Finally, an honest-to-goodness night market

THE LAOAG CITY NIGHT MARKET IS A BEAUTY TO BEHOLD. Anyone who has a clear pair of eyes and who has entered the city via the Laoag Padsan Bridge on a Wednesday or Friday night would attest to this. Well-lighted and symmetrically arranged, white tents flashing the trademark “sunshine city” logo seem like fairies welcoming you to newfound paradise.

Located at the sunset boulevard right across city hall and below the four-lane Padsan Bridge, Laoag’s is one of only two night markets that I take my hats off to, the other being the Marikina Night Market, which, incidentally, is also set up in the city’s riverbanks-cum-park.

It took a long journey before the night market finally found home. It started in 2002 in downtown Bonifacio Street, which was crowded and suffocating. On account of issues legal, it was later transferred at the vicinity of the city public market. Plagued by garbage problems and cold public response, everybody thought the night market had (almost) died.

But leave it to Mayor Michael Farinas and her tourism-genius-of-a-wife Chevylle to pull a magical string. They transformed, in the words of fellow writer Cristina Arzadon, “what was formerly a dark and decaying section of the Padsan river dike to a well-lighted boulevard complete with shaded structures for those spending time gazing at the majestic view of the Laoag bridge at night”. This now is home to the night market.

The existence of places like these where you can buy wallet-friendly commodities is a welcome respite for consumers like me who are already battered heavily by the global economic crunch. From clothes to house ware to fashion accessories, toys, trinkets, coloring books and more, the night market offers dirt-cheap joys.

Transcending the material, it is also heartwarming to see families, friends, and lovers celebrate the joys of togetherness while enjoying the scene. Cheerful Smiles. Friendly Embraces. Holding hands. Locked arms. The night market is certainly not just a market at night.

While there, don’t miss Gina’s Goto, atbp., a real gustatory delight. Always served hot, Gina’s goto is a mouth-watering antithesis to the December breeze. Their vegetarian pansit, matched with pickled kangkong stalks, is also a certified hit not only to our Muslim brethren, but to anyone who craves for something tasty, sans the guilt.

I was tempted to write about the night market in the middle of this year but thought to give it some time, given Filipinos’ ningas cogon attitude. I wanted to wait and see whether this beauty does not fade faster than I can say “Merry Christmas”.

Guess what? The night market is even more robust than when it reopened five months ago. With police and security personnel quietly looking after peace and order, and with both vendors and buyers maintaining the cleanliness that Laoag is so well-known for, the promise of paradise is kept.