Bacolod Central Market


A 1941 housewife off to the Bacolod Public Market will be appalled to find out that, in 2023, prices of commodities have gone through the newly renovated roof. She’ll have her kimona-clad shoulders dropping in the direction of the newly-tiled floor when she finds out that the one-peso bill she’s clutching in her hand cannot buy her a box of matches that used to cost two centavos. Her 1941 shopping list says: one ganta of rice (17 centavos), one kilogram of pork (15 centavos), a live chicken (20 centavos) and six eggs (six centavos).

Bottled sisi (small oysters), or batitis (tiny clams), the scent and flavor of the sea are captured in these bottles.

She’ll also find out that the building is a modern 1950s edifice constructed after the Mercado Publico burned down in 1955 taking downtown Bacolod with it. Many have changed since then. The ganta (approximately three cups of uncooked rice) has given way to the kilogram as the unit of measurement for rice, salt, beans, etc. Heirloom rice varieties are no longer sold, and traditional hand-made sweets are being edged out by mass-produced ones. Yet, if she has a craving to chew betelnut, there is still one stall to go to for the sangkap (ingredients) of buyo (betel leaf), apog (lime), tabako (tobacco leaf), and bunga (betelnut).

Should she need bespoke articles of clothing, seamstresses will take her measurements and create her confection of a dress. Or, a pair of smart pants. Que horror! Women in pants! That’s what tailors are for at the tailors row where the artisans are hunched over their maquinas (sewing machines) snipping, measuring, sewing, and attaching zippers, buttons, hooks, and embroidered badges.

Our lady time traveler will be pleased to know that the Bacolod Central Market and its vicinity are hubs for repairmen of loosened soles, damaged leather bag straps, or a belt that needs an extra notch. Or, an umbrella with a broken rib, saws that need sharpening, keys that need duplicating. Or, a matron’s grays that need concealing, and an edgy haircut for a budding Romeo.

Our housewife need not travel far and wide to buy a European flag for her son’s geography project, or a dainty basket for the daughter. She will be taken aback, though, that the siren call, “’Day, mabakal ka, Day?” (Miss, you buying, Miss?) has been replaced by the snobbish, “Madam, ano aton?” (literally, Madam, what’s ours?). Don’t worry, Madam. The market answers to the “Hoi!” of the hoity-toity and the hoi-polloi.

Let’s just say that the language of the market has gone global, and tongues prefer increasingly “imported” flavors – lettuce, broccoli, oyster mushrooms, kiwi fruit. Even the auditory. The whirring of blenders to produce fruit shakes has replaced the whisper of the ice shaver for leche con hielo (milk with ice). There’s the scandalous roar of electric coconut meat graters because it’s a bother to straddle the manual kudkuran of old. And where, oh, where is the desperate shrieking of live chickens awaiting execution? Madam will know the answer when a freezer opens to reveal the plump pale carcasses of dressed birds.


The 1940s housewife will find the enduring soul of the city in this location. Even after eight decades, the smells, sounds, sights, and tastes of local culture remain the same. Vendors of bottled mini-oysters called sisi, and clams called batitis happily gossip the early morning away as they pry open the shells. Shirtless men huff and puff under the weight of their cargo of meat or rice. Small stalls for old jewelry squeak as their owners pull them out from storage.

Madam can still bring her young to the manoghilot (bone-setters), or a new mother can stop by the indigenous medicine seller for a cure for bughat (post-pregnancy relapse). The basketry and native goods section still sell woven mats, coconut rib brooms, and sungka game sets that promise sessions as exciting as any video game. Houseware stores can still yield enamel-coated tin plates, bowls and cups called sartin, and the boon of houses with outhouses – the arinola (chamber pot).

Our kalan-unon or native delicacies can be eaten any time of the day. Blocks of the versatile shrimp paste or ginamos come in many sizes

The Bacolod Central Market is still the go-to enclave for foraged shellfish, ubad (core of banana trunk), ubod (heart of palm), guinamos (shrimp paste), duldol (kapok), a variety of farm implements, carinderia food, laces, buttons, beads, feathers, souvenir items, wooden clogs, woven pandan hats, abaca rope, P10 shell bracelets. Madam is now dizzy from all the variety of goods she sees in this Alladin’s cave including the items of the phenomenon that is the ukay-ukay (thrift shop Filipino style).

As she makes her way to stalls selling sacks of dried fish, she knows that the Bacolod local is still who she is. An obstinate reflection of farm and sea, mountain and forest, century-old beliefs and traditions, of Filipino taste and touch.

Written by: Betsy Gazo

Photos by: Unit A Creatives

Video by: Unit A Creatives

Video Script by: Betsy Gazo

Design and Architecture

Cultural Experience

Art and Craft