An afternoon in Carbon

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

DID you know that a kilo of “imported” ginger in Carbon costs P250? Or that a kilo of “imported” garlic costs P10 more, or P260. Those were the prices last Saturday afternoon when I decided to tag along with the houseboy to purchase vegetables in the province’s premier public market.

As a kid, I remember accompanying my Lola Abing to her trips to Carbon, to buy the meat and vegetables, and to Pasil, to buy fish.

Our driver Sindoy had a girlfriend who operated a stall in front of Unit 1 and she would give me masareal on each visit. Come to think of it, I would gorge myself with the nutty delicacy until I’d get sick which probably explains why I don’t touch the thing now.


On the occasion that we would vacation in Cebu during the summer break in high school, I would wake up early in the morning so I could go with the driver to pick up the purchasers and the day’s meat and produce for my lola’s carenderia. And to eat free suman and mangoes. Of course.

I decided to relive the past over the weekend after I encountered a report written by Linette Ramos-Cantalejo of Sun.Star Cebu about farmers in Cebu City’s upland barangays and how they are coping with the dry spell.

One of them complained that the plants die after three harvests when before they could reap as much as 15 harvests.

The intense heat, though, did not stop many of them from trooping to the Cebu City Hall last May 27 for the First Cebu City Agri-Bonanza where they competed for the biggest and healthiest squash, jackfruit, papaya, banana, lettuce, mangoes and so on.

But with the weather bureau announcing that El Niño phenomenon might hit this month, last week’s agricultural fair may have been the last for a long time.

Farmers, too, were not so optimistic. According to Ramos-Catalejos’s report, they expect smaller and fewer produce in the next harvest as water sources continue to dwindle, or, in some cases, disappear completely.

As a result, vegetables that require constant watering like cucumbers are the first casualties.

The Cebu City Government has reportedly lined up several projects to address the problem.

Aside from its plan to install 44 water impounding facilities in the mountain barangays, the City Agriculture Office also wants to use drip water technology in areas where springs are not accessible.

Its proposal to appropriate P7.4 million for these is pending before the City Council.

I know many local government units are still suffering from a post-Yolanda hangover and are still too hung up on “mitigating measures” to deal with floods and other water-related disasters, but, hey, the Kid is already here.

And who are we to question Pagasa’s forecast? So what if the rains arrived when everybody has been bracing for dry weather. The weather bureau did warn that the effects of the weather phenomenon won’t be felt until later this year or until early next year.

It’s only June.

So what’s a paltry P7.4 million to help people who supply 30 to 40 percent of Cebu City’s vegetables and fruits?

Oh wait, maybe council members do their shopping in the air-conditioned groceries.

But if they do buy their food in one of the city’s many public markets, then they’ll know how resilient the farmers and vendors are. This won’t be the first drought they’ve ever faced. Or the last.

And as for Carbon market. Yes, it is definitely loud and dirty and chaotic. But when you’re actually there, you realize there’s truth to the axiom, “there is order in chaos.”

And so when our carenderia’s suki handed me extra pieces of ginger when she found out
I was the owner’s nephew, I was not at all surprised.

Hmm. Maybe my houseboy could court her.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 06, 2014.


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