Central Market: The Original Nerve Center

Central Market: The original nerve center of Bacolod City.

In the early 60s, life was lived simply in Bacolod City. As a child of a working class family in Barrio Obrero, now known as Villamonte, our life, just like most kids, was focused on going to school, accompanying the adults to the market, attending the Sunday mass at the San Sebastian Cathedral, spending a few hours at the Sea Wall where a children’s playground was also located or sitting on the harp designed benches of the Plaza. Today, the sea wall is now occupied by the BAYS (Bacolod Arts, Youth, and Sports) Center.

Other than employment in various industries, government, and private offices, and business establishments, Bacolenos’ life revolved around the old Central Market, the Church, the School, or the City Hall.

When we were children, everything that we needed was always resourced at the market, whether it is Libertad, Burgos or the Central Market. Around these markets are stores that carry various items such as clothes, shoes, school suppies, perfumery, drugs, and many others. Also, there were restaurants and refreshment parlors, barber shops, beauty shops, tailoring and dress shops, jewelry stores, theaters, hotels and pawnshops. On the sidewalks, there were vendors selling cigarettes, “balut” and “pinoy”, peanuts, dried fish, “sapin-sapin”, dry goods like pants, shorts, briefs, panties, towels, school bags and sippers or flip-flops, etcetera.

At this time, circa 1960s, there were no Jollibee, Mc Donalds, Mang Inasal, Dunkin Donuts or even Manokan Country. There were no Gaisano, SM, Robinson’s or 888.

There were, however, popular stores that, during those years, were like big shopping centers already. These were: Negros Department Store of the Nandwanis located at the corner of Araneta and Gonzaga Street. China Rose Perfumery and Department Store of the Chuas, located on Gonzaga Street in front of the plaza, Lopue’s Department Store of Ben Lopue Sr., and Servando’s Department Store of the Servandos family.

The Plaza Mart was a “johnny come lately” event.

Movie houses, hotels and restaurants around the Central Market were places to reckon with in terms of services, facilities, class and connectivity to the Bacolenos’ hearts.

Who can forget the nice movies at Odeon Theatre in front of the central market and Ideal Theatre in front of Susing’s Bag Supply. Ideal later on became Asa Theater, the home of “bomba” films. Nearby is Globe Theater, located at what is now the Consuelo Department Store.

There were other theaters around the Central Market. Real and Iris are located along Araneta Street in the vicinity of Plaza Mart. Iris is popular for its Chinese pictures most of those were of Wang Yu. During the screening of Wang Yu’s movies, an exhibit of Chinese Martial Arts weaponry like swords and others added color to the popularity of the film.

State Theater located at Gatuslao Street now occupied by Jollibee was the home of famous Hollywood films like Dr. Zhivago, Love Story, Nicholas and Alexandra, The Sunflower, among others.

Ever or Era Theater was located near LCC. It later on became an arcade for shoppers. At the corner of Rizal-Lacson Streets was Dux Theater, a very popular movie house in the late 50’s and early 1960’s.

At the site of Po’s Marketing beside the old City Hall, was Floredith Theater, where movies like Ben Hur were shown at that time. Later on, movies of Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor were shown there too. Fronting Floredith was the Provincial Library which was of an old Spanish-Philippine Architecture. It was later on occupied by Prudential Bank.

In the early 60’s, I used to accompany my mother to the old city hall that also looked like an old house of a rich sugar planter. From along the road, the stairs going up the city hall was guarded by two (2) sitting lions. These lions are now guarding the gazebo, also known as the band stand at the center of the public plaza. Going up the old city hall, there were several “cuartitos” or small rooms that served as offices of city officials.

The mouth-watering food served at Baguio Restaurant near Hollywood Shoe Emporium and fronting the central market and the Sampaguita Restaurant at the corner of Gonzaga and Lacson Streets were a delight and a cozy place for gathering friends and family. The term “bonding” was not yet in vogue but, maybe, “kaon-inom kag istorya”.

For the “obreros”, drivers and professionals there were two restaurants that I can remember that were really popular. These were, the Timawa Carinderia located at the entrance of Gaisano along Gatuslao Street which was before called George Washington Street, and Apels Restaurant at the back or you may call it beside of PNB downtown.

Who will ever miss the early morning hot “pan de sal” at Belle’s Bakery located at the corner of Bonifacio and Gonzaga Street? Who would miss dropping by the Philippine Food Supply, located across Belle’s Bakery, for the most needed groceries?

For the sleepy soul who needed a pep, there was a coffee shop called Mabunay Magnet Cafe. Their Batangas native coffee could not match today’s Star Bucks, in my opinion. And on the other side of the central market, along Smith Street which later on became the Aurelio Locsin Street, there was Oriental Cafe that also sell Batchoy.

On this area of Smith Street, the first chicken inasal in “kariton” were sold. Specifically on Gonzaga-Smith Street, Luzuriaga-Smith Street, Gatuslao Street, near the Timawa Carinderia and the area of State Theater corner Taft Steet now Cuadra Street.

Moving straight to the south side of the Locsin Street is where the Bacolod Police Station was located. It was housed in an old building formerly occupied by the Occidental Negros Institute, the forerunner of ONI, UNO and UNO-R. Well-known Bacolod personalities spent their high school days at ONI. I remember only a very few of them like Jose Digoy Montalvo, Tutay Kilayko, Jose Ynsausti and their English teacher, Dolores Martir, and many more.

A few famous hotels were located near the Central Market. For example, Victory Hotel located at the corner of Luzuriaga and Bonifacio/Locsin Streets, Park View Hotel on Rizal Street, just near Ever Theatre, and Sea Breeze Hotel on San Juan Street. Bascon Hotel had been existing for so long along Gonzaga Street but I cannot remember if it was already there in the early 1960s.

Bacolod Shoe Emporium, Hollywood Shoe Emporium, Thakus and Kewals Department Stores, Hong Bio Textiles, Shantung Textiles and even Sta. Teresita Bake Shop and Llamado Bazaar, were very old names which were very successful business establishments around the Central Market.

I hope, this information proved my point that in the early 60’s, our life in Bacolod City was simple and yet, our generation had everything we wanted to make our lives more satisfying and fulfilling. Every human activity surrounded around the Church, the School, the City Hall, the various offices and business establishments and the Central Market.

With the increasing daytime population of Bacolod City, today, that reaches a million or two every day, Bacolod deserved this tremendous flow of investments, development and progress.

It did not make our life, in the early 60s and even early 70’s, lesser in comparison. People enjoy the benefits of progress when it comes and we enjoyed our share of this progress the way you, the present generation, enjoyed what Bacolod City is now today.

Kudos to our elders who made this unprecedented progress and development for our beloved city. Kudos too to the innovative minds of our business leaders and investors who trusted Bacolod and the neighboring towns and cities around the island of Negros to make a difference on this side of the country.

In the final analysis, the Central Market will always be a part of the people’s lives in Bacolod.  It is a historical landmark.  It may no longer be the nerve center of Bacolod City, but its presence have been haunting the local officials.  “What should we do with the Central Market?” is a million dollar question that the local officials face.  The market is really an old structure and had not been improved since it was constructed after the 1953 fire that gutted it to the ground.
As the city experiences its over-used of the Central Market, most Bacolenos also felt its irrelevance today.  The challenge on how to improve the Central Market into a modern structure to keep pace with progress, have been haunting the city administrations the past decades.
Perhaps, a revisit to the Mandaluyong experience is a must for local government officials so that they can see for themselves how the Mandaluyong Market had been transformed into a modern Mandaluyong Market and Mall.
As a citizen of the city, I felt, the local officials should set aside politics and focus on improving the Central Market once and for all.  For me, it is a decaying structure in the middle of the CBD or central business district of Bacolod.  Thus, losing its spark and vibrancy as the “nerve center” of Bacolod City.
Today, that role had been taken over by SM City, Robinson’s Place, Gaisano City and other huge shopping centers thus, resulting in decreasing sales and income to business owners in and around the Central Market.  Maybe, there is a need for the city government and the business community to join forces in doing a paradigm shift to recreate the Central Market into a vibrant and economically viable entity.
The Bacolod Central Market and Mall sounds nice.  If the market can be demolished and a new high-rise structure can be constructed, it would influence the growth of the surrounding areas around it.
For example, a six-storey market and mall.  The ground floor is divided into two areas, the wet section for fish and other products, and the dry section for meat and other products. The second and third levels can be a mall where people can shop, dine and have entertainment.  The fourth floor can be gaming area, karaoke bars and others.  The fifth floor can be Parking Area and the sixth floor, offices.
For the sake of keeping it as a heritage site, it could be converted into a Museum, showcasing the history of Bacolod, the capital of Negros Occidental.  Or, its interior can also be redesigned with the north wing as the meat section and the L-shape could be occupied by the native products section and the south wing as the fish section and its L-shape the fast-food section.
The decay of the Central Market can be attributed to the lackadaisical attitude of the local government to strictly collect market fees.  Local officials were afraid to impose the strict collection of fees from stall owners for fear of losing the local elections. With this in mind, some, if not, most stall owners owe the city government years of unpaid rent.
The  markets became  republics of their own.  They can dictate who will win the election.  This made the whole situation, worse.  With stall owners’ unwillingness to pay years and years of unpaid rent, and the local officials’ lackadaisical attitude to collect these rentals, the markets, Libertad, Burgos and more specifically the CENTRAL MARKET, have remained “untouchables”.  A syndrome that also resulted into its un-attended state of “decay”.  A decay that became contagious to the nearby business establishments. Perhaps, a strategic plan for the improvement of the central market and all other markets in the city should be formulated by the local government, involving the various stakeholders who will formulate this StratPlan and help execute the same for the long-term improvement of the Central Market and the other two markets in the city.
For our readers and followers from the City of Bacolod, Philippines, a related topic on urban development, specifically the topic on Urban Metabolism, can be found on “older posts”.  It is a Lecture Series on Urban Metabolism conducted by the students of Harvard University.
Thanks for visiting the Earthniversity.

Earth Hour Celebrated in the City of Smiles

In March of 2014, the City of Bacolod, Philippines, joined the rest of the world in the global celebration of the Earth Hour.  That celebration was highlighted in a ceremony held at the SM Mega Mall.

This March 28, will again, mark that observation world-wide from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.,  and we hope that citizens of different countries around the world, their cities, offices, and communities will observe this Earth Hour and once again be reminded to conserve and protect the limited resources of the Earth.

Images below show the 2014 celebration in my hometown, Bacolod City, the capital of the province of Negros Occidental, Philippines.  Negros is an island that is considered as one of the richest island-provinces in the country.

Have a meaningful Earth Hour celebration everyone.

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earth hour 2014

earth hour bacolod