withdrawal was necessary, a retreat to our place not too distant. The withdrawal does not include Daisy because she had some market shopping to do – and doesn’t need the bathroom right now. She escorts me safely to the row of pedicab drivers, selects one, and in Bisaya, takes great care to ensure the driver knows where he is taking me because I don’t speak the lingo. Daisy retreats, off we go, and first thing my driver does is turn the wrong way. I may not speak Bisaya but I have a sense of direction and this was not it. I tap my motorcyclist driver on the shoulder and make signs to go the other way.
“Oh, other…….” He asks
“Yes, other,” I say
We do a uie on a dime which is not unusual except in this case the speed of the turn. I nearly fall out of the cab but grab a structural bar in the nick of time.
“New road,” I say as I recover, “Main highway.”
“Oh, men highway – to Dumaguete?”
“Yes but not sooo far. I tell when we reach.”
Who knows where I might have landed up if I hadn’t spotted the wrong direction?