Markets are exciting. Market days such as what happens where I live in Bulacan provide some of that excitement because where else can one potentially get rich, for example, just by selling red hot chili pepper?
Thursdays are when they happen. Merchants from all over converge on this one spot in the world where commerce meets your pockets and leaves you dry when they’re done. Bone dry, not wet. As in you thought a thousand pesos gives you a month’s worth of sustenance and find out that a seven-member family is lucky to have it last three days. Mind you, we eat sparingly and do lao uy like any self-respecting Bisaya on weekends to purge all that artificial flavoring that goes into the food we eat all week.
In our household, the marketing is done, you guessed it correctly, by the female of the species. But I get to tag along every so often although I must admit I’ve been called a useless appendage quite a few times already. Hmmm, I have been asked to buy a plastic water pitcher once. Of the more or less a hundred different models and colors that were on display, the mistress of the house wanted one with a particular spout, one that may not be contaminated by an obstinate fly sitting on the spout in question, intent on wreaking havoc on the intestinal peace at home. I said that’s easy, I can find that pitcher — until I got to the 36th and then the 96th model. I thought I was a champion shopper able to spot the correct houseware in a jiffy like I always do with paintbrushes, brooms and toothpicks. But we were not even halfway through the water pitcher selection yet.
In any case, we’ve been told the price of things we need to live a fairly decent life, having earlier pushed past the roof, have peaked and likely already stabilizing. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said that. So did some of the various bank economists who always blabber at the mere flick upward of the exchange rate. When you spend a few hours each week at the talipapa and interact with fishwives, appliance merchants, vegetable retailers, the occasional cellphone snatcher and other forms of life, reports like that are like sweet music. Who doesn’t want a bargain!
Let’s see. Palay bought straight from farmers is down 2.24 percent to P21.86 a kilo. Well milled rice wholesale now costs P45.45 a kilo, down 1.24 percent from a week earlier.
Compared to a year ago, however, this was 16 percent more expensive, hmmm. Well milled rice retail also costs 0.73 percent less than a week ago to P49 a kilo but more expensive than a year earlier by some 16 percent. These are numbers from the Philippine Statistics Authority, of course.
But at market, and I don’t mean the equities and debt variety, the sound, sight and scent are unreal. Consider the sweet smell of mango, my mother’s favorite fruit, costs P160 a kilo and they’re all of three pieces only. I used to buy one or two kilos for P115 or maybe P120 not that long ago but when you haggle with numbers like these the fruit seller looks at you like you were some kind of fruitcake.
Stood next to this woman who was asking if she could buy just one little fish of the variety that cost P280 a kilo and made it clear she was buying just one piece, not the whole tumpok that must have been a kilo more or less. You could sense the anxiety as she stood there waiting for the fishmonger to say yes and he did say yes. Now, what do you say of this woman, 50ish, rather frail, asking for the fishmonger to please cut the little fish into three parts and pay P80 for it? I refuse to speculate on the kind of money she makes to make that bargain because my mind was already racing toward that person or persons who are making life difficult not just for this woman but to all of us. What have we done as consumers to deserve this kind of pricing? Is it really just bad luck we have such a lousy bunch of idiots parading themselves as our economic managers who ride in V8 turbocharged SUVs and do not have to wade into leftover water full of fish scales just so casually dumped into the street where we live?
I don’t know about you but I have this little picture in my head of who this person or persons are and they may not have my vote when I go to the polls in May next year. But I will take this other bozo’s advice to grow in my flower pots a variety of capsicum that adds spice to my tuyo-and-vinegar dinner that I plan to share with six others in my household tonight.
For sure I won’t get rich growing them. Don’t be silly.