Malatapay is a small market in Zamboangita, 22 km south of Dumaguete. There's really not much there by way of amenities, just a few houses and an outdoor market. Most of the traffic on normal days would really be from divers heading over to awaiting motorized outriggers that would take them to Apo Island, one of the premier dive spots in the country.
On Wednesdays, though, the Malatapay really comes alive as farmers, ranchers, and hawkers from nearby towns descend on the area to do business. The main attraction is the cattle auction that takes place in a large coconut grove. Not just cattle gets traded, but also horses, goats, and pigs. This is a long-standing tradition that dates back to just after World War II.
Such was the sight that greeted my friends Jong and Danah and I as we approached the market from the highway at 11am. The crowd had actually spilled over into the main road, and everyone was oblivious to oncoming traffic.
The parking area was further in and the narrow road could only accommodate one car going in each direction. I had to drive carefully, honking my horn every now and then, but everyone ignored me until the last moment. Worse, there were trucks and tricycles carrying livestock going in both directions.
Having parked the car and gone out on foot, the going was much better. Now I could be like everyone else and wander around without a care for all the honking horns.
Jong and I headed for the auction area where all the cattle were put up for display. By the time we arrived, most transactions had already concluded and the merchandise were being loaded into the trucks.
It wasn't actually an auction per se with bidding wars and sniping. Buyers would eye the merchandise and approach the sellers, haggling privately over the price. At any moment, there would be dozens of transactions going on.
Jong approached one of the traders and asked about how purchases were arranged. Full-grown cattle would be weighed on scales, but yearlings were just guesstimated. A year-old cow, around 100 kilos, would normally fetch around P12,000.
It was a lively affair, and we had to deftly sidestep cows being led along by their masters. The smell of dirt, dust, and cow dung lent further flavor to the proceedings.
Having had our fill of the auction, we then proceeded to survey the merchandise on the makeshift stalls. It was a chaotic affair, with hawkers calling out buyers and touting the benefit of their wares.
Loudest of all were quacks and witch doctors selling charms and cures for various ailments. Most popular seemed to be treatments for irregular monthly periods. Go figure.
Fortunately, there were more practical items on sale. Rope, woven mats, hats, farming implements, along with fish and meats. I ended up buying three hats.
Out on the beach, the clear blue waters beckoned. Apo Island stood majestically in the distance, and further on in the hazy distance, we could already see Mindanao.
We capped our stay in Malatapay with a leisurely lunch in the main restaurant in the area, which was really nothing more than a grass roof and four posts. Furniture consisted of rough wooden benches and tables covered with laminated plastic. But the food was good and the place was packed with tourists.
On our way back from Malatapay, we made two more stops.
Our first stop was at Bahura Resort, recently bought over and reopened by Scubaworld. Bahura boasts of 24 large rooms and a conference center that can accommodate over a hundred participants. Some construction was still ongoing, but for the most part, the resort was already operational.
Our second stop proved to be more interesting. Jong had gotten hold of a brochure for the recently-concluded Terra Cotta festival in Dumaguete, and it announced the opening of the Luneta Art Gallery. Since it was along the way, we decided to drop by.
The art gallery was actually the beach-side residential compound of Richard and Lori Raymundo. There they displayed their paintings and clay sculptures. They also opened up their place to visiting artists from Bacolod and other parts.
Richard's expertise turned out to be clay sculptures, and several pieces of his were on display on their lawn. He had a three-foot butane-fired kiln in his backyard, allowing him to fire jars of up to two feet. His kiln in the US, he said, was actually 6-feet high allowing him to bake much bigger pieces.
Richard has done extensive research on the clay from various parts of the country. Sadly, the red clay of Daro and Zamboangita isn't really suitable for firing at high temperatures so he has to mix it with white clay from Thailand.
Our conversation turned out to be much longer than we had planned. He also showed us around his house which he constructed himself. The walls and beams were constructed of 100-year old coconut lumber, good enough to last him another hundred years, he boasted. The tiles of his floor he baked himself.
Lori, on the other hand, recognized me immediately as soon as we stepped through their gates. She's a regular customer of our store and kept calling me by my Dad's name.
Quite a couple, those two.
All in all, a worthwhile visit.