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Lessons from Tahiti

Is it true that our city government has given rein for the management of our Central, Burgos and Libertad markets to the SM group? I don’t blame them because it must be an awful task collecting rent and maintenance of the lieu must be quite daunting if you’re not familiar with marketing. The last time I went sailing around Tahiti, I was impressed with the way they approached their public markets.

The first thing I noticed was the perfect ventilation of the market. Walls were made up of iron grills to let the air pass through and there were super high ceilings that were also open to the roof, creating some sort of wind tunnel that sucked out the heat from the place. These gave the impression that the place was well lighted and airy. With the current trend of pandemics plaguing us nowadays, a good air circulation is most advisable. This also eliminated the foul smell that usually permeates in such areas. Whenever I pass by the meat section in air-conditioned supermarkets here, I get nauseated.

Local fruits are expensive because everything is imported*
Floral crowns and garlands on the wide sidewalks are daily attractions*

There was only one huge hall that held everything, from vegetables to fruits, a wet market and a second floor that occupied a U shape above that held a few souvenir shops and boutiques with one side strictly for food – restaurants and takeaway food. Knowing the laidback lifestyle of French Polynesia, the second floor was accessible by escalators which were the only modern convenience to lure the curious tourist and native shoppers. Besides that, everything was quite tropical and French. The layout reminded me of the cavernous halles typical of Parisian public markets. In fact, most metropolitan markets all over Europe have the same concept.

The space should be vast enough to hold as much goods and people, at the same time provide enough leeway for the circulation of shoppers and the flow of goods being bought and sold with the utmost of ease. Allotted spaces could easily disappear for cleaning and inspection. The lack of walls magnified the vastness of the area.

One crowd drawer was the area occupied by locals who would weave colorful tropical flowers into crowns that were worn by both men and women. I mean, Tahitians would proudly wear them in their everyday life. And it gave magic to the place. People who looked just like ordinary Pinoys suddenly were uniquely beautiful. I immediately soaked the island lifestyle that flourish and draw people from all over the world, calling it paradise. It drew famous artists such as Paul Gauguin, who stayed there for 10 years and is recognized for his experimental use of colour and Synthetist style post-Impressionism.

Holding my breath being greeted at the Intercontinental Resort Tahiti by male staff*

Every day, these floral artists would park their cars on the sidewalks of downtown Pape’ete and one would be lucky if you could buy a crown of flowers after lunch. Young maidens would come and carry them like tout bags while old ladies would immediately wear them for some luncheon or social gatherings, I guess. Men looked fancy wearing these crowns with their shorts and rubber slippers. Taxis and cars were laden with these beautiful garlands, although most were made with the ordinary bougainvillea flowers but oh so vividly colourful.

Sidewalks outside were spacious and wide. This is where you can buy those floral printed men’s shirts and flouncy ladies dresses resembling the dusters that our women of Silay are famous for. The floors were sparklingly clean and made going through the array of clothes that were beautifully displayed on clothes racks a shopper’s delight. Friendly policemen did their rounds and one felt quite safe in spite of the fact that we were in a highly populated metropolis.

I enjoyed going for a couple of days at the central market of Pape’ete before my cruise on this four-masted tall ship around the string of French Polynesia islands. Besides the boulevard fronting the sea and some terribly expensive French restaurants, there wasn’t much to see. And this was where you met both locals and tourists to exchange views on the islands, get travelling tips, and enjoy the local food and artisanal wares, until you see the labels and you notice that everything is imported from Indonesia, China, even Philippine shell jewellery! That really took the cake.

Ceilings are tall to provide proper air circulation, keeping the place cool*

When we visited the island of Uturoa, the only buildings were the Tourism Office and the market. I loved the whole setup of this market. Like the one in Pape’ete, the stalls were covered with brightly printed floral cloths and the traditional fresh floral array always drew the crowds in. Otherwise, there were the over-the-top priced locally grown bananas or papayas, because most everything would be imported and sold in the air-conditioned Chinese markets. Everywhere the boat stopped, and believe me, we would stop at places smaller than our far-flung barangays, that would either just have one government office and a chapel and a Chinese-owned grocery that sold all imported goods. Everything that was related to commerce and finance were relegated to the Chinese. Soooo Pacific Islander, I guess.

Suffice to say that I was quite impressed with French Polynesia and found the chain of islands, particularly stunning with its crystal clear azure waters, the white sand beaches and the magnificent cliffs that jutted out from the sea. Here I was, a native from the Philippines, and yet, I was taken aback by the natural wonders that one takes for granted living in the Pacific islands. I also envied the tourism infrastructure that took in millions of euros annually. It also opened my eyes to the lackadaisical attitude that island people will always have. As our tour bus would wind up and down the road, I would always see people just idly lying down on the side of the street, watching vehicles pass by while enjoying some sun and the sea breeze. No wonder, even Marlon Brando decided to retire here for the rest of his life.

My prayer. My prayer for you is that you may have still more love – a love that is full of knowledge and wise insight. I want you to be able always to recognize the highest and the best, and to live sincere and blameless lives until the day of Christ. I want to see your lives full of true goodness, produced by the power that Jesus Christ gives you to the praise and glory of God. Philippians 1:9–11, (Phillips)*

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May 2022

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