by Lea Arbiol
As early as 6:00 AM, the streets are already streaming with people and transport vehicles. The wet markets known all over the island for their über- cheap prices are situated here, and it is a sight to see the groups of middle-aged women in their floral dresses as they lug around big bayongs they hope to fill up with market purchases after they scour the wet markets. They are mostly loud, but jovial in manner as they greet acquaintances and haggle for lower and lower prices. :)
Passing by the streets, you will ALWAYS catch a glimpse of vendors selling any item feasible enough to endorse to a crowd! Pirated DVD's, mechanical toys, fruits, pets, flowers, accessories...and the occasional vendor who squats on the sidewalk with a reptile in tow who goes on and on in a droning voice how the concoction containing the skin of his pet snake, can heal anything from a toothache to cancer! ( Modern medicine, eat your heart out!)
By 9:00 AM the "licensed" stores finally open. Mostly owned by the Filipino-Chinese living in Cebu, the business establishments downtown offer you whatever you may be looking for at very affordable prices. Hardwares, electrical stores, boutiques, banks, book stores, special services agencies, all with similar rusted signboards that usually say "since 1981", stand side by side, lining the streets of the area.
At this point, let me write about one of my favorite aspects of this exciting part of town. . . :)
Downtown Cebu overflows with boutiques with the latest in fashion! Wandering around the busy streets allows you to discover little stores found in hidden corners where you are able to buy clothes marked originally at 200 pesos in your local department store at 2 pieces for 99 pesos!
There exists the "Tabo sa Banay" where they display clothes openly! You just have to point any item of clothing you want to try out and the person in charge promptly and excitedly takes it down for your inspection. The "Tabo" is like a mini labyrinth where you enter one opening and you find yourself in another street upon your exit.
There's also the "Metro Center" where you can find bags, shoes and more clothes! They have heap stocks of what's IN this season at very very reasonable prices that you find yourself vowing to patronize this place instead of the department stores you usually favor.
Crossing over to another street of downtown Cebu, is a small dark store you would never expect to be of your liking. Shockingly though, you enter to find accessories of different colors packaged by the bundle where one bundle would cost you just somewhere between 10-30 pesos. Now you have a variety of accessories that goes pretty well with the rest of your rainbow-colored wardrobe! :)
It's not only the "shopping aspect" of downtown Cebu that will capture your heart. In that part of town, there are still those old dimsums,bakeries and bookstores that you thought didn't exist anymore. But you're wrong! They are still there, though not that visited anymore because of the uptown competition. They are still standing, still with the old charm they were once loved for. . .
The sun starts to set and the stores eventually start to close again. You soon hear the successive closing of rusty old roll-up gates being pulled down one after the other.
But the day doesn't end here. Soon, big truckloads overflowing with vegetables, fruits and any other edible rootcrops imaginable start to arrive! A new group of vendors usually hailing from the mountains set up their products at the doors of the now closed establishments. It is a delight to walk past them at this hour when the air is cool and you smell a faint scent of fresh fruits and vegetables wherever you go! What srikes you even more though, is when you see these vendors who are supposed to be "competition" help each other weigh, pack and recommend each other's goods. :)
Cebu is supposed to be known for its crunchy otaps, crispy chicharons, our sweet dried mangoes, the yummy lechons and as being the most-developed city in the southern part of the country. But next time
you do chance a visit to the city, take a time out of your busy schedule and explore the not-so-developed part of town. I promise you, it's most probably where you'll find the beauty and charm of this little city I call my home. :)