Every town in Pampanga has a market, the local economic hub where the basic commodities of life are sold—agricultural produce, fresh foods, meats and poultry, pots and pans, manufactured and processed goods, not to mention local crafts and handmade products. Everyday, peddlers and vendors, both legal and illegal, hawk their wares, wheeling, dealing and haggling with their customers—mostly women of the house and/or their trusted househelps.
“Dulung ku”, mothers would often say, to mean they are going to market. This term originally meant “to go down from the towns in the upland to those of the lowland”. Another definition of the word “dulung” is to go down the river. After all, in the old days, local selling and trading was done at the most convenient places where merchants and vendors can easily dock and display their goods for sale—either near a river or an accessible area like the lowlands or the town center. It was on these sites that town markets were first established, to be made permanent later.
But there were other reasons that gave impetus to the founding of new town markets. During Pampanga’s sugar boom, towns like Angeles and
When the Americans came to Pampanga to set up
In the art of peddling, perhaps no one can compare to the selling skills of the Macabebe cloth vendors. In fact, Macabebe takes pride in being called “Home of the Peddlers”, a reputation built by these native vendors who roamed across the Archipelago, travelling on foot and in groups of two or more, selling the famous ‘Macabebe cloth’—actually, Manila-bought fabrics. These humble, hardworking cloth vendors infused a lot of money into their town and in the 1930s, were largely responsible for pumping up Macabebe’s economy.
Today, not even the rise of state-of-the-art modern malls can obliterate local palengkes--bad smell, crowds, noise and all. Practically all of life’s necessities can be found here—from the trivial to the sublime—at prices everyone can afford. A quick survey of the famous Apo Friday Market in Angeles today yielded not just the usual (clothes, small appliances, fake DVDs), but also the odd, the rare and bizarre (green duman, aluminum ear cleaner, balsa wood thermo stoppers, powdered alum or tawas for underarm odor, recycled softdrink bottle lamps). Vendors try to outdo each other in courting customers—buy 3 plus 1, freebies with every purchase, 50 percent off, free trial, return and exchange. If those do not get your attention, perhaps their singing, dancing and verbal jousts will.
The palengkis of Pampanga offer more than the usual, the perfect place to go to people watch , see the local color while getting real, honest-to-goodness bargains. Going to market has become an adventure in itself, so the next time a Kapampangan asks you what you want to do in his town, just say—“dulung kata!’—and you’ll never have a dull day!