The Bankerohan Public Market of Davao City
By Apolinario Villalobos
Literally, “bankerohan” has a connotation as a place where boatmen converge as “bankero” means “boatman”. Appropriately, the public market is located by the bank of the main river that traverses the city. As in any Philippine community and historically, the river or a coastal village are considered as the center of trading. Unfortunately, lately, Bankerohan, the bustling riverside trading community of Davao City, gets inundated during the worst onslaught of heavy rains without let up for days.
Unlike other cities, Bankerohan has maintained its typical Oriental bazaar atmosphere to which the city dwellers have melded well. Spread throughout its periphery, various products from neighboring towns are sold side by side with local delicacies, prominent among which is the “puto maya”. The delicacy is actually two kinds of sticky rice, the white and the “tapul” which has a delectably purple color partner. The two varieties of rice are steamed separately. “Puto maya’s” is best eaten with “sikwate” (hot chocolate with thick consistency) prepared and cooked in “hornio”. While it slowly cooks to the right consistency, a half-submerged “baterol” (wooden stirrer) is rolled between the palms to keep the preparation from going into a rolling boil. A serving of “puto maya” costs Php10, while a cup of “sikwate” can be had for Php15.
If the durian is in season, a whole ripe fruit can be purchased from any of the stalls and eaten on the spot, for Php30 while marang would cost as low as Php20. Other local fruits that fill the fruit stalls are big-sized guava, golden pomelo, rambutan, papaya, several varieties of papaya. Durian preserves such as candies, jams and jellies also fill the shelves of the fruit stalls. Vegetables and marine products are strictly controlled to maintain their prices, as well as, those of rice and corn grits.
As dusk falls, makeshift stalls for used clothing begin to dot the area near the Mercury Drug Store. Practically, all kinds of clothing merchandise are priced between Php10-20. Hectic trading activity reaches its climax as midnight approaches. But, the traders do not fold up their stalls until 6AM hoping for the coming of last-minute buyers.
In the evening, the market resonates with warbles from wannabe singers who try their best to garner a “10” verdict from videokes that are the come-ons of carinderias. Everybody enjoys for as long as the no-smoking policy is observed. Aside from the videoke machines, the carinderias also pride in their cheap foods displayed in trays. Prices range between Php15 to Php35, with the vegetable dishes being the cheapest and those of beef and pork the more expensive. Grilled fish, especially tuna belly, head, and its innards are also available which go well with the beer or tuba (coco wine).
From Bankerohan, the cheap hotels along Claveria are a few meters away. Public transportations can be taken at several designated jeepney stops distributed around the market, so that strangers need not worry. And, most especially, there is nothing to fear while commuting from this busy section of the city to any part, even the suburbs, as taxi drivers of Davao City are the most trustworthy in the whole Philippines!